Project Management

Where Do We Go From Here With PMOs?

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at markmullaly.com.

Project management offices are prevalent in some industries. They are still comparatively rare in others. PMOs are not a new construct, however. Arguably they are as old as project management itself.

Formal project management got its start with the advent of the Polaris nuclear missile platform as well as plant turnarounds at Dupont. They are what gave us, respectively, PERT and CPM—tools we still recognize and use to this day. These efforts also were the genesis of what we would recognize as program management offices.

These undertakings weren't simply about process, although process is what was retained after the programs went away. The original intent was building a management structure to get complex, challenging work done. The organizational dimensions were as important as the practices being employed.

Fast forward several decades, and PMOs are being implemented for a myriad of reasons (and some enterprises have multiple PMOs playing a variety of roles at a range of organizational levels—as well as at differing levels of formality).

Depending upon mandate, the PMO might be the organizational home of all or a subset of project managers. They might advocate for process, or they might police standards. They might report progress and results, or coordinate the process of defining what those results should be. Some facilitate specific aspects of the …


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