Project Management

PMOs are part of the business

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Why do so many organizations see PMOs as somehow different than Marketing, Finance, HR, Engineering or Production?  Are they not ALL part of the business? Do we see Marketing or Engineering departments functioning as somehow not part of the business? In way too many organizations, a wall exists between the PMO and the rest of the business. I can't count how many times I've heard something like this "Oh that's project management stuff not part of the business." It's all one business isn't it?

I believe that we in the project management profession have contributed significantly to this view because we set ourselves apart from the business. Instead of focusing on business results and bringing value to the bottom line of the business, our focus, like a laser is on scope, budget, schedule, risk, etc. Yes, these are important tools and activities but they by themselves do not bring value to the business. We can manage and control these to nth degree, but if the project does not deliver any business value, it's a failed project. Projects are part of the business and must deliver value to the business. We also need to emphasize on project outcomes over process.

Is it possible to change this? Yes, it is and here is how.

1.       Change our own perceptions. Those of us in the PMO world need to change our own thinking. We need to understand we are much more than technical project management. We must embrace and practice servant leadership. Our focus must shift to the needs of the business. The PMO’s purpose is to ensure the success of its constituents.

2.       Know the business. The PMO and its staff must know what the business of the business is and we need to understand how the business conducts its business. We have to know and understand the mission, the strategy of the business, the goals, and the objectives of the business in order to ensure the mission, strategy, and objectives of the PMO align with those of the business.

3.       Align with the business. Align the mission, vision, and objectives of the PMO with those of the business.

4.       Forget a PMO Charter. Do any of the other departments in the business have a charter? Does Marketing, Finance, Engineering, HR, or IT have a charter? Not likely. So why do make ourselves different? It only serves to further separate the PMO from the business.

5.       Create a strategic plan. Create a strategic plan instead of a charter for the PMO. Update it annually and make sure it is aligned with the strategic plan of the business.

6.       Assist the business in strategy development. Participate in the business strategic planning events. Become a partner with the business and work to contribute to the success of the business.

It is time for project management and PMOs to evolve beyond the limited focus on processes, people and tools. We need to be leaders and problem solvers, be outwardly focused and take our place as an integral PART of the business. Project management is a way of doing business, not something apart from the business.

Posted on: August 22, 2012 03:03 PM | Permalink

Comments (3)

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Harlan, great blog post and advice. I especially like the idea of dumping the PMO charter and replacing it with a strategic business plan...! I would also add the stellar advice that Harvey Levine offers in his fine PPM book in which he pleads, "PMOs need to speak the language of business and not just the language of project management." Harvey goes on to warn that what most PMOs are doing in terms of both focus (people, process, and tools) and language (PM babble) is becoming more and more distant from the business. Strong words, especially coming from Harvey who is a PMI Fellow and former President of PMI (1983-1986).

Exactly! Build and manage the PMO like any other departments except that the objectives to achieve are different.

Love this article! It is in perfect alignment with discussions I've had with my CTO on how the PMO can expand our offerings to deliver value to our organization. A PMO strategy in alignment with the business mission, vision and values is key to the longevity and success of today's PMOs. PPM methodology helps accomplish this and that's where my PMO is headed.

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