PMOs Shouldn't Forget the Project Manager

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A project management office (PMO) usually follows one of three styles:

  1. The directive PMO manages projects by using the project management team that's part of the PMO.
  2. The supportive PMO generally provides help in the form of on-demand expertise, templates, best practices and expertise.
  3. The controlling PMO offers guidance and discipline with an aim to improve by standardizing the process and method.
The reality is that very few PMOs are just one of these types -- they are a mix of two or three. In my own PMO, we blend a strong focus on support with an offering of control to those project managers who need our help.

We aim to avoid direct ownership of projects except in specific cases, such as when the project is located where local project capability is low or the project has gone badly wrong. In this latter case, we aim to "own" the project for as short a time as possible and always develop a transition plan back to the original project manager if possible.

The PMO should generally not be considered the "mother of all project managers." Rather, it should be seen as the body that helps develop the best project managers -- the ones who are facing stakeholders on a day-to-day basis, the ones experiencing the meeting of theory and practice.

A PMO can:
  • Replace a deficient project management process with a standard process and best practices
  • Save considerable costs against project management overheads, such as training and certification
  • Create a community of project managers and bring teams and processes together to maximize the shared knowledge and engender a spirit of cooperative working
  • Market its overall successes and spread the word about the great job its project managers are doing
  • Work closely with a business to align projects with strategy
  • Be a fantastic source of knowledge and a great safety net
A PMO can do many, many things -- and a PMO is a really good idea. But at the end of the day, project responsibility and ownership still lies with the person best equipped to do the job: the project manager.

Let's not forget the project manager.
Posted by Peter Taylor on: December 01, 2010 04:02 PM | Permalink

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