It was interesting; attending a PMO Symposium and lecturing at a local University I was asked the same question in the space of a week – and that question was ‘is there a minimum size for a PMO?’
Thinking across the range of small to medium sized companies then the answer has to be a resounding ‘yes’, partly because if you ‘do’ projects then a PMO is generally a good idea (what we mean by a PMO can mean many things to many organisations of course and we have to take that in to account). But also because if you only ‘do’ a few projects then when one comes along that demands significant investment from an organisation then the cost of failure is greater accordingly. A much larger organisation with a large project portfolio and equally large project community will be able to absorb and manage such a demanding project far more easily (and with reduced impact of failure).
So how small are we talking?
How about ‘one’?
Can the sole project manager also be the whole PMO? Well not really in truth – a sole project manager can’t act like a PMO of many people since they can’t act objectively with regards to their own project performance, they can’t spend time investing in self-development and in method improvements and so on.
So not ‘one’ then.
Can a PMO be implemented in a small company that has limited resources, a small team of project managers only – perhaps two or three?
Well perhaps not a ‘PMO’ as such but certainly a virtual equivalent with shared responsibility of some of the basic PMO functions that could be allocated to the remaining project resources – perhaps one person could focus on the training of project managers, another on method enhancements, and another on community aspects etc. In this way a lot of PMO duties could be delivered to a reasonably high level.
Yes I think a PMO can be applicable to all scales of project business but it might not be a permanent, dedicated unit of course, but more of a ‘part time PMO’.
The biggest risk to such a PMO is the ability to offer the objective insight and support to all project managers, and the business. The smaller the team then the harder it may be to do this in a constructive, non-emotional, positive way – not everyone has the skill to do this and with a close team of peers it isn’t always easy to do (or easy to receive at times).
Are you being successful in promoting your PMO and leading your PMO?
Try this 5 question ‘acid’ tests and see how you score?
‘Call up your CEO and then count the number of seconds before he recognizes your name...’
If you are really connected to the business, at the right level and with the right profile, then your CEO will know you and your PMOs work. You don’t have to start with the CEO, you can try this out moving up the organisation level by level – who at two levels above you knows you and the PMOs work?
For those that do say ‘thanks’ and for those that don’t; well tell them about it.
‘What happens when you call up a project manager do you get straight through or do they adopt an avoidance strategy...’
A call from any member of the PMO should be a welcome event and not something to hide from or fear. Consider if there are certain individuals or teams or departments that are resistant to what the PMO is trying to achieve.
Ask yourself why this is and plan a charm offensive to demonstrate that the PMO is their friend.
‘When was the last time that a project manager contacted your PMO asking for some form of help? ...’
If this has not happened in some time then perhaps your PMO is not as accessible and open as you may wish it to be?
Run a survey or open session to gain some insight in to the reasons for non-contact with the PMO.
It may link to the ‘what’ question above i.e. fear of the PMO, or it may be just a lack of awareness.
Go out of your way to help key people, regardless of if it isn’t really in your PMO remit – by winning influential supporters the word will spread about the PMO being a ‘go to’ group.
‘Do people ask many times over where they should go for project information or project help...’
The PMO should be the automatic first call for anything project related when project managers or others need some guidance, make sure yours is easy to access and quick to respond.
Market what the PMO does, create a menu of service items that the PMO can deliver ‘off the shelf’ and advertise this tirelessly.
‘Do people ask why they should use the PMO and do they know what your PMO does...’
You should have marketed the value of your PMO throughout the organization and people should easily access a ‘service menu’ or what the PMO can do to help them.
Success stories really help here with proven benefits of PMO involvement, invest your time in developing some and get people outside the PMO to write them or at least validate them.
And finally question number six – the ‘how’ – how can you improve the PMOs’ work and profile, its performance, its acceptance and its role in your company?
How can you do this?
You need to think and plan and act.
You need to lead.