Voices on Project Management

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Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with--or even disagree with--leave a comment.

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Viewing Posts by Peter Taylor

PMOs Shouldn't Forget the Project Manager

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 | Comments (0)

PMOs Aren't Just for Project Managers

Categories: PMOs

The project management office (PMO) is one of the fastest-growing concepts in project management today, but it's not the only answer.

The PMO was born to aid the project manager. Surely then, the PMO (and, as a direct result, you) would benefit if there were a parallel organization for the technical managers, consultants, architects, design specialists, gurus of the world of application configuration and so on.

The PMO is not and should not be an isolated body talking only to the project managers. It should be one of many business units leading the delivery of company strategy.

Align the PMO to a single technical body, no matter what it is, and then align the two through a common process or methodology.

Think about your own in-house project methodology for a moment. Is it just for project managers or does it extend to integrate the technical tasks? Does it recognize the non-project management roles and responsibilities? Does it involve the technical deliveries and control mechanisms? It should.

If you have a common method, have you trained each team in a way that they both respect and understand each other's skills and duties? Have you done so in a way that ensures that the highest level of communication? You should.

When your business assesses the value, benefit and simply whether a new project should go ahead at all, it won't just be the project manager's view that gets the budget approved, will it? So align the technical gurus and the project gurus as one to ensure that the lowest risk and highest ROI projects are commissioned.

Perhaps the future is the perfect pairing of a PMO with a TMO -- a technical management office. It may be that the TMO is formed as a separate entity but closely works alongside the existing PMO -- or even that the PMO embraces and includes the TMO function.

The specifics of how a PMO or TMO relationship would take shape depend on what's best for your own organization, but perhaps it is the future.

What do you think?

Posted by Peter Taylor on: November 05, 2010 02:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Should PMOs Come With an Expiration Date?

Categories: PMOs

Projects and programs aren't for life. So as the home for project managers, projects and programs, should we not consider the project management office (PMO) in the same light?

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)--Fourth Edition contrasts projects with operational work by stating, "operations are ongoing and repetitive."

Without an end goal, the PMO will become purely a home for operational activity. And if the PMO is only seen as the home of process (methodology) and the body of control (policing) then it will become as exciting as working in -- well, I better not be specific -- but I'm sure you understand what I'm getting at.

I'm not saying PMOs should only be around for a very short time. I'm merely suggesting that because of the nature of what they contain, PMOs must continue to evolve and ensure they're really creating value.

Anyone leading a PMO has a responsibility to consider the end game. We typically know what it is that we are trying to improve, resolve, correct and direct -- but I don't believe that this should be done in a way that creates a permanent need for the PMO.

What we must avoid is the deliberate removal of a subset of project management skills and the replacement of these skills within a permanent overhead community: a PMO. In other words, a PMO should not regularly take on any of the project management tasks. For example, PMO leaders shouldn't say, "We'll look after the risk management and you, project manager, deal with the rest of the project manager's tasks."

It is said that operations end when they stop delivering value, and projects end when they do deliver value. The PMO should aim to end when there is no longer a need for it to exist because it has delivered the value. And that lack of need should be engineered into its strategy.

What do you think? Are PMOs meant to last forever?


Posted by Peter Taylor on: September 24, 2010 04:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (11)
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