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Topics: PMO
PMO: Working "In" the Business vs. "On" the Business
Anonymous
I've been tasked by my company's leadership team to initiate a PMO. Leadership agreed unanimously this was needed and we have executive support. For alignment purposes, I was asked to create the PMO charter, which will be reviewed, debated and approved by the exec steering committee. So far so good.

Here's where it gets tricky and looking for advice. The PMO will create standard processes & templates, provide varying status reports to the exec and stakeholder community, have PM's & BA's report into it, and take the lead on a PM tool that feeds into our accounting software. These day to day I define as working "IN" the business and there is little debate here.

The debate comes at a higher level; working "ON" the business. Because of recent changes to the market and regulations we work in, strategies can change quickly. Instead of reacting to strategic changes, my goal is to be proactive by having a seat at the leadership table so as to understand those changes and be prepared if and when they come. Some leaders agree the PMO should be there, at least now during these crazy times (re-evaluate later), and others say no way. I do benefit from having a team who can pivot quickly when change occurs, but if we know of a potential change is coming, the transition can be done quickly.

Anyone have experience or recommendations here or been through similar?
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Who will your PMO report in to? That will have a fair bit of influence over your ability to be "at the table".

I've led PMOs in both contexts - in one, the C-level exec whom I reported to insist that all info from the leadership table came to me through him. Needless to say, that information was filtered and this did result in more than one challenge. In the other, I was part of a number of senior leadership meetings - in some as a contributor and others as a silent observer. Regardless of my role, this helped me "connect the dots" both to add value at those tables but also to help my team be more effective.

Convincing the naysayers of the merit of your being there will require a combination of the influence of your reporting manager (assuming he is a peer of theirs), your understanding of their reluctance, and your ability to sell them on the value to them of your being there.

Kiron
The purpose of an organization structure is to avoid having everyone at the table all the time while allowing all players to do their part. It seems that the issue here is not so much being at the table but failure of the organizational structure to provide you with the information you need on a timely basis.

That is the problem to be resolved. The options are: 1) be at the table, and 2) make sure whoever is a the table provides you with the necessary information.

The discussion to have with the leadership is the best way of getting the necessary information to the team to effectively deliver the projects.
And if you are at the table, are you the food, a spectator or an actor? Be careful what you ask for. A management table often is a battle field, fighting for careers, bonuses, resources, priorities etc.

Imaging you have some insights into health of projects, the manager at the table in charge of a project would not appreciate your presentation. Nobody likes surprises. So, if you are reporting into the CEO, he might be interested in you bringing up some conflicts, play divide and conquer and use you as a scapegoat.

If the organization is not mainly project driven and the PMO has been given power over resources, my advice is to stay out.

Yes, I have been there.

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