Thursday, September 8, 2011

PMO: Not the prime Minister's office

So, if PMO is not the Prime Minister's Office, what is it?


From Answers.com
The Project Management Office (PMO) in a business or professional enterprise is the department or group that defines and maintains the standards of process, generally related to project management, within the organization. The PMO strives to standardize and introduce economies of repetition in the execution of projects. The PMO is the source of documentation, guidance and metrics on the practice of project management and execution. In some organisations this is known as the Program Management Office (sometimes abbreviated to PgMO to differentiate); the subtle difference is that program management relates to governing the management of several related projects.
PMOs may take other functions beyond standards and methodology, and participate in Strategic Project Management either as faciliator or actively as owner of the Portfolio Management process. Tasks may include Monitoring and Reporting on active projects (following up project until completion), and reporting progress to top management for strategic decisions on what projects to continue or cancel.


So, what do we have here? Looks like somebody tried to split the classic Project Manager's job into various smaller jobs. To me, the obvious result will be more overhead - as more people are involved - and less efficiency, as a Project Manager needs to have full control over his project.


I've been part of attempts to have more than a single PjM on a project. It simply does not work; the Project Managers have to spend huge amounts of time coordinating between themselves, or else they step on each others toes and either do duplicate work or send out mixed messages.


If a single Project Manager cannot manage the project, then it needs to be split into almost unrelated mini-projects. Then it seems to make sense to have a PMO, but, on second thought, to be efficient, there would be too many meetings and updates and not enough hands-on Project Manager. Having each Project Manager attend the status-update meetings of the other projects and receive its updates would be more efficient.


So let's analyse what the PMO does:


[The PMO is] the department or group that defines and maintains the standards of process, generally related to project management, within the organization.


I smell trouble. A group of people who want to regulate Project Management. :-)


The PMO strives to standardize and introduce economies of repetition in the execution of projects. 


At some level, Project Management is all about repetition. Get daily updates, have daily meetings, check the bug-count status daily, update the schedule and send out a daily update.


I'm not sure I understand what they are trying to save, unless they are worried that similar projects will be initiated. But who would initiate these projects? Surely all Project Managers keep up to date with what's going on around them; at least on a high-level.


If we're talking about duplicate code or similar testing - that would be the job of the head of engineering/QA to take care of.


The PMO is the source of documentation, guidance and metrics on the practice of project management and execution.


This will ensure that the Project Manager has no connection to the rules, and therefore will ignore them and/or make up new ones. The most efficient rules are put in place by people who learned the hard way. Besides, with the fast evolution of technology, any rules that are 3 years old will be archaic. New rules need to be put in place all the time by the people involved, not those disconnected from the field.


PMOs may take other functions beyond standards and methodology, and participate in Strategic Project Management either as faciliator or actively as owner of the Portfolio Management process.


Again, my experience is that a Project Manager is most efficient when he's in full control. If this facilitator is not on the same wave length (and starts arguing with the PjM at meetings) then the PjM will lose control of the project. Advise to PjM's needs to be given privately, not as a facilitator at meetings.


Tasks may include Monitoring and Reporting on active projects (following up project until completion), and reporting progress to top management for strategic decisions on what projects to continue or cancel.


That's what a Project Manager does. 


Maybe a PMO works well in huge organisations where there is a total disconnect between the projects and management. I would love to work in or with a PMO for a while in order to understand what it does.




- Danny Schoemann

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