The PMO Evolution

The PMO Evolution

CIOs should also devote resources to developing competent project managers through formal training, coaching and mentoring. Not all projects require the same level of experience

PMOs come in three types of increasing complexity. The choice of which one is right for you depends on the business problem you are trying to address

Surprisingly, given the existence of many creditable project management methodologies, and the large sums spent on project management training, project delivery continues to be the bane of CIOs' lives. At least it is according to our annual CIO survey.

Nor is there any shortage of remedies that have been applied over the years. From the dramatic (outsourcing anything that looks like a project to an external agency that is only paid on delivery), through the pragmatic (providing in-house training to improve general project disciplines) to the desperate (slashing project scope and re-baselining deliverables wherever possible).

Beside all of these well-worn ideas, one approach that now seems to be gaining currency is that of the in-house "PMO": a centre of excellence where a group of knowledgeable people, supported with the right processes and often appropriate technology, helps with the management and execution of projects by IT teams.

The "P" in PMO can stand for one of three things. At the most straightforward level, where basic project disciplines are lacking, the PMO plays the role of project management office, providing a project centre of excellence to oversee execution. Where the problem is more complex the program management office takes a multi-project perspective, reallocating project resources as needed. For a very small number of enterprises, where the problem is one of resource allocation and strategic investment, the PMO plays the role of portfolio management office, advising on investment opportunities and monitoring ROI.

Reduce business risk with a project management office. A project management office is usually created to solve a specific problem: generally, the IS organization's inability to deliver IT projects on time, on budget and in scope. It focuses on implementing the basic project management process, introducing simple tools and developing competent project managers. Project managers may "live" in the PMO, or in different IT units, such as application development, or in the business.

Defining and implementing an end-to-end project management process is the first step in establishing a project management office. This requires implementing a flexible project management process and basic tools for project planning and reporting.

CIOs should also devote resources to developing competent project managers through formal training, coaching and mentoring. Not all projects require the same level of experience. Use a mix of internal and external hires, contractors and external service providers to provide project manager staffing flexibility.

Because of the long lead time to set up a project management office and to demonstrate results, planning should start before it's needed. This is the job of the CIO because the initial work of PMOs is typically with IT-intensive projects - from there, though, the PMO can evolve. And this is where CIOs can help. They can reduce business risk by getting the basics right and building a strong foundation for subsequent PMO stages. The basics include a repeatable project management process, simple tools for project planning and reporting, and competent project managers - usually developed initially for IT-intensive projects.

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