PMOs should have a helicopter view of the project portfolio. Whereas you, as project manager, your sponsor and steering committee are all project-focused, the PMO has the opportunity to make 1+1=3.
Here we’re obviously not talking about the ‘report consolidation’ type of PMO. They may (or may not) lighten your administrative load, but what you really need is a PMO that lightens your project delivery workload, especially your external-to-the-project synchronization load. At the project level you should know your inter dependencies - to which projects you need to ‘give’ something and when; and from which projects you need to ‘get’ something and when. And you track, liaise and monitor accordingly.
The PMO, however, should be looking ahead across all of the projects to pre-empt problems - resource shortages, deployment clashes, cascading inter-dependent delays - that can or will impact multiple projects.
The PMO should also be looking ahead across the business to identify potential problems, such as re-organizations, acquisitions, new product launches, new marketing campaigns, union negotiations - anything that could disrupt the portfolio’s planned schedules. And, the PMO should also be looking externally to identify any potential or planned events - such as elections, interest rate changes, new laws and regulations - that could have an impact on one or more projects.
The value for you as project manager is that you should be able to rely on their monitoring to identify external-to-your-project factors that could trip you up, delay your project or even make it unviable.
You want to focus on your project and leave the PMO to synchronize the portfolio. (Other areas the PMO can synchronize include project desired outcomes (to ensure consistency), business benefits (to avoid duplication), implementation plans (to avoid change overload on areas of the business), and so on.) But to continue with the synchronized monitoring…
What you require is a simple yet formal process by which the PMO communicates its findings and expectations, with a ‘level of certainty’ measure, at least monthly.
At least quarterly, the PMO should convene a session to discuss in more depth potential events and timings, to allow cross-project discussion as to the possible ramifications and opportunities. These sessions can often highlight dimensions and implications that you haven’t thought of.
Be sure to also share the PMO-supplied information with your Sponsor, the steering committee and your project leadership team so as to get as broad an interpretation and reaction as possible to each event or possibility. Many minds prevent unexpected surprises.
Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.