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PMO Role 5: The critical success factor for PMOs

PMO Role 5: The critical success factor for PMOs

To be effective PMOs need to have authority. No authority, no effectiveness. It’s that simple.

More PMOs fail on this one factor than any other. This is largely because the PMO is so often positioned incorrectly.

PMOs are often seen to be derived from projects — i.e. they’re seen as a superset of project management. So they are positioned with some cross-project accountabilities but are missing the critical factor for their success — authority.

To be effective PMOs need to have authority. The authority to confront Sponsors, challenge project managers, reject poor business cases. This authority comes from the Project Investment Committee (PIC).

To be effective the PMO needs be set up and seen as, in effect, a (permanent) sub-committee of the PIC. All business cases/proposals go through them before submission to the PIC. They pick up and address problem projects before they’re reported to the PIC. They track and measure project changes and challenge if the project has become unviable or irrelevant. They commission health checks where necessary or step to recover in a crisis.

This can only be done if they have the requisite authority delegated by the PIC. No authority, no effectiveness. Simple.

With no authority the PMO will mainly be administrative, reorganising the deck-chairs into a portfolio view. Accepting and processing information inputs regardless of their value or significance. If they take on a project or governance team, they’ll lose. They have no standing.

Ideally the PMO should report to the chairman of the PIC, or one of their immediate subordinates. The head of the PMO needs to have access to this manager to escalate issues and problems to be addressed and to protect themselves politically.

Or they can just push paper. The value of your PMO is determined by where it is positioned in the organisation and what authority it therefore has.

Where is your PMO positioned?


Further support and useful tools to help you manage your investments, projects and portfolio are available from valuedeliverymanagement.com.

For the previous article in this the series visit "PMO Role 4: Cross-project synchronisation".

For the first article in this the series visit "PMO: What’s in a name?".

Jed Simms is CIO magazine's weekly project management columnist. Simms, founder of projects and benefits delivery research firm Capability Management, is also the developer of specialised project management and project governance Web site valuedeliverymanagement.com

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