PMO Role 4: Cross-project synchronisation

If the PMO handles the cross-project issues and challenges the project managers can focus on effectively running their projects.

If the PMO handles the cross-project issues and challenges the project managers can focus on effectively running their projects.

Cross-project synchronisation includes

  • preventing project duplication -- in one organization we found four different versions of the same project being conducted completely independently and invisibly to senior management. The PMO needs to make sure this never happens.

  • preventing project inconsistency -- having one project replace what another project is improving, for example. A key role of the PMO is to ensure each project builds on the others and no project is ever inconsistent or out of alignment with the strategic direction of the business.

  • ensuring compliance -- not just with the project delivery standards but with the legal and other regulatory requirements. The PMO needs to ensure that the privacy legislation is complied with, security needs are met, competitive confidentiality needs are complied with and so on. Projects not only need to comply with the agreed requirements but with the policy and legal context too. The PMO needs to ensure this dimension is never missed.

  • pre-empting problems -- across projects. For example, with the recent financial crisis, how will this impact the organization and the project portfolio? What changes or potential risks need to be considered or planned for? What new problems can be foreseen? And so on. The PMO needs to be thinking ahead of the game. Equally, the PMO can take up problems and risks that occur across several projects so that the problem is not solved several times over.

  • validating value propositions -- acting as an independent reviewer of business cases to ‘stress test’ them prior to their submission for approval. Better to identify the problems early rather than when the project is in full flight. A recent (post-approval) validation of 8 ‘approved’ projects found 7 of them should not have been approved in their current state. This should be identified by the PMO beforehand, not after millions have been spent.

  • interdependency management -- as any one project’s timeframe or scope changes, the ramifications on other projects needs to be assessed -- does this impact the deployment schedule, the resource requirements schedule, another project’s timeframe, etc? The external-to-the-project impacts of project changes needs to be identified and actioned by the PMO.

Remember, the PMO’s role is to make 1 + 1 = 3 by helping to optimise the whole portfolio. It needs to do this by adding value at the portfolio level.
Further support and useful tools to help you manage your investments, projects and portfolio are available from

For the previous article in this the series visit "PMO role 3: Performance improvement management".

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