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PMO Confused?
By Carol A Long

Senior Managers seem to be confused: every consultant they talk to describes a different model for a PMO or PPSO (Program and Project Support Office) from the last consultant they thought they understood.

This is not new for larger organizations. The confusion for the PMO staff can be quite difficult and transition to new roles can be tough if you have staffed the PMO with completer/finisher admin or project managers in waiting.

I know one international organization that moved to this model:

An enterprise project management office (EPMO) managed the portfolio and looked at alignment with strategy, major change initiatives, best practice methods and corporate risks associated with project management. It also looked at competency frameworks for project managers and global training provision.

Each business unit ran a series of programs and had a PMO that kept the governance aspects of the programs on track, did process and quality audits on the projects that made up the business unit’s work, supported risk management, coached project managers, implemented tools to help report the projects in ways to help senior management understand resource requirements, risks, progress. Sometimes the project management consultants in these roles would solve resource or technical conflicts within the program between the sites and between projects. Line management for the project managers were often management in this PMO so rotation of project management consultants and project managers would have been possible. (Program managers were often the senior management team of the business unit into which the PMO reported.)

Each site had a PMO that did QA on the technical aspects of the projects and work packages the site was assigned, supported the project managers with admin and reporting. They made sure that technical lessons were learned and passed on. This was a great place for those who wanted to make a career move into project management.

Note that the skillsets for each PMO role are different!

After some initial conflicts between the sites and the business units over where the divisions of responsibility should be, the PMOs started to have a wider influence on the business, sharing ideas and improving project performance (where their advice was taken by the program managers).

Senior Management generally saw the PMO simplifying their lives by sifting the information they needed about projects, as a resource to take excess costs out of the organization’s management and reduce risk of project failure.

So next time a consultant talks to you about a model of a PMO, ask them what benefits that model will bring and how all the other aspects will be covered. If they say the PMO will do everything, double check you have the right mix of resources to do all that with good capability and appropriate capacity.

© 2011 Carol A Long, All Rights Reserved

Carol A Long is Principal Consultant of Three Triangles Performance Ltd ( based in England providing programme and project management consulting and interim management. Carol specialises in the corporate governance aspects of project management, improving project management practices in organisations, and turnarounds of challenged business critical change and transformation programmes. She has written parts of the international project management standards for professional bodies in USA and Europe. Before founding 3Triangles in 2006, Carol had 21 years experience with multinational organisations in software development, quality improvement and management, and coaching project and programme managers. You can follow Carol on twitter.

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