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Why Few Companies Have A Project Management Office (PMO)
By Jorge Dominguez

With the maturity that project management has in this day and age there are few companies with a PMO group and I have not been able to explain the reason why even though I can think of many.

The one reason that always comes to mind first is the lack of understanding out there of what the role of the PMO should be. Organizations all over ask the question: why do I need a PMO? Really, why? Is this just another administrative and bureaucratic function that brings no tangible results? More than a year ago I wrote “An Effective PMO” where I say that “…PMOs have become just another bureaucrat, bottleneck, rigid, ineffective group that serves the wrong purpose.” But, could this be the reason?

The main reason for a PMO is not to manage projects as this is the work of project managers. An effective PMO provides what no other existing team or group can provide the organization:

  • Portfolio management support
  • Information repository
  • Rescues
  • Mentoring
  • Prioritization management
  • Resource management
  • Planning and forecasting
  • Information management
  • Processes and methodology
  • Training in program/project management
  • Accounting and financial analysis
  • Knowledge management
  • Assessments
  • Program/project management certification

When a PMO is proposed, one of the benefits that is most touted is cost savings. While this may be true, it is also overly overrated at proposal time and if it materializes at all it is at a later time. What is never mentioned is the fact that a PMO is about staying in business, and this is really what effective PMOs provide through the above functions, having a policy of inclusion, knowledge sharing and of breaking silos. Difficult to quantify? Yes, it is very difficult to quantify and to sell but it is an investment that requires discipline and time to implement to reap the benefits.

Groups and even executives within an organization also selfishly see a PMO as a threat to their own existence because it means releasing some of the control they have had. Selfish because they are not looking at the bigger picture: organizations that don’t have a PMO can lose focus and control of projects.

I have seen companies giving in to the pressure of creating a PMO, create the PMO and then have the PMO slowly diluted and dissolved so that they can say “we tried and it didn’t work”. In reality, the PMO was probably not performing the functions mentioned above.

Are you ready for a PMO?

Jorge Dominguez, PMP®

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