The good old PMO - the Project Management Office, Project Office or whatever it is called - basically always has the same task: It supports the project participants. It supports them in planning and structuring what to do and when. It aids in all development related and supervising tasks and thus maintains an overall view of the project or projects. But when is it worthwhile to assign extra staff to coordinate projects and resources?
A short introduction to the PMO interface
- PMO stands for Project Management Office.
- The PMO is usually organized as a central and cross-company staff unit.
- A PMO has a cross-sectional function for projects, which is particularly useful when several projects are running simultaneously or several sub-areas are relevant in a project.
- PMO employees provide strategic and operational support for all projects in order to increase efficiency and quality assurance through cross-project knowledge and resource management.
- PMOs work methodically structured and provide all participants with a proven system for their projects.
Is the PMO old news?
If you try your fingers and Google, you'll quickly find what you're looking for: Countless results on PMO. Google Trends shows us that the topic is of constant interest:
By the way, it is interesting to note that the theme seems to bring with it a beautiful seasonality for the year. At the turn of the year, projects lie idle - and when the year-end is here, there is a lot of crying. By the way, this is an important task of the PMO: Always maintain interest in the project and involve all participants continuously in order to drive the project forward evenly instead of allowing a stop-and-go dynamic to emerge.
But in contrast to the traditional PMO, project management methods such as Agile and Scrum (marked red and yellow in the graph) seem to be of much greater interest. Why is that? The main reason is certainly that agile methods are very well suited for complex projects in turbulent environments (e.g. software projects and other digitalisation projects) - the need to manage projects of this kind is increasing!
But also the classical PMO has its reason of existence. However, PMO, unlike Scrum, is not a framework. The PMO is a kind of organ. It sits above all projects and is a service provider (reporting, analysis... etc. that's what the PMO does). But it can run well and can run badly. A small survey in our office already shows that. Our employees list the following pros and cons:
- Can make projects more efficient and thus save money and time
- Can bring projects into a standard form and therefore create comparability
- Could generate impulses and identify/communicate problems centrally
- Can make decisions centrally and quickly
- Often costs money and time
- Sometimes more administrative effort than benefit
- Can make processes slow
- Often only equipped with little content expertise
The small list shows the problem. Can. Could. Sometimes. PMOs can make sense - but sometimes they are also put a spanner in the works. Traditional, rigid top-down project management often culminates in a PMO that often restricts projects, innovation and creativity more than drives them forward. But this does not have to be the case. You can manage projects agilely and light-footedly - despite or because of a PMO.
So when do we need a PMO?
Size and complexity
First, PMOs make sense when the project is "big enough" - or several projects are running simultaneously. Because a project with two participants and a duration of four weeks does not require a staff position with three employees. However, keeping track of one or more projects running at different points in the company is a bit more difficult without a central office.
Companies can also benefit from a PMO if each project is characterized by a new constellation of the project team. In order not to invest valuable resources each time in the choice of a suitable project management method and the development of a controlling and reporting system, a PMO can save time with standard procedures and document templates and enable the team to focus on the project content.
A PMO can also offer real relieve. It takes on time-consuming tasks in planning, coordination, reporting and effect measurement in order to keep these administrative tasks away from the project members - if need arises.
What defines a good PMO?
The right team
The good PMOs are characterized by the fact that the respective employees are deeply involved in the project, but still halfway independent. Therefore, a good PMO usually consists of employees who can do justice to all tasks:
- Employees from Controlling who have experience with planning and effect testing
- Employees from strategy and business development departments who have experience with projects and the company's direction
- Experts who have experience with the specific project material
A real assignment helps
In order for a PMO to be able to act properly, it also needs an official mission. It can make sense for the management to place and communicate this mission directly or to be a direct member of the PMO. But it is even better if the project participants understand the PMO as what it actually is: a central point of contact for problems, decision-making needs - but above all ideas. Because then the road to agile project management is not far away. You can read more about these agile methods in a later article.
The right tool
In the best case scenario, the PMO is therefore a project service provider. It should handle administrative tasks as well as informative ones. A good PMO creates flexibility and freedom for the actual goal: to lead the project to success. This is a lot of work and a bottleneck for one or the other project. Therefore, good project management software is often helpful for all these tasks. We have developed our tool specifically with the needs of a PMO in mind! Read here how a PMO is supported by Falcon.