We use the term ‘Project Management Office’ but in reality there’s no one-size-fits all PMO. As Peter Taylor notes in his book, Leading Successful PMOs, “there are typically three styles of PMO – directive, supportive and controlling.”
In a directive PMO the project managers work for the PMO which coordinates and directs the work. A supportive PMO focuses on providing expert guidance to a project management community. The third type, a controlling PMO, offers a disciplined approach, standardization, and process guidance.
There might actually be more types of PMO than those three, and you’ll find your own PMO taking on each of these three styles depending on the business priorities at the time. Regardless of what sort of PMO you have and what you want it to do, there are some common themes that we see time and time again in PMOs. Here are 10 of the resources that your PMO could and should be offering to your project managers and stakeholders.
1: Project Management Training
You can offer project management training even if the project managers do not report into the PMO. Set up informal webinars, lunch and learn or brown bag lunch sessions or host some internal events. If you have the expertise within the PMO, run your own training on topics that you believe the project management team would like to know more about, or invite trainers in.
You can survey the team before you start putting together a training plan so that you know what topics are going to get the most interest.
Mentoring can be formal or informal and the PMO is in a great position to set up both. Match inexperienced, junior project support team members with experienced program managers. Let them share and learn from each other.
If your company has a wider formal mentoring scheme, offer to coordinate participation in that for the department.
Coaching is different from mentoring in that coaches generally don’t give advice – they facilitate learning and they are normally qualified. Get some of your PMO team trained and qualified to coach, and then you can offer this service to your project managers.
One of the reasons for project managers leaning on the PMO is because they are the source of templates. Keep a library of useful templates and also examples of where those templates have been used to create successful, good quality documents. People often benefit from seeing an example of a completed document as well as the template itself.
A major focus for most PMOs is reporting. Think about what reporting tools you have and what you need to gather for the reporting to be accurate and useful. Structure reporting so that the levels (weekly, monthly, quarterly, for example) flow together and don’t create an additional administrative burden.
And, of course, offer templates for reports so that each project is working to a standardized report structure.
6: Corporate Communications
PMOs thrive when they market their expertise and the business value they offer, and there’s no easier way to do this than through corporate communications. You can market the services of the PMO but also communicate out about the different projects underway.
Take on the role of managing and disseminating project communications such as newsletters, intranet articles or drafting presentations. Have we mentioned templates already? Get some templates that you can use time and time again for project newsletters, email blasts and other standard communications.
Checklists help project teams know that they haven’t forgotten anything. Whether you’re providing these as a piece of supportive guidance or as part of a directive process, it’s good to have a list of tasks per project phase that you can share with the project managers.
You can also have checklists for common processes such as submitting a business case, processing invoices and so on. If nothing else, checklists reduce the number of ‘how do I?’ questions that your team will get.
8: Audits and Peer Reviews
Peer reviews are an informal check of how a project is going. Because a project manager is very close to the action, they can find it difficult to step back and see the bigger picture. An independent third party can do that – someone from your PMO.
Audits are similar but more formal, and perhaps more suited to a controlling PMO where it could form part of the project management lifecycle.
9: Best Practices and Lessons Learned
As all projects go through the PMO, the PMO team are uniquely placed to capture lessons learned and best practices from all the project managers. Whether you do this at the end of the project or at various points through the project is up to you. Whatever approach you take, it’s important to think about how you can use this information going forward.
You’ll want to be able to search for lessons learned to be able to put best practices to use on future projects. A database or wiki is good for this purpose: think about what tools you already have within the PMO that could be used to support organizational knowledge capture.
10: Decision Support Information
The PMO does exist to support project activity, but there are another group of stakeholders too: executives who need to make business decisions based on what is going on.
This group need reports, data and analysis that give them the information they need to make decisions. The requirement for this could be ad hoc or regular, depending on what these stakeholders need. Your project management and PMO tools will help you crunch the data and present it in ways that give your stakeholders a truthful picture of business performance.
The PMO has many roles, and should be evolving with the business as the company’s needs change. As a result, you might be offering some of these 10 resources today, and have no plans to offer the others. You might be offering them all and already be looking at what else you can do to cement the PMO as the central hub for portfolio management within the organization.
By focusing your PMO efforts on your stakeholders and what you can offer, you can tailor your supportive, directive or controlling PMO to best deliver what your team and company needs.