The Project Management Office (a PMO) team wears many hats. As your PMO matures, you’ll want to add more services and functions into the team. The depth of information they hold and the value they can add by critically applying that information to today’s business problems is only going to grow over time.
In this article we look at 10 of the essential functions for your PMO. By ‘essential’, we don’t mean that you have to be doing them within your PMO. The point is that you have considered them, and established where the function sits if you have decided that it is not with you.
1. Project Tracking
Unsurprisingly, project tracking tops the list of core functions. Most PMOs are set up in part, at least, in response to the desire for management to have consolidated and reliable tracking and reporting.
Your PMO may implement this in a number of ways but it probably involves handling large data sets and rolling up project-level reports into portfolio and corporate dashboards to provide high level status monitoring.
2. Process Development
The PMO is often the guardian of project management processes. From creating the initial business case for executive review, through to the steps necessary for project closure, these internal processes are built out and evolved over time by the experts within the PMO.
3. Software Selection and Implementation
Whether you’ve got 6-week client projects or multi-million dollar constructions going on, it’s likely that your project management community are going to need more than a spreadsheet to do their jobs properly.
One of the core functions of the PMO is often the instigator and champion of the process to select the right tools for your team. While they will no doubt take input from the project and program managers who will be using the product, the PMO team will probably take the lead on selecting the shortlist, managing the procurement and then running the deployment, training and set up required to get everyone started.
The PMO is not a police function: at least, in most places. However, even supportive PMOs still need to be aware of governance as a core function, and to support their project managers with governance processes.
‘Governance’ is a wide-ranging area that encompasses everything from informal peer reviews to full on quality audits, and some of these tasks may fall outside the remit of the PMO. You’ll need to decide how far your responsibilities go for ensuring good project governance and how you are going to ensure these are delivered.
5. Delivery of Projects and Programs
Larger organizations may look to the PMO to lead the delivery of projects and programs. The main change here is that the project managers and program managers report directly into the PMO team. This elevates the role of the PMO from a supportive core function to a line management function.
There are lots of benefits of doing this – not least resource allocation of project managers to upcoming work – but it is a change of mind set for project managers and other resources who have previously been embedded in business teams which has to be managed carefully. For that reason, line management of project managers and the responsibility for delivery is a function for PMOs that are more mature.
6. Coaching and Training
Whether the team reports into the PMO or not, the PMO team are often the experts in project management processes. They are perfectly placed to manage the ongoing development of the project management team. This can include delivering relevant training and coaching team members.
In maturing PMOs it can also go beyond the immediate project management team and encompass training for sponsors and general business awareness of what projects are all about.
7. Lessons Learned
Capturing and disseminating lessons learned is a maturing function for PMOs. This is all about making sure what is shared in end of project reviews is turned into useful knowledge and not put in a drawer.
This can be facilitated in a number of ways from lunch and learn ‘brown bag’ sessions to managing a central searchable database of key lessons from past projects. Over time, the PMO should become the go to team for finding out what works and what doesn’t work, and to prevent the same mistakes being made again.
8. Managing Benefits Realization
Benefits realization is a function that many PMOs (and senior executives) aspire to, but it takes time, data and maturity to really deliver results in this space.
PMOs can be instrumental in setting up the processes and managing those processes for the programs. Ideally, this starts at the business case phase when the benefits are first identified. Then the PMO can manage the output of that business case and track the benefits throughout the life of the project and beyond.
If tools are required for tracking, the PMO can organize and set these up.
The benefit of having a PMO manage benefits realization is that it can be done in a standard way for all projects and programs, ensuring that you then have comparability between projects.
Projects require a lot of communication and this is one area where the mature PMO can add a lot of value.
Employees don’t see project communications in a standalone setting. They bring context to the message from their own experience and what they know of other projects. Having a central team coordinate project communications – at least, for the bigger initiatives – can ensure that conflicting messages are filtered out before they get to the people who need to hear them. Equally, the PMO can account for overload and stagger or bundle up messages so that each project manager isn’t targeting the same audience of key stakeholders at the same time with multiple requests or communications.
This could also involve updating internal communications channels like the intranet, producing team newsletters for project managers, or being active on community Slack channels or equivalent collaboration tools.
10. Portfolio Management
A portfolio is a collection of projects and programs involving investment decisions. Portfolio management includes the function for the mature PMO to advise executives on whether the investment funds available to the business are being spent in the best possible way.
It aligns delivery with strategic goals. It involves gathering and presenting the data about different business areas, success and implementation to better inform decisions about what projects should be undertaken by the company.
Ideally, your PMO would not need to be mature before taking on this function, but a mature organizational outlook towards what value the PMO can bring is critical to making this function truly useful to the senior team.
Every PMO is different, and the groupings of functions here might not map exactly to what works (or what you would like to work) in your business. Your PMO serves your unique enterprise and it’s important that the functions it offers suit the needs of your team, executives and management today, whatever that might be.