Your Project Management Office has a crucial governance role to play in ensuring that projects complete on time and deliver what they say they will. In this article we’ll look at 6 of the top governance functions that your PMO might offer.
Not all PMOs will offer all of these governance functions because it depends on the type of PMO you have. However, you could develop your PMO to offer all of these if you felt it would add value to the organization.
These are all on top of the portfolio-level governance that helps decide which projects and programs to work on when.
What is Governance?
Governance is basically ensuring that decisions are made in a timely manner, by the right people, and based on accurate information. It’s a way of ensuring that projects, their leaders and their teams are held accountable for the work that is happening.
1. Project Oversight
First, your PMO does something daily to support the strategic goals of the business and you might not even know about it. Project oversight.
They check in.
They check in with project managers and teams. They talk to project sponsors. They make connections between projects with the objective of ensuring that everything is going as well as it possibly can.
There is formal project oversight as well through ensuring that projects have Project Boards or Steering Committees, and that these groups meet regularly and are effective.
They offer support to project managers as well: the oversight role really is two-way. Without the PMO taking on this crucial role, many more of your projects would veer off course and you might not know before it is too late.
2. Benefits Realization Management
While the PMO often won’t track benefits on behalf of the appropriate business teams, they do ensure that there will be benefits.
Projects are started because of the belief that there is something of value that can be added to the organization. That benefit is documented in the business case. The PMO can help hold the business leader accountable for the delivery of that benefit.
They can do this in a supportive way by ensuring the project is on track to deliver the outcomes expected that in turn will allow the benefits to be achieved. They can highlight projects that are at risk of not achieving their benefits to allow managers to take a decision on what should be done next. This may result in the project being stopped, if the benefits are unable to be delivered at all.
3. Financial Control
Your PMO team also help keep your projects on budget. They offer a financial control role through supporting project managers with financial tracking.
They can also own and manage the timesheet system, recording useful financial data about how long it took to complete tasks which will better inform future estimates.
4. Vendor Management
Not all PMOs will undertake vendor management, but if yours does you can expect it to be providing an incredibly valuable governance role here. A PMO can manage the contract library and help save time selecting suitable vendors by holding a pool of pre-qualified suppliers.
They can also liaise with the Procurement and Finance teams to ensure project teams are acting within corporate guidelines for purchasing. In turn, this all adds up to better governance and oversight of the company’s cash and how it is spent.
5. Audit and Quality Assurance
A more formal governance approach than simply checking in, audits and quality assurance checks are designed to give project leaders and sponsors confidence that their project teams are doing their best work.
By offering an audit function, a PMO can periodically check up on a project in a structured way, with a detailed report as an output. This can feed up to senior managers and also help the project manager change working practices on the project. The report also serves as a useful document for sharing best practice (and what should be avoided) with other project managers, therefore improving the team’s ability overall.
The objective of doing this is to get more successful, more consistent delivery of projects. Ultimately, this is what any organization should be aiming for: repeatable, standardized results that deliver quality outcomes time after time.
Finally, the governance function provided by most PMOs includes reporting. This is a very common function that benefits senior leaders in the organization because it enables them to see progress reports in a standardized way.
The impartiality that the PMO brings also means that troubled projects can be highlighted so that they can be dealt with. Project managers reporting independently may seek to hide some of the bad news on their project (not always intentionally). The PMO operates transparently, and is a fact-driven but pragmatic part of the business. It offers senior managers confidence that the reporting is accurate and focused.
With this information, managers can make better decisions and act quickly to support projects in trouble.
The governance role of the PMO is wide-ranging but it’s all underpinned by the same objectives. This makes it easier for project managers to do their jobs effectively and at the same time ensuring the best value for the business.
Managers should look to the PMO to capitalize on their governance functions to best support the strategic objectives of the company. This will get you where you want to be.