There are lots of ways to set up a Project Management Office to support your business objectives and to deliver what the organization needs in order to manage its portfolio effectively.
A key function of your PMO is the governance services it can provide. While not all PMOs will major on governance, it’s a common theme that runs through many. The PMO offers a central location for all the governance-related activities for keeping a portfolio in check. But what does it actually look like? What are the governance functions that a PMO can do for your organization?
In this article we’ll look at the governance services that you can build into your PMO function to best support your project management teams.
Verifying Business Cases
Projects start with business cases. The PMO can offer a checking role that reviews business case templates and ensures they are completed with the right information. The PMO team is also excellently placed to review dependencies and the resource profile set out in the business case, just as a sense check.
Prioritizing New Projects
After the business case stage, approved projects need to be prioritized. The PMO can run this process, using standard prioritization grids for the business, organizational policies, guidance from senior managers – it doesn’t really matter how you prioritize your incoming project work as long as the process is fair, repeatable and transparent.
The PMO may only play a part in this process instead of managing the whole thing. The PMO Director, for example, might chair an interdepartmental group of managers who together debate the project priorities and set the agenda for the coming quarter or year.
Monitoring, Controlling and Reporting
Monitoring, controlling and reporting at project level is part of the remit of your project teams. But roll it up, and it’s definitely useful to have control applied across the portfolio or at program level.
The PMO team can consolidate and roll up project plans (especially if you have the software to support this), using their expertise to cast an eye over what is in progress and where problems might hit in the future.
The reporting function is one that many PMOs take on, regardless of what their overall strategic objectives are, simply because it makes sense that all projects feed their reports in to a central hub, which consolidates and reports at the next level up for executive management.
These reports can take on a governance function as long as they include the right kind of information to allow decisions to be taken. They should also flag any key risks or issues and points of escalation.
If your PMO maintains a degree of independence from the project management community, it can run audits on projects and programs.
It can still run audits even if the project management team is deeply embedded in the PMO, but it’s easier to so with a bit of distance and impartiality.
On a more informal basis the PMO team can also offer health checks. These are quick (and sometimes longer) dives into the current project to establish where there are inefficiencies, breaks from standard processes and why some of the decisions have been taken. It’s an impartial pair of eyes looking over how the project is being managed with the view of helping the project team improve and tweak the way the project is run. Health checks are not supposed to be big sticks to beat the project management team with, but they do serve a useful governance function in ensuring everything is on track.
This is more about managing the software tools to support resource allocation, and perhaps the ‘pool’ of resources – a list of personnel involved in projects and their availability and skills. The PMO team wouldn’t allocate project tasks to an individual as that would be done within the project.
The more complex the staffing needs, the more important it is that you have someone taking ownership for managing the resource management tools.
This might not seem like a governance function, but ineffective resource management adds cost and time to projects, as well as a larger admin overhead for the business. If we look at governance as a way of keeping things on track and being managed effectively, a smooth process for securing the right resources at the right team can definitely fall into this remit.
You can only grow in maturity if you reflect on your successes and weaknesses and do something different as a result of what you learn. The PMO can be instrumental in ensuring post-project reviews take place. They can even facilitate them; it’s helpful to have an impartial voice in the room, especially if it’s commonly accepted that the project didn’t go as well as it could have.
The PMO can also act as the guardian of all post-project review documentation, creating a log of lessons learned and best practice. This is a useful repository for project managers starting a new piece of work. If the archive is searchable, they can find information that will stop them making similar mistakes and should improve the success of their project.
Steering Project Management Maturity
Finally, your PMO can help steer project management maturity within the organization. This is another area which might not seem directly linked to governance, but managing maturity leads to better control of projects – the more mature the project management culture within the organization, the better the management of projects can be.
Improving project management maturity is a long term goal, achieved through a series of small, incremental improvements over time. But someone needs to manage the plan to help the organization get there, and the PMO is in the perfect position to do this, and to track progress against that plan.
Above we’ve highlighted some of the governance functions that your PMO can take responsibility for. There are plenty more options for a fully-embedded PMO, and the most important thing is that your PMO provides the services and support that your teams require in order to do their best work. There is no one-size-fits-all way to lead a project management maturity improvement exercise, or to deliver governance across the business. Tailor your approaches, tools and techniques, drawing on expert advice where required, to create a governance structure that works for you.