PMO Sponsorship – why it is vital for success

Sponsor and project managerAs mentioned in post How to set up a PMO, the correct level of PMO Sponsorship is critical for the PMO to be successful.

Clearly Defined Sponsor

When you are in the process of setting up a PMO, make sure there is a clearly defined PMO sponsor. If you do not have a clear sponsor then the PMO will not be seen to having any real authority.  This will usually result in many of the project managers either doing the absolute minimum in respect of PMO requests or absolutely nothing.

Type of PMO Sponsor

Ideally the PMO should have a sponsor who is part of senior management.  This will provide the PMO with credibility as the PMO will receive a level of referred authority.

PMO Sponsor Behaviours

The PMO sponsor must fully ‘buy-in’ to the purpose and value of the PMO.  This will enable them to be an ambassador to their peers and to other members of staff.  If they do not ‘buy-in’ and are only doing it because they have to or no one else available, this is very dangerous.  Project Managers and other members of staff will quickly pick up on this and the PMO will find it very difficult to get up and running.

In this scenario you will typically find that the PMO will make a request, the project manager will escalate to their line manager, the line manager will then go directly to the PMO sponsor and the PMO sponsor will agree it does not have to be done.  The PMO’s authority is completely undermined and the project manager will know that they can do the same again and again to push back on the PMO.

The PMO sponsor should be typically a member of senior management.  This is important as this will provide the PMO with a level of referred authority, if project managers that the requests coming from the PMO are due

Action Plan

  • So what can you do about this?  Like many things in life it is best to have a strategy and address these potential risks before they happen.
  • Ask who the sponsor is?  If they are not senior enough or do not have the required level of respect / authority, raise this with your line manager to encourage a level of executive sponsorship.  Spell out that you want this to be a success and that sponsorship is critical.
  • Meet with the sponsor.  Find out how committed they are to the PMO.  Remind them of the responsibilities and that for the PMO to be successful you need their support.  Make it clear that they must be careful not to let the PMO be undermined by agreeing to direct requests / dispensations for individual projects.  Remind them that you both can only be successful by working together.
  • Set up frequent meetings to keep the PMO sponsor updated.  This will build trust, allow you to talk about successes and most importantly make them aware of any issues before they hear it else where (or worse are caught out in a meeting with their peers).
  • Constantly remind them of the value of the PMO and what has been achieved.

It is always easier to have these conversations at the start of a project, not when issues have occurred and become emotional.