Pointing to the value of a PMO

What is the benefit of a PMO?

Benefits of a PMOA very common question for an organization is “what is the benefit of a PMO”? The question is usually raised because somebody has been asked to set-up a PMO by senior management, they have experienced a lot of (negative) resistance and find them in the position of having to justify why it needs to be set-up. Unfortunately, saying “because I say so” or even worse “because senior management want it” are not an ideal responses.

This post will share some of the important benefits so that you are ready when the question is asked.

Before covering the benefits, it is worth spending some time on why there is usually so much resistance.

Arguments to Resist a PMO

Bureaucracy

This reveals itself in statements like “this adds no value”, “I already report so providing information to you is duplication”, “this is an extra overhead on our time” or the all time classic “it takes my team away from doing important delivery work”.

Ambiguity

This is usually used at the start of a project. The project manager will say that everything is in early development and as soon as it has been finalized they will start reporting. This state can go on for many months without them reporting.

Spotlight

Many people like to control the message flow and keep information for themselves or to a close team. Reporting through a PMO shines a spotlight on progress and can lead to uncomfortable questions for the project manager. Hence, the desire to stay out of the spotlight.

No Authority

This is actually an issue due to failure of senior management. In many cases they do not know why they want a PMO. Therefore, they are reluctant to justify the creation to their peers and issue a formal notification of the authority of the PMO. This means the person charged with setting up the PMO finds it hard to get leverage with the project managers. If they don’t want to do the reporting they will play the bureaucracy card and escalate through their management. This can then result in the catastrophic case where the senior manager is confronted why he is setting up the PMO and they say “it does not really matter”. This is the point to seek a new role.

As you can see there are many arguments used to resist a PMO and project managers are very good at using them. So now for the advantages
Benefits of a PMO

Standardization

Being able to develop a single method of reporting status and financials for projects greatly reduces the overheads to an organization. It reduces the time spent capturing numerous reporting formats with different interpretations. It helps at the start of a project as the project manager does not have to spend time deciding what reporting templates and standards to use.
Where there are already active projects using different reporting formats, a smart PMO will offer to convert the reports to the new format, thus eliminating any claim of extra work to switch.
If a project manager plays the ace card of “we don’t have time to report as we are focusing on delivery”. Ask them to provide what reporting format they are using and convert it for them. If they are not producing a report, then they are not doing their job. You can politely remind the project manager that an important aspect of project management is tracking and reporting status.

Independent View of Status

This is important for senior management. Many projects appear to only go Red and fail close to the end. This is because those close to a project always believe they will catch-up and meet the delivery dates / budget. Unfortunately this rarely happens.

The PMO acts as the independent “eyes and ears” of management and can alert them to risks / issues early so as to allow timely interventions to be made. It also helps the project manager to have someone who is not close to the project asking questions and making observations to risks they may have overlooked.

Improved Rigour

A solid, standardized approach to project management means is that there is more chance that the project will be approached with the correct rigour i.e. proper plans, budgets, resource plans, etc as progress is being monitored. This translates into a high probability of a successful outcome.

Finally, there have been numerous surveys within the project management press that show that an organization has a higher probability of delivering more of their change on time and within budget than those who do not. This is why there has been a marked increase in the number of organizations setting up PMO’s over the past couple of years.

Benefits of PMO Presentation