Going from PMO to Enterprise-wide MO

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The term Project Management Office (PMO) is a well understood term but the application and implementation can vary from being a supportive PMO, a directive PMO or a consultative PMO. Likewise, should the ‘P’ stand for Project, Program or Portfolio? My view is simple, a PMO should do all of the above and strive to get to calling itself an Enterprise Management Office (EMO). Let’s not fool ourselves, to go from inceptions (which is generally a Directive Project Management Office) to an EMO, can take up to 5 years. This is startling given the fact that recent surveys have shown the lifetime of a standard PMO is 2 ½ years.

Traditionally, PMOs have been departmentally based and effective only within their own departments or silos of responsibility. To execute an efficient EMO, this is one of the major barriers, an Enterprise-wide MO must be seen (by the organisation) as a method of transmitting project management information and encouraging company-wide procedures and tools bringing costs down and improving performance. Should you transition from a thinking of departmental PMO to an Enterprise-wide MO? My answer is simple … this should be the objective of every PMO, whether it is the reality is a very different subject.

Look at your organisation and determine if some of these changes might benefit how you look at project delivery:

  • Is an alignment between project delivery and strategic goals required versus an alignment between project delivery and specific department goals (IT, HR, etc.)?
  • Is a need to understand business drivers / prioritisations required versus a ‘who shouts loudest mentality?
  • Is there a need for a mulita-based project data leading to comparison and knowledge sharing of resources, facilities, etc. versus a reliance on tools (reports and software) and methodologies (contract and people management) to manage the enterprise?
  • Is there a need for project competency development across the organisation versus a focus on who is best placed to deliver projects completed on-time, within budget and to customer’s satisfaction?
  • Is there a need to understand risk across that organisation rather than ask the projects to fight the losing battle of risk assessment and mitigation?

If you are answering YES to any of the above, then let’s start to talk about the need to transition from a PMO to an EMO. The next question you might ask is how to do it. Well like everything, you need support and you need to business case this to ensure you management team understand the rationale to visibly support the PMO and its new approach to project management governance.

When you talk about transitioning to the EMO, what should you be thinking about. Great question and here are some tips that might be usefulness in thinking and striving towards this:

  1. Positioning of EMO is a critical success factor. Rather than create it for the namesake that goes with it, it should be strategically positioned. It should be reporting to the C-level of the organisation as it allows it to command the authority from rest of the organisation 
  2. The EMO is not there to bully or replace other PMOs. Instead the PMOs and project managers should be made to understand that the EMO complements their work and is created for providing additional help.
  3. There should be constant leadership support and buy-in for the EMO to perform its role. The senior management (C-level) team should understand the benefits from the EMO in many ways including having information to take critical decisions. The EMO should be seen as a function supporting the organisational management team.
  4. The EMO should be established as a separate business function and not be regarded as part of a current business unit. It should stand on its two feet and be recognised for this to ensure it can support projects across all functions and not just on function or unit. 
  5. The flow of Communication and escalation path should be clearly defined to avoid any bottlenecks between EMO, other PMO’s, project managers and functional units. The success of any EMO is dependant on the information it receives and manages
  6. The EMO is not there as a police-body, it is there as a navigator and with this in mind it is important to have a reasonable amount of standardisation across the functions / units within the organisation. 

The emphasis of an is on doing more with less and the EMO is working with organisations who want to become leaner and effective with what they have. Moving from what has been the traditional approach of having program and project level PMOs to a PMO at enterprise level is a logical step in increasing the PMO maturity level.

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