Project office styles

When defining the PMO, a crucial step is to identify who and precisely what the stakeholder groups want. The PiCubed PMO model identifies two stakeholder groups:

  • Managers, steering groups, portfolio committees and sponsors – those who demand information in order to understand status and make decision about projects
  • Project managers, planners and the project community who supply the information for analysis and repackaging to meet the needs of varied stakeholder groups.

The PMO must ensure that both groups are serviced but most importantly must ensure that the value of the PMO is firmly established.  The challenge is that the interest levels of the two groups varies over time – something as simple as a change in the membership of a steering group or a move away from contractors to permanently employed project managers can have a significant effect on the relative energy levels.  And that’s why PMO management is critically about political positioning and stakeholder engagement. Positioning is necessary so that the right stakeholders are accessible to the PMO.  Engagement is necessary because the PMO must establish, maintain and build its value with the stakeholder groups.

PMOWhen PMOs are established because of the senior management’s need to improve project performance or to regain control of the investment in projects, the PMO tends to be a ‘partner’ or ‘control’ type.

Partnership PMOs are involved in establishing strategic direction by advising on the enterprise project portfolio. They are responsible for determining the ‘do-ability of candidate portfolios, they monitor portfolio performance and maintain a view on the project capability and capacity of the organisation. These PMOs are led by a senior manager, and are staffed by people competent in project management, but not necessarily by ex-project managers. They tend to be more reactive than ‘guidance’ PMOs and are ‘demand side’ driven.

Control PMOs focus on information management, being the preferred conduit for project status reporting to senior management. Often regarded as ‘objective; by senior management and ‘hostile’ by projects, they concern themselves with project variance reporting, can be interventionist, performing project audits. They usually have functional specialists included in the staff and they often have some authority assigned to them.

When the PMOs are established because the project management community decides that project managers need to spend more time doing value added work or because project managers want to do things better, PMOs tend to be ‘admin’ or ‘guidance’ types.

Administration PMOs focus primarily on the collation of data, reporting on aggregated data and information handling. It supports individual projects and is mostly passive in operation, but can undertake asset-audit style reviews. These are typically staffed by administrators.

Guidance PMOs are set up as centres of excellence and as change agents within the project community. They are staffed by process specialists, and are proactive in influencing project performance. They tend to provide or enable training and development of project managers as well as undertaking value-adding reviews of projects. This type of PMO sometimes owns pools of project managers for assignment to projects.

For a full presentation on this topic click PMO presentation.

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