With all that said, what can we do to help make our project management offices more effective? If your is struggling, it's going to likely be more cost effective to fix a few weaknesses than it will be to dismantle and start over from scratch. I've seen both, and I managed to hang around during the dismantling because I was a needed consultant at the time. In fact, I played a big role in the damage assessment and rebuilding phase.
Not knowing specifically what's wrong, I'll give my top five general hacks or fix attempts to help get the struggling PMO productive, efficient and pointed in the right direction...
Replace the PMO Director. When change has to happen, you often start at the top. The project is going very poorly and the customer is complaining...replace the project manager. When the PMO is sinking, try replacing the PMO Director. I've seen too many PMO Directors who were either so-so resource managers so they moved them over to run the PMO (bad call), or were mainly project managers and held the title of PMO Director in name only (equally bad call). The PMO Director needs to focus on the project managers and their needs, not whatever project they leading at the moment. Get the right person in their fast.
Get certified! Are some of your project managers experienced but not certified? I'm not saying that certification will turn everything around, but having a stocked PMO full of certified project managers is a great marketing tool for acquiring big new contracts and should help the group of project managers work even better together and communicate with a common PM language. A PMP training course or boot camp may be the way to go – some even end with the certification class and guarantee that you'll pass. Should help your PM methodology, help you to manage repeated PM successes, and help the overall team cohesiveness if that has been lagging at all.
Distribute status reports up the organization. If it's not already happening, make sure that all project status reports are being distributed up the organization. This gives the PMO added visibility and credibility with senior management...and this is critical to senior management buy-in and funding for the PMO. Win-win.
Replace project managers....now. Just like the PMO Director needs to go, so do some project managers. If you have 6-10 project managers or more, replace half. Be sure to retain the most successful experience so you can hit the ground running again, but you must clean house to some degree. If fewer than 6-10, look for one or two to replace.
Improve PMO usability. Make the path for the entire organization to using the PMO for managing their projects easier. That means potentially creating a better project initiation process. Skip phone calls and emails...create an online form that creates most of what a project manager or account manager needs coming out of the gate before sitting down with either the potential customer (for internal projects) or the internal sponsor for external projects. Too many cumbersome roadblocks can leave your project initiation process nearly unusable or easy to skip much like some of those online job application sites.
Summary / call for input
There are no guarantees that any of these will actually “fix” your PMO. These are general attempts to improve the process and they have been proving to help a troubled PMO gain some much needed traction in the past. All will help – none will hurt...and if you come out of it with some extra knowledge and training and even certification it will probably a great move long term.
How about our readers? What are your thoughts on these suggestions and what have you seen work for you or your colleagues over the years? Please share and discuss.