Here I've outlined what I believe to be the four key elements of project management office (PMO) success. I've seen many built, fail, and be built again only to fail again because the same mistakes are made over and over again. Follow these four key elements and the likelihood that your PMO will be viable will increase drastically...
Strong, experienced leadership. There may be lots project managers and organization executives who feel differently about this than I do or want to cut budget to cover all bases, but I feel strongly that a PMO director should only direct project managers and the PM infrastructure and project manager should manage projects. I’ve seen too many PMOs led by directors who were also leading projects. Every single one I witnessed that in has failed. I realize that smaller organizations may not be able to financial support a full-fledged PMO that has a dedicated director. That’s understandable and their model will likely need to be different. But when possible, the director needs to be a dedicated leader of the PMO who focuses on the career development of project managers, hires good PM's for the PMO, paves the way to success for projects by aiding project managers in need, and acts as the liaison to senior management for the project managers and PMO.
Executive buy-in. Nothing says you’re in it for the long haul like being the baby of someone high up. Of course you need to perform as well. But if your PMO has the buy-in from the leaders at the top of your organization, then the likelihood that it will be well funded and well stocked with competent, seasoned project managers is much higher. You need for important projects to be thrown to the PMO right from inception and that will only happen if you have buy-in for the PMO infrastructure from the leaders of the company.
Availability of the right tools. The most successful project offices have solid policies and project templates in place that have been successful in the past and that will help guide the project managers successfully as the PMO is gaining footing in the organization. And they have the right project management software tools in the hands of the project managers who need to effectively and efficiently manage projects and lead teams and customers. These policies, templates and tools will be re-hashed and refined by the PMO director and the individual project managers – together – as the PMO grows and matures.
Staffed by experienced project managers. The PMO must focus on hiring good, experienced project managers. Too many times they phone it in and ask HR to find some PMs with 3-5 years experience and PMP certification. That’s the lazy route and there is no way that organization will find long-term success. Find experienced PMs with good successes and a few failures under their belt and the rest will take care of itself.
Summary / call for input
Your organization can keep creating project management offices over and over again till they get it right. Or they can do their best to start with a good foundation and get it right the first time. These four key elements are essential for creating a viable, long lasting, successful and productive project management office. Do you have suggestions for other areas that should be consider when creating a project management office? What pain points have you experienced that we haven't covered here? Please share and discuss.