What makes one PMO work better, perform better, gel better and outperform another PMO? What makes one help the organization deliver better on projects and allow team members to better collaborate and consistently produce on successful projects better and more frequently than the PMO in another organization?
From my experience, it is mainly 3 key factors that are considered the difference makers. These are...
Well trained and experienced staff balance
Trained and certified - such as the Project Management Institute's (PMI) project management professional (PMP) certification is great and generally considered the industry standard in PM certification. There are others out there to consider as well, but getting the PMP is probably the best first route to go and the PM infrastructure that has their share of PMPs is going to give the organization's customers a great deal of confidence in their ability to deliver successful project solutions. However, relying solely on certification and overlooking project managers without certification but with significant successful experience delivering high quality projects would be a grave mistake. For me, a good balance of both focuses is usually best.
Led by a PMO Director who leads PMs, not projects
PMOs that are led by dedicated PMO directors and not just the most experienced PM in the group who also leads projects is the best way to go. Having a dedicated PMO Director who is not focused on projects, but rather on project methodologies, the PMs' career growth and training, and meeting PM needs along the way as they run into issues on projects will result in the best and most productively and efficiently run PMO possible. In other words, a high performing PMO.
Supported by upper management
Finally, the PMO that operates with strong support of the senior level management in the organization will performance at a maximum level. Why? Because funding, staffing, and getting projects to run is less of a question mark or daily fight. I've been in PMOs in organizations where C-levels handed out pet projects to groups other than the PMO and it was those PMOs that ultimately floundered and often failed to deliver successfully on the projects they were leading. Getting the best staff and team members for the projects the PMO is leading is difficult when senior management fails to back it and believe in it enough to throw support and dollars behind it.
Summary / call for input
There are more factors to consider, but for me these are the top 3. The bottom line is focusing on the PMO as a great delivery system – a group of like-minded professionals with a mission to deliver excellent and successful solutions that make customers happy and companies highly profitable. Anything less is a waste of time. Figure out what the customers in your market need and staff accordingly and have the company's support behind it. You'll never get more out of it if you don't put into it and believe in it and put dollars behind it.
Readers - what are your thoughts? What would you add to or change about this list? What have been your personal experiences with PMO success stories and failures and the key reasons behind each?