We have discussed learning and how that applies to Project Managers in the last few posts. But this post is going to start looking at projects and PMOs influence on them. I have had the fortune (or misfortune, lol) to work with many different PMOs across a variety of industries. While this may not make me an expert (although I think it does), it does give me a viewpoint that many people in my field do not have.
Of course the message that a PMO is supposed to bring is to improve a company’s responsiveness by streamlining process and to be able to provide clarity on which projects are the most important for the strategic vision of the business. A well run and managed PMO can do this plus a lot more. Unfortunately, the majority of the PMOs I have dealt with are not well run and/or managed.
But you do not have to believe me. A well-documented study in December of 2007 highlights the issue using IT projects (http://www.european-services-strategy.org.uk/news/2007/ict-contract-chaos/105-ict-contracts.pdf). While the report does not specify which companies had PMOs, it should be safe to assume a lot of them did given their size. This report does not showcase IT projects, much less, PMOs, in a very good light. So why is this?
Many companies think that a PMO is nothing more than a organization holder for PMs. So if a department in a business needs a PM, they request one from the PMO. Furthermore, the PM career path usually goes PM to Program Manager to PMO Manager. A good PM does not necessarily make a good Program Manager nor does a good Program Manager made a good PMO manager.
Just like many other specialized fields in the corporate world, the subtle differences that make someone good at each of these levels are not obvious. To further make it difficult to decide who would be good candidates for these roles, companies tend to use how successful the PM is in completing projects as that is pretty easy to determine. Complete a lot of projects successfully and, voila, you are now a PMO Manager.
This is not to say all PMs are bad regardless of level, it is just that promoting the wrong people because they were successful at one level does not automatically going to make them successful at the next one. This happens in all fields so I am not just picking on PM’s here.
I actually worked in one PMO where the PMO’s performance was so bad; the company actually shut it down. They went back to each PM working in different areas of the company. Needless to say this was an extreme example, but it does highlight that just putting together a bunch of PMs and calling it a PMO does not give much (if any) chance of success.