Reboot the PMO

With organizations like the Project Management Institute, there’s no shortage of substantive resources in the marketplace today that can help IT projects succeed by offering PMO best practices, training, and accreditation. But all the training and certificates in the world can’t push a project across the finish line if it has the wrong organizational champions. That’s why I’m proposing a reboot of the PMO. In my experience, there are three important factors that determine whether a project succeeds or fails.

  1. Obtain buy-in: Frequently, a project is doomed from the start because the right stakeholders do not support the project or its goals. Executive stakeholders must be completely aligned on a project’s priorities and strategic direction and be totally committed to implementing the necessary organizational and cultural changes. Stakeholders also must provide a clear vision and ensure that everyone can understand and believe in the story.
  2. Conduct self-reflection: PMOs spend most of their time overseeing the work of others, so it’s not surprising that they frequently overlook the importance of self-reflection when it comes to their own roles. To successfully oversee projects, PMOs must also be aligned with the strategic direction of the organization and committed to their role in its victory. They also must provide better visibility with ongoing projects, remain flexible, and collaborate with managers on the ground to determine what’s working and what is not. These iterative feedback loops between the PMO and those in the trenches ultimately result in better overall processes for the organization. PMO leaders also must be able to reinforce and articulate the vision for a project’s success.
  3. Consider intangibles: PMOs are not about process for the sake of process or injecting whizbang technology as a way to justify budgets. Perhaps more than anything else, PMOs are about fostering the right talent and culture within an organization so that successful projects are a routine byproduct of the process. To do so, PMO leaders must influence the right behaviors and remove impediments to success. This allows a project team to adjust and make changes when they need to and encourages all team members to participate. Once everyone is on the same page, these behaviors become woven into the fabric of the organization.

When teams take ownership of outcomes, they will always do what it takes to ensure a project succeeds. With this combination of attitude and culture, the entire organization—and the customer—wins.