A few years back I conducted a survey of my readers – mainly project managers and PMO directors and CIOs, etc….and I asked them some questions about their organization’s project management infrastructure. One question – and the troubling responses to it – focused on whether or not the respondents felt that their project management office (PMO) was effective. 42% said yes, 58% said no. 58%. That is a solid majority. That’s sad…nearly 6 out of every 10 respondents thought their PMO was not really doing its job in terms of taking care of the project managers career growth needs, various training needs, process and methodology needs, and overall project customer needs. We didn’t get real specific, but those are some of the key things I explain as major functions of the PMO and a majority these individuals felt that their PMOs were not getting the job done.
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.
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 status reporting. A tweak to the status reporting process can usually bring some fast relief. Turn out a one-size-fits-all template with a good dashboard view. This will free up project manager time from from creating two or three different versions of the status report and give everyone the detail they want and need.
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.
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.
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.