Running a project management office

9 Sep 2021 01:37 PM

Blog posted by: Christopher Poyntz – Audit Transformation Project Manager, PwC, 09 September 2021.

Colleagues looking at project files

Having a project management office (PMO) is – more than ever – a valuable thing for organizations to invest in.

Employees and teams are often overwhelmed in the workplace and having a PMO to provide project-related services makes life a lot easier, both reducing pressure and helping prevent future stresses.

So, why are people struggling at the moment? There can be a number of reasons, such as anxiety generated by Covid-19, the weight of work to catch up on, not being able to do any training in person and the lack of cultural normality by virtue of mixed office, remote and hybrid working.

This can lead to people not adhering to quality best practice, to deadlines slipping and work structures which are not as robust as they should be; people’s morale is affected too – feeling disheartened and annoyed that they’re not performing at their best.

Therefore, a PMO can take up some of the burden and increase the quality of what’s already being done.

How the PMO helps

There are various ways a PMO can support teams across an organization:

This can involve capturing actions, tracking issues and risks by managing the RAID (risks, assumptions, issues, dependencies) log and ensuring actions are completed and tracked.

The PMO can explore the range of project tools the team could use to meet deadlines and simplify their work, such as platforms like Azure DevOps and Kanbanchi, which include email notifications and reminders about assigned tasks. Having access to automated dashboards designed specifically for project management helps with project accountability.

Many project-related problems now are down to behavioural challenges, so having additional governance support can help to focus on how well the team adopts project management best practice. For example, providing structure to a particular function – such as the finance team – takes away the pressure on them to manage projects. Having structure and discipline through governance also helps to maintain quality. This makes a lot of sense if teams don’t have project management skills or training.

The ideal PMO 

What are the knowledge and skills that constitute an ideal PMO?

Non-technical skills include good organization, setting attainable timeframes for tasks and making sure the timings reflect the reality that people are working in.

People skills have become even more vital over the past 12 months: teams are challenging project management in general more and questioning the benefits they’re going to get. So, in a project role, it’s necessary to explain why you’re deploying project management techniques. Part of that explanation includes reference to best practice such as PRINCE2®. Citing PRINCE2 helps helps because it’s a recognized and proven way of working which offers specific guidance on what should happen and when.

The technical knowledge needed in a PMO – including relevant project management principles of time, cost, quality and scope – are essential, along with the ability to be proactive and challenge the organization about where project management can improve.

Demonstrating the PMO’s value

Probably the biggest challenge for organizations thinking about investing in a PMO is understanding how it will align commercially and how much it will improve existing ways of working.

Therefore, a PMO needs to demonstrate clearly why it’s an important resource and what benefits it provides both to teams and workstreams.

Across industry, I have seen an increase in demand for certified people to fill PMO roles based on the burdens companies are contending with.

This doesn’t surprise me, as it’s essential to get project management right – both for what’s happening now and to take advantage of new opportunities when some level of normality returns to the workplace.