May 11, 2013

The Who and Where of PMOs

Posted by J. Kent Crawford | 0 Comments

A few weeks ago, one of the members of our PMO of the Year Group on LinkedIn asked a question that sparked a lively discussion with numerous group members chiming in. For those of you who aren't a member of this group (it's a subgroup of the PM Solutions group: join here if you are on LinkedIn), I thought I'd recap the back-and-forth and add some of my own thoughts.

It all started here: "I am interested in hearing the consensus on whether Project Managers should sit under the PMO umbrella or the business unit/stakerholder for which they are project accountable."

(I'm not going to identify all the posters by name - you can view their profiles if you join the group. It's a privacy thing!)

The 10 or so responses ran the gamut from the PMO to the business unit and back again, with many folks on the fence, saying "it depends." Here's a collection of quotes:

  • There are different kinds of PMOs. The PMO can be a governing, coaching, or simply admistrative. You would only consider having PMs assigned to a governing PMO. The business model also comes into play. Are your projects under a cost center or a profit center. Is Project work key to generating Revenue like in a services or consulting business model, or are your projects internal? 
  • it depends on the maturity of the PMO. In a mature PMO that shares operational and financial targets with the business units and stakeholders, it is beneficial to maintain CPMs under the PMO umbrella. This will ensure focus on their PM competences development and alignment on PM processes and project governance accross the projects of the entire organization. At the same time PMO has visibility of the full portfolio and therefore can maintain accountability for the full portfolio management.
    [If] PMs do not sit in the PMO, the PMO acts only as an excellence centre ... with limited power to influence that the project management procedures and PM competence development plans are followed.
  • My organization chose to have the the best of both worlds - a blend of PMs who report to the PMO and PMs who report to their functional areas. This allows us to have some level of subject matter expertise in the functional areas but also have cross-functional project management capabilities coming from the PMO. The key to our hybrid model is that all project management is governed by the PMO. 

Wow! This is just the kind of discussion we were hoping for when we created the groups in LinkedIn!  If you are not taking advantage of the informal "community of practice" that this social networking site creates, you might be missing out. But to continue the discussion here on our blog, let me just weigh in with my own thoughts on the proper "care and feeding" of project managers:


  • Professional PMs need a “home” where their performance is compared against their peers. We know from experience that when project managers are here and there throughout the organization, neither they nor their projects are well-served. Project accomplishments tend to get lost among the operational details, and PM proficiency isn't well recognized by operational managers. For their personal professional development ... and for the benefit of the organization, the PMO is the place for project managers.
  • That said, PMOs must measure professional PM competency (traits, experience, and performance) in a consistent way – not just knowledge.We are increasingly urging companies to measure and track the business value added by project managers, and to look at the project management role as a business skills role. Knowing who to hire, develop, and promote within the PMO has to be based on more than certification (although certification is an important milestone).
  • Compliance with organizational process and methodology should be “de rigueur” for the top project and program managers and the “gold standard” for the remaining organizational PMs. Our recent research on Project Portfolio Management showed that getting compliance with standard processes is still a headache for many organizations. But that's how culture change starts.
  • Project manager career progression must be centrally managed along with consistent training and experiential development. This is another key to getting the organization standardized around methodologies, and it helps to improve the intellectual capital of the enterprise.
  • Central data integration within the PMO provides professional PMs the support to generate accurate and timely executive dashboards.  Central data integration is difficult/impossible with dispersed PMs.And that will adversely impact PPM, as well. There must be a reason why more and more organizations are siting PPM in the PMO. (See the PPM research link, above.)
  • Professional PMs must be managed by managers capable of managing full-time Project Managers.  Part-time Project Managers and PMs managed by Business Unit managers show significant reductions in successful project delivery. Interviews with one of our largest clients in 2010 showed a dramatic leap in successful project delivery when qualified project managers were assigned to key initiatives.
  • Research trends are clearly showing organizations understand these issues and are dramatically moving toward PMs reporting to the PMOs. As our editor-in-chief at PM Solutions, Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin, remarked in the LinkedIn discussion, "Surely if there were not business benefits to be gained from having PMs report to the PMO, we would not have seen the steady increase in the numbers of firms organized in this way that we have seen over the past decade. For example, in 2006 about 44% of PMOs reported being responsible for "managing project managers." In 2012, this number hovered at around 60% (higher in midsize companies). I think companies have experimented with this structure, and seen the value of it. "

Join the conversation! Either here or on LinkedIn. What are your thoughts and experiences relative to the management of project managers?

Editor's Note: While you are exploring the PMO of theYear Group, take a look at the "Questions, Questions" discussion where we have catalogued questions and answers about the Award over the past several years. There's still time to apply and have your PMO recognized! Check out the application information at: PMI Awards: PMO of the Year.



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