In the article “Getting started with the PMO” the Project/Program Management Office is referred to as “a shared service that provides tools, templates and best practices to project management”.
What about project governance, should the CIO care about the PMO?
Indeed he should! Let us imagine the daily life at CIO Mike’s company before and after the PMO.
Before the PMO
On Friday morning Mike the CIO has not slept at all. It had occurred to him the night before that he is attending a steering committee (STECO) meeting on Monday morning and he has forgot to ask the project managers for status updates. He was up all night preparing a status report template with STECO related questions. He attaches the template to an email with a lot of exclamation marks and sends it out to the project managers. He gives Saturday night as the deadline.
Project Manager Kate decided to do the report Friday night. Since she had other matters to take care of and because she had to ad hoc dig out a lot of information, it took her the whole night to finish the report. At midnight she’s still not sure what some of the questions mean but she is too tired to care so she makes a best guess and sends the report to Mike. As she finally gets to bed she swears she will say a few chosen words to Mike on Monday morning…
During the weekend Mike is preparing his presentation for the STECO . On Sunday evening he has still not got the report from project manager Thomas. He tries to call him but he refuses to answer. He pulls some numbers out of the hat and hopes he will not have to explain them tomorrow.
After a somewhat confusing STECO meeting in which Mike is not really sure what he achieved he is just glad to be alive. Getting back to his desk an email from the CFO is waiting. The CFO is asking Mike to send in a preliminary cost estimate for Q4 covering all projects. Mikes spends Monday evening preparing a presentation for this but he soon realizes that the project status information he asked for last week is not enough to answer the CFO:s questions. Thus, he now has to send another request to the project managers.
The rest of the story hardly needs to be written out.
After the PMO
Mike’s organization finally recognized the need for structuring the project organizations. They decided that the PMO, lead by the PMO Manager Susan, should be assigned the task of implementing a project culture into the company, using the company adapted ICT Standard as a framework.
After having had a strictly supportive role for a couple of months, building relations with the project managers, Susan decided it was time to take the PMO to the next level. Together with the CIO she defined the new controlling role of the PMO. The change and implications were communicated to the project community.
Today when a steering committee meeting is coming up Mike goes to the project portfolio overview tool that is provided by the PMO. Here he can get all the basic relevant status information for each project along with specific issues, decision requests etc.
When Kate and the project team finish the iteration aftermath and line-up meeting that is part of her project methodology Kate reports the status to the PMO according to a processes agreed with Susan. She is very happy to do this because it is always the same familiar template and it is not just on demand so it is easy to schedule the task.
It still happens that Mike requests specific information that is not directly delivered through the standard tools but because he does it by asking the PMO and not the PM:s directly, Susan can refine the tools and processes and gradually get more and more efficient.
Most importantly, in the relationship between the CIO and the PM:s Mike is no longer an annoying control freak but someone who brings executive support rather than stupid questions.