Perhaps the first two articles in this series have persuaded you to introduce a PMO in your company. Maybe you already have a PMO that is equipped with employees and tasks and are already past the first few challenging and eventful days. But how do you ensure that your PMO is established in the company for the long term? How can you ensure its acceptance? And what phases should you expect?
How Your PMO Becomes a Long-Term Success
Phase 1 – Enthusiasm and Optimism
If your PMO manages to achieve a few quick wins at the very beginning, there will likely be some enthusiasm. Employees and stakeholders will be more open-minded to the PMO and believe that everything will be better from now on. After all, someone is finally taking care of long overdue tasks. Quick wins help in the first phase so that the PMO does not face skepticism or even rejection.
Examples of quick wins for PMOs can be:
Create spreadsheets and use a Lean PPM tool. With Meisterplan, you will be up and running in a few days. The effects are immediately visible: an increase in transparency, better utilization and allocation of employees, plus a more strategic view of the project pipeline.
Meet with project managers for kick-off meetings, in which they clarify how the projects contribute to the corporate strategy and their expected results. Confirm the importance of the projects by analyzing the strategic fit, expected ROI, etc. with the project managers.
Increase productivity in project teams with a simple trick: use some sort of signal such as a light or a flag to indicate when you want to work without being interrupted, and when you are available for questions, conversations and coffee breaks. With this little tweak, you can substantially increase productivity.
However, we do not recommend focusing exclusively on such quick wins. A PMO should strive to provide sustainable value to the organization, which requires intensive change management. More about this in Phase 2.
Phase 2 – Disillusionment and Uncertainty
The initial increase in acceptance rates will soon disappear. There is usually a period of uncertainty. Why? Your PMO can not continuously provide directly visible successes and quick wins. It introduces new structures and competencies and demands a higher degree of bureaucracy. The PMO stakeholders ask themselves: “Is this really necessary? What is the added value of the PMO? Does that justify the effort?”
In this phase (which can last many months), PMOs are often done away with. The problem is that many companies do not measure the performance of their PMO either qualitatively or quantitatively, and therefore cannot identify any potential for improvement. At this point, an independent expert opinion, a value analysis, or active stakeholder management can help the PMO director to work out the problems that lead to an “underestimation” of the PMO. Project managers and senior management benefit most from the PMO and can therefore say a lot about its benefits. Reasons for this underestimation can be: incorrect staffing, inadequate resources, missing a current operational plan, inadequate communication, excessive bureaucracy, and a lack of visibility of successes (more about this in the final article of this PMO series).
According to a GPM study, the PMOs studied perform the following tasks:
- 98% develop and implement methods, processes, tools, and templates
- 87% perform multi-project reporting
- 81% are responsible for project coaching
- 79% provide support for individual projects
53% of the tasks are related to the implementation of individual projects, but “only” 52% are related to resource management and 76% are related to PPM. It is also critical to note that 46% of PMOs are less intensive, meaning they have less responsibilities and 16% are not involved in the organization’s strategic decisions.
You may also need to change the responsibilities of your PMO. The value of a PMO increases with increasing responsibility. As soon as the PMO transitions from purely administrative functions (reporting, controlling, and executing projects) to strategically controlling functions (portfolio and benefit management), it also becomes more valuable. Give your PMO more responsibility, let it work more closely with the senior management, and further integrate it into the decision-making processes.
Phase 3 – Acceptance and Collaboration
If you make it through phase 2 with silent acceptance and increase the value (and perception of value) of the PMO, then your new PMO department should be safe. The reward is a long-term period of recognition and constructive cooperation. Randall Englund said it well in his book Creating the Project Office:
If you’re not adding value, they won’t value what you are adding.
If your PMO has begun a phase in which it creates value, and this value is also communicated, then it has been successfully anchored within your company.
However, a regular analysis of the status of the PMO, including identifying possibilities for improvement, is still necessary
A successful PMO launch doesn’t happen from one day to the next. You may still have a lengthy, hurdle-rich process that will transform some of your business. However, there is no question that the changes will improve your project management landscape for the long term.