When you have limited visibility, limited resources and capacity planning, or when you are missing a consistent methodology, you usually start building a PMO. However, it is necessary to ask yourself the relevant questions that will assure its success and meeting the objectives. In fact, only 40% of projects met schedule, budget and quality goals (IBM Change Management Survey of 1500 execs). In this article, we are going to see the key characteristics of those 40% and the important questions to ask to make sure you’re going in the right direction.



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How do you define a good PMO?

Regardless of the PMO you choose, there are four universal parameters that are markers of quality and excellence:

1. Provides clarity
Because of its objective and unbiased audits, the PMO is a source of transparency and intelligent analysis. It doesn't just throw data at you.

2.Facilitates decision-making
Gives senior management oversight of the portfolio allowing them to make coherent decisions. Imagine your company is a car, the PMO provides the headlights that allow you to decide whether you need to turn left or right or even to stop. And how quickly to do so.

3.Enhances accountability
The PMO defines roles and responsibilities, motivating and empowering people; ultimately this will also allow them to be held accountable.

4.Encourages shared ownership of goals
The biggest challenge for a PMO is to be accepted within the organization. Sharing the vision and expected benefits is a good way to get stakeholders on board.

4 questions to help you plan the future of our PMO

These four questions might help to plan the future of our PMO:

1. Which projects should we pursue?
Or, which are the projects that meet our organization’s goals in the most efficient way?

2. Which projects should we start?
Out of all the project proposals in front of us, which should we prioritize? What’s the best way to plan ahead and optimize resource allocation?

3. Which projects should we continue?
Looking at the projects already in place, which of them are accomplishing what's expected of them? Which of the non-performers should continue?

4. Which projects should we kill?
Following on from the previous question, which projects aren’t worth continuing because the resources would be better employed elsewhere?

To answer these questions, the PMO should align its PPM (project portfolio management) processes with your company goals. Managing the portfolio of projects means asking every day: how are the projects, programs and portfolios facilitating the achievement of my company’s goals? If you can offer real-time information about on-going projects that help with decision-making the PMO will quickly win supporters.

Define the value that you expect a PMO to add

1. Governance
2. Organization
3. Planning
4. Cost Management
5. Asset Management
6. Risk Management
7. Information
8. Quality Management
9. Change Managment
10. Resource Management
11. Communication Management
12. Procurement
13. Document Management

Depending on the type of PMO on the table you will need to stress some aspects more than others. A strategic PMO will focus more on Governance, Organization and Planning, whereas a process-focused (tactical/operational) PMO should concentrate on Quality Management, Change Management and Document Management.

You cannot design a PMO without working out which model suits both the business and its clients.

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skyscrappersCorporate PMO = EPMO

Corporate PMOs are also generally known as Enterprise PMOs or EPMOs. The term has been strengthened over time because it is understood that there are features common to all corporations, regardless of the nature of their products and services, which directly affect the challenges and attributions that the project office should assume.

An EPMO reports directly to one of the highest executives in the organization. Very often, there are other PMOs of lower rank, for example for the coordination of programs or a business unit; but none has the global reach of EPMO.

It has often been said that EPMOs are the most important instrument to ensure that the corporate strategy is truly executed in all areas of the organization. The EPMO would be, then, a catalyst, an engine oriented to promote the constant transformation in an environment whose natural inertia would lead, otherwise, to immobility.

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Responsibilities: start by deciding just initiatives

Every action has associated an opportunity cost. Even when it is clear what is being done, it is clear that many other possible actions are being discarded.

When, in addition, you work in a huge organization, the lack of alignment of the departments to the corporate strategy results in a very voluminous waste of energy.

For that reason, the EPMO approach is twofold:

  • make sure that the right initiatives are started (doing the right things)
  • make sure that they are managed properly (doing things right)

It is, therefore, a constant monitoring of the strategic alignment for all the work planned and underway.

Other responsibilities include, of course, traditional areas of the PMOs, such as training and counseling (of the other PMOs); value management, which is easy to lose sight of in highly complex environments; resource planning; Demand management or coordination among PMOs. 

You can discover more in the White Paper: Project-Based Management (PBM)

Benefits of an EPMO

The benefits of an EPMO are similar to that of a smaller PMO, but with strategic orientation. The big difference is that the EPMO has the necessary governance structures to navigate and master the bureaucratic complexity and processes that can often become the biggest enemy of change in a corporate organization (from 5,000 employees).

In any case, it is worth reviewing those benefits:

  • Increase in the number of projects delivered on time and in time
  • Better strategic alignment between projects and business objectives
  • Greater support for departmental projects, and with this, greater chances of success for the project, which can gather the required support at critical moments
  • Less overlap of work between department
  • Greater interdepartmental collaboration
  • Greater visibility of corporate initiatives
  • Higher ROI for the projects implemented, especially in non-financial terms
  • More efficient delivery of projects –and faster to put new products and services on the market
  • A better structured approach to the treatment of risks, including risk mitigation

Success factors of an EPMO

  • Organic location, immediately below the General Management
  • Change management according to good practices, so that the new EPMO is not perceived as a rival of the existing PMOs and projects managers
  • Complementation of the managerial function: support in the decision-making, without robbing autonomy or generating political problems
  • Autonomy with respect to functional areas, so that it does not depend on IT, Financial, Human Resources, etc.
  • All subordinated PMOs must report, either directly or indirectly, to the EPMO. Otherwise, pockets of information are created that do not flow
  • The competence profile should combine project management with the business vision: those who are part of the EPMO will advise managers in making critical decisions and train project managers to continue advancing as professionals
  • No EPMO can work reasonably well if a high degree of standardization is not achieved.


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