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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Global PMO challenges, a globeProject offices deal with common difficulties regardless of sector, company size or its geographical distribution. A survey done to more than 400 companies reveals that there are common patterns.

In June 2017, ITM Platform launched an online questionnaire composed of 17 questions aimed at studying the maturity of PMOs. We wanted to discover what Project Managers consider the most difficult factors in the management of a PMO in three different aspects: the organization itself, the human resources/project teams and cultural factors, such as the presence of sponsors that promote the performance of the project office.

The questionnaire has a double dimension.

First, it is designed to find out what are the main barriers of existing project offices.

Second, it allows other companies to find out if they need to implement a PMO in their organizations to face their current challenges.

Depending on the answers, the questionnaire provides tips and resources related to the implementation of a PMO, project management methodologies and change management processes.

We have prepared a simple infographic with the most notable results.

global PMO challenges in porcentages, ITM Platform


How do you think you would stand in comparison? You can still do the test:


The PMO questionnaire, in detail

The questions

The questions were the followings:

Organizational factors

1.Are at least 30% of the activities of your organization based on projects?

2.Do you have departments or transversal functions?

3.Has your organization grown and needs new procedures?

4.Do you have problems with meeting deadlines, cost, scope and quality?

5.Is the information shared in your organization uniform?

6.Is it difficult for your team members to internalize the priorities of the organization?

7.Have you noticed that the work progresses in a spontaneous or decentralized way?

Factors related to talent

8.Is there a training deficit among your project managers?

9.Is the experience of your project managers unequal?

10.Have you detected that your most valuable workers are over-designated?

11.Are your project members interchangeable between projects?

12.Do you have reliable metrics to measure the performance of your team?

Cultural factors

13.Is there a clear agreement on the priorities of your organization?

14.Do you have enough internal leadership to implement project management?

15.Do you have sponsors among senior managers?

16.Does your organization have a “continuous learning” culture?

17.Do you intend to rely in a new PPM tool?

Here are the results we had at the beginning of December 2017:

results at the beginning of December 2017, PMOQ, ITM Platform

It stands out that only question 13, about the consensus of business priorities, obtains a balanced percentage of yes and no. In all the other questions, one of the options is clearly the most common.


Attributes of project-based organizations

A quick consolidation of the answers shows that there are common challenges for PMOs, like features that must be met to be a project-based organization, and other responses that indicate that the organization is not project-oriented.

 Attributes of project-based organizations, PMOQ, ITM Platform

8 of the questions are useful to define if a company has the main traits of a project-based organization that has a project management office or that needs one.

An organization needs a PMO (and has the conditions to implement it) when:

  • More than a third part of the time of the employees is dedicated to projects
  • The company is structured as a “Matrix Organization” (that is to say: it has equipment, projects and transversal functions)
  • Team members are assigned to professional categories and are interchangeable
  • There are project leaders with the ability to make decisions that go beyond the unitary managements of projects.
  • Management understands the need to centralize the administration of the project portfolio.
  • There is a culture of continuous learning
  • The advantages of using a portfolio management tool are known


PMO challenges

On the other hand, the questionnaire identified 8 common challenges that motivate the implementation of project management offices:

  • The organization needs new procedures
  • Projects are not always successful: There are delays, extra costs or poor result at the time of delivery
  • Information is not uniform, or there is no single source of validated project data, such as a PPM software
  • There are difficulties for project teams and project managers to assimilate the priorities and apply them in their daily work
  • There are differences among project managers in terms of experience, knowledge and training needs
  • Projects fail because there is a lack of organization and coordination between PMs.
  • The most valuable experts are overloaded with work and have become bottlenecks.
  • There are no reliable metrics and KPIs to measure the performance of projects in their execution.
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