Getting a PMO Out of the Gate

Office Structure

There are several ways to do this, said Eric Spanitz, founder the consulting firm Synergest and an adjunct professor of Project Management at Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. You can set up a PMO using internal employees from divisions within the company that are trained (or even certified) as project managers and send them around as needed to help out. Or you can have a dedicated office staffed with PMPs (professional project managers) that oversee and vet everything that is going on.

Or you can set up a more administrative type of organization where PMO staffers simply ensure that policies and procedures are followed without getting directly involved with each project.

This last is a popular way of setting up a PMO, said Spanitz, but is less than ideal since it basically amounts to group of “project police” and can lead to resentment from other employees. But, it is the most cost effective way of doing things.

Spanitz’s preferred method is to train existing employees who, in turn, help others learn the PMO’s guidelines. This offers the added benefit of eventually getting everyone trained in project management skills, which can then lead to an institutionalization of the processes.

“By (using internal employees) you’re saying you want the overall organization to start developing project management expertise,” he said. “You’d like the average engineer or programmer to experience running a project, planning a project, rather than just someone coming in and doing it for them.”

No matter how you set up the organizational structure of your PMO the benefits can be enormous. Cost savings and better resource allocation, change management, forensic analysis, infrastructure and application rationalization, etc. all become easier to achieve once you have a handle exactly what is going on, companywide, within the organization.

“With a PMO, you can start having dialog with the business units and senior leadership about the right mix of projects and about how many you can actually take on, said Topinka.

“Before the project office, we would guess about how much more work we could [do], and the discussion would devolve into work efforts, estimates, and workers ‘working smarter not harder’ … by using the consistent approach across projects, we could take the project queue and resource availability to our governance team and strategize about which projects to cut, or when to add more resources.”