By Rubin Jen
In a recent ProjectManagement.com article, a well-known industry practitioner posed the statement:
“PMOs struggle to deliver value and are often not clear about what that value should be. They are frequently started without full and careful consideration of why they are being created, what the real underlying problem is that they are there to solve, and what success would look like in doing so. They often start in crisis as a desperate response to a situation gone sideways, and sincere questions about their value emerge once the crisis resolves (or endures).”
This statement has really resonated with me. It captured all of my anecdotal experiences with PMOs in the past.
I recall a time when I was the program manager of a large initiative, and the PMs who reported to me would constantly roll their eyes when they had to submit their weekly status reports to the PMO. And they’d usually get comments on how they were incorrect, or not worded properly, etc.
I recall having a disagreement on how “proper” risk statements should be written with the PMO manager. My position was that I agreed, but first things first. Let’s get the PMs to even just do risk management on a regular basis, and then, let’s work on improving the process.
So, what does this story say?
It has reinforced my perception that PMOs are more about procedures, rules and correctness than about assistance or good governance. Other PMs and I have struggled to understand the value that PMOs should bring. And these thoughts were for a Waterfall environment!
I recently facilitated a webinar where I asked the audience to predict the reactions if Agile projects had to report to PMOs. I’m sure you can guess the responses. I’m glad it was a public webinar, otherwise we might have had to censor some of the comments.
Let’s make an obvious statement: PMOs need to provide value. But value is defined by the recipient(s), not by the provider.
So, while the PMO believes they are providing value without validating with their “customers” – are they really providing value?
Ok, great. We’ve determined that our PMO might not be reaching its full potential. What can we do?
I personally like having a Value Proposition Statement. It’s more useful than a mission or vision statement because it should speak directly to your customers.
Who are your customers?
For most PMOs, there are two: management and projects.
This is a bit of a paradigm shift because most PMOs would assume that they are the customers of projects, not the other way around. I would argue the usage of servant leadership, by leading projects by supporting them in their success.
Once we have that in place, I like to use a technique called the Value Proposition Canvas.
Here is a YouTube link so you can see how to use it:
If you follow through the technique, you should be able to brainstorm a number of value-added services that the PMO can provide. Perhaps you are already doing some, and maybe some new ones should be considered.
Now create your Value Proposition Statement.
Here’s an example:
“Enabling project success by supporting effective ‘Ways of Working’ and delivering efficient governance and support.”
Make sure to gain feedback so that you and all your key stakeholders are aligned in your updated statement. I usually advocate creating a PMO Charter to really solidify all the duties, roles and functions.
Finally, after ensuring your value-added services are operational, measure your own progress, not just the projects’ KPI.
What does PMO success look like? Establish, measure, and transparently report on the PMO KPIs.
Senior Trainer, International Institute for Learning, Inc.
Rubin Jen is Senior Trainer at IIL and a thought leader in the Agile and project management community. He has written books and articles, and has delivered coaching and project management training and knowledge in Agile practices, leadership, and project management core skills to thousands of professionals worldwide. Ruben has served with PMI Chapter Board of Directors.
Rubin has over 25 years of experience and success in project, program, and portfolio management, strategic planning, change management, continuous improvement, and Agile transformation across multiple industries.
Disclaimer: The ideas, views, and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of International Institute for Learning or any entities they represent.