In today’s fast paced business environment where IT transformation and change is the norm, the Programme Management Office (PMO) has become a vital controlling function for many organisations.

Whether it resides at a project, programme, portfolio or organisational level, the PMO can greatly influence delivery success by:

  1. Implementing and maintaining comprehensive programme control mechanisms
  2. Ensuring that a co-ordinated and holistic view of programme delivery is maintained
  3. Maintaining a forward looking brief, placing emphasis on the immediate and longer term horizon rather than historic events
  4. Providing an independent view of progress and raising key issues and areas of concern
  5. Establishing clear escalation levels for the resolution of issues

There is no one size fits all approach for a PMO. Often the degree of control and influence the PMO exerts within its scope of control varies across, and often within, the organisation. PMO models can generally be grouped into three broad incremental categories; supportive, controlling and directing.

A supportive PMO is generally hands off, providing facilitative supporting services in the form of access to standard templates, common repositories and best practice guidelines.  It may also gather input from the project teams in order to collate appropriate management reports.

A controlling PMO will exert a greater degree of influence across the projects and programmes, defining and implementing a suite of mechanisms that will be used to create a stable control environment for project delivery. This might cover planning, dependency management, change control, risk and issue management and financial reporting. Importantly the control mechanisms will be rigidly enforced across the programme to ensure consistency.

Directing PMOs will, in addition to the points above, adopt a more hands on approach to project management, initiating project reviews and the implementation of recovery activities, where deemed necessary. The PMO will work closely with the programme and project teams to both support and challenge their approach throughout the lifecycle of the programme.

It’s important that organisations consider what the right level of control environment is for their business.

If your organisation currently has a successful track record of delivery with minimal project control mechanisms in place, then a supportive PMO may be sufficient to meet your needs.

Where programme and project delivery is complex or large scale, the case for a controlling PMO becomes stronger. In such a scenario there is tangible value in implementing standard control mechanisms across the programme or portfolio to assist delivery, and importantly to ensure that the relevant stakeholders gain confidence that project delivery can be achieved to baseline time, cost and quality criteria.

For business critical programmes or in organisations where there is a large amount of simultaneous change with many moving parts, a directive PMO may be the optimal approach. This will ensure that each workstream is operating consistently with robust and effective programme control processes that attain or exceed the established minimum standards. This level of PMO typically requires a hierarchical structure to ensure consistent management and flow of information, and will almost certainly require executive sponsorship to ensure organisational buy in. This will also require to be staffed with an increased level of capability.

The key considerations when deciding what PMO is right for your organisation, will come down to where you are starting from, what you requirements are, and importantly the pervasive culture within your organisation.

You can decide on the right level for your PMO function by:

  1. Assessing the current PMO implementation(s) within your organisation – how effective are they and what category do they currently fall into: supportive, controlling, directing?
  2. Based on your assessment of the current scenario is there a requirement to enhance the effectiveness of your PMO?
  3. If there is a requirement to improve the PMO, how do you go about achieving this?

Exception’s PMO services focus on working collaboratively with our customers to drive business value, ensuring the required business outcomes and benefits are achieved. We understand the complexity in projects and help you implement rapid, well-informed decision making and effective communication channels.

If you’re looking for advice or support with your PMO project, contact Exception today.

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