Dedicated PMO: Good or Bad?

As a relatively new official participant in the PMO process at work, I found Chapters 3 of the textbook very interesting. It helped me to think about how the PMO team is organized at my own company and inherent strengths and weaknesses. As I shared in class, I joined my first Project Proposal meeting a few weeks ago whereby business owners presented to senior staff the list of projects that we wanted to propose the PMO team take on for the next several months. Participating in this process made me think about how PMO should be organized versus how it currently is organized.

Because my project was approved, I am now an official project sponsor (although I have participated as an informal project sponsor in the past). We have a dedicated project team at my workplace, who work full-time on a long list of projects throughout the year. As a project is approved, the project manager from the PMO office assumes the role of facilitator to drive completion of the project. Personnel from different departments are tapped to participate in the project, although we do not officially separate from our normal jobs to complete it. This can be challenging, because the tasks by definition are complicated, involved (otherwise they wouldn’t be approved as a PMO project) and can quickly take over your day/week/month.

We seem to blend elements of the functional organization of PMO with a dedicated team approach. All of the strengths of functional organization, including easy post-project transition, in-depth expertise, flexibility and no change in the overall company structure are present. We also are able to tap into a few of the strengths of a dedicated team approach, including cross-functional integration and cohesiveness. However, this blended approach doesn’t allow for fast or simple completion of projects. It also can contribute to a lack of ownership and make integration a challenge. The PMO office then can turn into task masters, only concerned with keeping the project on schedule. A blended approach does reap benefits of both structures, but the PMO leadership must be very strong to assure those benefits are fully realized.

4 thoughts on “Dedicated PMO: Good or Bad?

  1. I have not had any experience in this type of work but my assumption would be that being a PMO is a daunting task. Aside from daily work, which already may be hard to complete if it is extremely intricate, adding another task on top of that would become very stressful to me. I think in order to hold this position and be successful at it, one must be very time organized and dedicated to completing tasks as they come due, versus putting them off until last minute.

  2. That’s interesting to see some more of the background to what you had mentioned in class Erika. My first reaction to your post was wondering if having a blended approach causes any political issues or tension between the functional departments and the PMO. I would assume the answer is yes. We don’t have a dedicated PMO where I work, but we do end up with dedicated project managers from our Lean, IT or HR departments for example. This is especially true for our larger projects. When someone is 90%+ dedicated to a project, we end up seeing a struggle between their project priorities and departmental functional responsibilities. Taking that a step further, I can only assume that having a full PMO might give some of the managers a sense of power / authority. Obviously the benefit is having the fully organized process you described in class – with clear prioritization structure, project support and facilitation. Not having that structure often leaves us with a huge list of projects and relatively little coordination among them. The best we can do is monthly meetings to give incredibly tedious updates across the full list of ongoing projects. Not an ideal scenario…

  3. Your organization’s approach is similar to the project management environment in my organization. We have a dedicated PMO for a multi-year, multi-million project. At the same time, I was recently pulled into the project as a subject expertise to help out with tying out our department’s needs with the projects needs. I think this is a good approach as the project manager doesn’t have to worry about knowing everything. Instead he can rely on people in the organization. At the same time, this also provides exposure to junior level folks like myself to the project.
    This approach works when you have a single focused approach towards a project. But if you have multiple projects where an employee is required, he/she is in for a game of tug of war.

  4. This post caught my attention because where I work we are currently in the process of deploying a full fledged PMO. Before, every team had their own dedicated project manager that worked on projects that were isolated for that one team.

    I’m not personally a project manager, but I would understand why there would be some push back on such a major change. However, one of the great benefits of a PMO is the experience. As a project manager in a PMO you’re exposed to so many different aspects of the company. Not only will you gain valuable experience, but you’re also able to get a better understanding as to how the company runs.

    As Erika originally mentioned, not having dedicated resources for complicated projects can be difficult, and the responsibility will fall on the PMO to keep the project on schedule and ensure that all objectives are met. I agree with Natalie as she mentioned that a high level of dedication and organization is required to properly run a PMO.

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