I wanted to share some lessons learned about how my company integrated a PMO Platform process. The feedback and comments during classroom discussions had a mixed bag of positive or not so positive on having a PMO process, so I wanted to share my experience.
My company, along with eight other companies form a portfolio of brands that are owned by a parent company. Each of the nine total companies have been acquired by the parent company in the last 20+ years, some as recently within the past year. It is truly a global conglomerate with half the brands based in North American (U.S. and Canada) and the other half based in several countries throughout Europe, including the parent company. Seven years ago, the parent company made a change in their strategic direction and went from purely a holding company of the brands to a controlling company and essentially wanted all the sister companies to start to implement similar processes, platforms, systems, business structures across the board. In theory, a new strategy could then be set by the parent company and each of the sister companies had all the right parts and components to implement it versus coming up with nine similar but slightly different strategies catered to each sister company. Overall, the alignment has created some successful platforms (Finance, IT, Operations, to name a few) while other functional areas are still coming along but given the individual uniqueness of the brands and their respective business it is understandable that there are some bumps in the road. Enter the PMO Platform…..
When first introduced was not very well received as many of the sister companies were still navigating their way on the other integrative platform changes. Plus, the original PMO process also did not give the brands any additional resources (headcount) and key people with certain functions were asked to take on the additional duties. The feedback was acted upon and a very much condensed format was later presented. The initial cumbersome requirements and details were streamlined, as well as a consolidation of how the communication process would flow up through senior management at the brand level to management at the parent company. The consolidation and simplification of the communication flow, a single page that has just enough detail/signals that any manager through CEO can easily determine how strategic projects are progressing, was ultimately the secret sauce that got the ball rolling with all the brands.
Wikipedia has a sentence that describes PMO as “A group or department….that strives to standardize and introduce economies of repetition in the execution of projects.” The key word there is standardization and it is not just the execution of projects, but also the standardization of how those projects are communicated. So in my case, can you imagine the types of responses our parent company would receive when they inquired to the brands as to how certain strategic projects were progressing? Do you think the European brands and the North American brands would have presented their updates in the exact same way? Before PMO, it was mess. After PMO, much more standardized. I will admit, I was initially frustrated with the PMO process, but once I got a better understanding of foundational problem of why it was needed I flipped my stance. So anyone that has to deal with a PMO, truly understanding “why” it is being implemented is necessary to understand the benefits of it.
3 thoughts on “No….no…..no….PMO?”
I’ve been having a hard time understanding the benefits of a PMO based on class discussions, but the description of your experience is very helpful. To me it seemed like PMOs would be some sort of middleman or red tape and more of a nuisance than a benefit. Your comment about standardizing across different locations got me thinking about the two divisions in my company, which sometimes seem like they originate from two different planets. We would really benefit from standardization in project management. I am now more open minded to the idea of PMOs. Thank you!
Thanks for your post, Kevin. I can relate to the changes that your company went through when adding a PMO. We added a PMO over the last two years and there have definitely been some ups and downs. Our PMO team began by assisting with knowledge management and with presentations about our team’s work to VPs. This meant that there wasn’t a lot of impact to individual projects at first and ultimately work was taken away since they combined the presentations for us.
One of the big changes occurred earlier this year when the PMOs across different units began to standardize report outs for our senior leaders. The “best practice” changed frequently, which meant a lot of rework updating slide formats and left many upset with the PMO concept. The PMO also got more involved in planning and prioritizing projects which lead to a lot of ad hoc requests from the team to justify their project proposal.
Once a standard update was settled on, all managers adopted it which meant less work for the team creating different presentation updates for different managers. We also saw an improvement around how we resourced our projects since we only pursued the most value added projects. Our PMO has opened “office hours” on Thursday afternoons where they offer assistance on project related tasks, whether that is using MS Project, project planning, PPTs, etc. This has been a valuable resource to the team, so the team has started to embrace them more.
Project managers tend to have strong ideas about the best way to do something, so standardizing projects is one of the harder tasks to take on. Overall, we have found a PMO to be a value added department. We still have a long road to being as efficient as we can be with our projects, but our PMO is getting us there (even if some of us are kicking and screaming).
Interesting post Kevin. Thanks for sharing such relevant experience! In my opinion, communication is challenging across continents, long distances, and cultures, regardless of the management platform. Standardization with a PMO platform seems like it is better suited for a large, complex, global organization like yours because it is so large, complex, and global! Unified language, expectations, job titles, hierarchy, although can seem stifling and restricting, helps get everyone on the same page and capitalize on shared learnings. This will make the firm more efficient in the long run and the talent within the organization will be transferable across various divisions as needed because the firm is standardized. Another fundamental principle the company should embrace and reward is engagement and entrepreneurship to offset the standardization of internal processes. Otherwise, creativity, growth, and creation of competitive advantages could suffer.