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…..

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.

Lessons Learned:

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.





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.