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Transforming the PMO: PMO as a Service

It’s time for a change in how we approach the PMO in Corporate America. Project management is a fairly new profession when you consider other organizational roles—sales, accounting, manufacturing, etc. In our short time, we’ve gotten a bit of a black eye. Process heavy and short on results. No value add to an organization, but plenty of bureaucracy to dishearten our teammates.

Year after year we see the results of professional studies indicating PMOs fail with a lifespan lasting only 2-3 years. We also see that projects fail to meet objectives 40-60% of the time. For those of us who have been in this space for a while, we aren’t surprised by these results. Heck, I’ve lived the life of a PMO Director caught up in the PMO revolving door.

So what are we doing about it? From my perspective, we really aren’t doing too much. The industry events I attend and colleagues I talk with all seem to be doing what we’ve always done. Except, “This time we’re going to do it better.” “This time the company is going to get it.” “This time my client will be more receptive.” Hogwash, I say!

A Starting Point

The standard functions in a PMO vary from organization to organization but mostly are involved in the following areas:

  • Governance
  • Methodology
  • Project management
  • Portfolio management
  • Budgeting/cost management
  • Resource management
  • Project performance
  • Performance reporting
  • Risk & issue management
  • Project management education & training
  • PPM tool management

I’m sure we could list more, but this is a good representative sample of what a PMO may encompass. It’s the one-stop shop within the organization for all things project management. Some organizations are highly successful with project management and execution from the PMO. Hats off to them; I wish we all had the same culture, leadership, and desire to be successful as they have today. This article isn’t for them. Those top 1-5% should maintain the current path they are on and continue to reap the benefits they produce. For the 95-99% of the remaining PMOs, it’s time for a change!

The Service Perspective

So, what do we do? Do we abandon the PMO? Do we admit defeat and let project management meander aimlessly within the organization? No way, we adapt and innovate with new solutions to meet the challenges of the new world we live in. We live in a services world. We can look at many other functions that are already following a services model. Payroll, infrastructure, applications, to name a few.

If we take the services concept to the PMO, what does that look like? First, let’s start with the same standard functions listed above. What if we turn this into a selection process, a “PMO cafeteria plan” of sorts? Which one of these functions do you want a service provider to handle, which ones do you want to keep, and what should be abandoned?

Perhaps your organization has solid portfolio and governance processes but has struggled mightily with running projects. In the PMO-as-a-Service (PMOaaS) model, it’s easy. A service provider can run your projects and maybe also manage your PPM tool. Perhaps you’ve had good results with projects but are always fighting the resource and portfolio problem. With PMOaaS, a service provider will handle your portfolio and resources.

This is especially an attractive option for small and mid-sized companies that can’t afford the costs of a full-blown PMO. PMOaaS can provide a methodology that fits your organization and runs your projects. You aren’t stuck with PMs that need to be paid, trained, and evaluated. Just as you’ve handed your servers over to one of the many data centers out there because your core competency isn’t server administration, you would hand over the PMO functions and focus your attention where you make your profits.

I know I’m tired of reading the same results year after year. I’m tired of defending the need for project management and PMOs without challenging the norms that are putting us in this place. Project management and PMOs provide a service to our organizations. How we treat that service needs to change. We need to transform from a traditional PMO to the new service world. PMO-as-a-Service is the future; how open are you to these changes?

About Joe Pusz

Joe holds Project Management Professional, PMP, and ITIL v3 Foundations certifications as well as earning his Six Sigma Green Belt. He is an accomplished public speaker and has conducted countless training and facilitation sessions.
Joe started THE PMO SQUAD to bring real world PMO Leadership experience to the consulting space and to advocate for Project Management through his blog PMO JOE.com. The old saying is “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Following this mindset Joe left Corporate America in 2013 to start THE PMO SQUAD and work with fellow Natural Born Project Managers to advance Project Management Best Practices one client at a time.
Prior to founding THE PMO SQUAD, Joe was the Executive Director, WellStar Health System IT Project Management Office. The Project Portfolio at WellStar was in excess of $600M with both HealthCare and IT projects included.

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