Is a PMO (Project Management Office) only suitable for large companies or organizations? It’s time to break that paradigm.

If you think your organization is too small to have a Project Management Office, think again. There is a lot of evidence that small teams benefit from a PMO, even if they work on these issues only a few hours a week.

In a relatively small organization (at least in terms of organizational culture and project management standards) I was pleased to have the functions of PMO for a team of no more than 3 project managers. I was managing my own projects at the time, but the senior managers decided they needed an overview of what was going on. What were these project managers working on and where were the resources going? The question was extremely valid, and that’s why I decided, informally, to take on PMO-style responsibilities in order to assess the interest of appropriating such functions.

The relationship is fundamental

The role of the PMO is not only to look for information, status tracking and compliance with standards, it is to fulfill the axiom that the better your relationships with project managers and other team members are, the easier it will be to find this information. Working on building strong relationships with key stakeholders and other project managers is critical, so that they know who you are and why you want the information. Be gentle and make it easy, good relationships with your peers will help a lot to fulfil your goal.

It doesn’t need to grow exponentially, small is beautiful…

In a small PMO, the essential thing is to focus efforts on what stakeholders will find useful, here is the importance of incorporating stakeholders’ management in version 6 of the PMBoK best practice guide.

Larger PMOs could launch a benefit awareness process, implementing project management tools and contributing to the organization’s business strategy; but if you are doing PMO work for a small team, you probably won’t spend much time on it.

Within the basic functions that can be performed in a small PMO, several ideas are proposed, such as:

  • Tracking key metrics (e.g. the percentage of projects that were scheduled to run after their baseline completion date).

  • Keeping the team’s project information folder site updated so that project managers have access to the latest data.

  • Preparation and distribution of project management templates (very important).

  • Be responsible for the shared network drives where the project documents were stored.

  • Tracking project managers and directors for status updates and to generate progress reports (one of my favorites).

  • Sharing knowledge and good practices in project management.

  • Compliance audits for templates and project management.

If you are taking on PMO responsibilities in a small team, try to keep the list of PMO activities as small as possible by asking your stakeholders what they think is most important. This is the only way you can manage alone, and you can always add more tasks later, such as process development and governance support.

The benefit of being a PMO

One of the reasons we didn’t have a PMO yet is that it seemed like an unnecessary bureaucratic burden for so few project managers. In such a small team, why invest in a structure, training, certifications and profiles that can provide PMO support?

As small as the idea sounds, or if the project management structure is too informal, someone must take responsibility for these PMO functions. If you wish, assign someone to do it and adjust his or her workload: they only need a few hours a week, and then the need will become justified as the better execution of projects, more information regarding progress indicators and the achievement of benefits becomes quantifiable. The benefits of a PMO are like a journey, if I return once the organizational culture is adapted to this type of management.

Suddenly, the benefits of a PMO were there, and it didn’t matter that it was only one person performing the function, because we made better decisions and kept more projects going (and even cancelled some that weren’t working) because we had a PMO function. The organizational culture started to change… the old paradigm was broken!

 

 

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