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Success Stories in the PMO

success-stories-pmoOne of the fads in project management at the moment is ‘learning from failure’. Failure is not endorsed as such but more ‘if we do fail, the outcome is marginally better if we learn from that failure and make sure we don’t do it again.’ There is a flip side of course, successes. Do we still pay as much attention to those or do we quickly move on to the next thing without really stopping and thinking about what happened and how it was successful?

Following the release of the latest State of the PMO Report 2015, there was a question which asked PMO practitioners about their own success stories in the PMO. Albeit there were less responses to this question about successes than there was to a question around the challenges, its human nature I guess, yet the quote from Tom Peters, “Celebrate what you want to see more of” is a reminder to stop every once in a while to think about what successes in the PMO really mean and how we are spurred on to have more of them.

The PMO success stories recorded in the survey were wide-ranging, an indication perhaps of the different types and remits of PMOs within organisations. Here we take a look at the different categories of success in the PMO from the survey, it is an interesting insight into how other PMOs around the globe are moving their PMO on and perhaps a reminder for you to think about your own successes in the PMO.

The Positioning of the PMO

The biggest success stories for the PMO stemmed from the positioning of the PMO within the organisation.

For some PMOs this was about the relationship building they have done and the rewards from working closely with other business entities, especially the finance department. For example, one PMO surveyed had spent time working with finance to understand what that department really needed from projects in order to satisfy their regulatory reporting constraints. A good working relationship means the PMO can also draw on that when they also need help.

A different angle is the advocacy role the PMO can play. Bringing together departments, in this example, the sales department and R&D to better understand the interdependency in the project portfolio.

Positioning success stories for other PMOs means they’ve become a lot more visible in the organisation and are enjoying the benefits of having senior management support which has led to more stakeholder buy in. PMOs were being approached more which enabled them to provide a good service to a wider range of people, in turn more recognition was given to the good work being carried out.

Other changes which were a success include moving up the food chain from a departmental PMO to a corporate level. In some cases this also coincided with a move to more portfolio management service offerings. Some PMOs were leading the move and others were happy with their very specific successes of portfolio management, “Generated the first agreed-upon project priority list for a rolling 15 month view”.

Finally, some positioning successes were about the PMO becoming a permanent fixture within the business, bringing in-house what had always been an external service (the outsourced PMO). It had served its purpose because now the business was ready to move on, adding new services yet reducing costs.

The Standards of the PMO

The second largest category of PMO successes were all about introducing and increasing best practice within the business. New project management standards and processes that were introduced for the first time which resulted in better project performance were rightly highlighted as successes. For established PMOs it was about introducing new processes or tools – of getting better at core service areas, resource management was highlighted a few times.

An interesting success story was about the PMO successfully eliminating local processes and ensuring the wider department were using the set standards and processes as mandated by the PMO. For anyone who has experienced this particular situation you can empathise with their victory there!

The Training from the PMO

In some respects the successes around training follow naturally on from the new or improving standards. People need training and the PMOs who highlighted their work in this area included one PMO who has trained over 600 of their workforce in essential project management practices.

Other work included introducing a new assessment for project managers; introducing or improving on the mentoring the PMO offers and training within the PMO itself. Cross training in the PMO was highlighted as a great way to share the expertise around which meant more people within the PMO could response to requests. Expertise areas included planning, reporting, benefits management and resource management.

Measurement from the PMO

For some PMOs, success comes from the measures which are preset. An increase in profitability, customer satisfaction, projects on schedules, more amber:less red, getting a tricky project through the gateway review and so on.

What’s still missing from the measurements of success is something highlighted in the State of the PMO Report which was about the measurements of success for the PMO, in other words, measurements that go some way to conclusively stating that project successes can be in some way related to the actual role the PMO plays in those projects.

The PMO Role in Project Management

PMOs reported that their successes were tied to the changes in their business in relation to project management. For some this meant adopting a new approach to delivering projects – mainly of an Agile nature. For others it was supporting the maturity growth (formal maturity models) or even just introducing formal project management for the first time.

The success stories highlight that the PMO in many organisations are making head ways with their main objective of supporting delivery to enable more successful outcomes.

Some of the successes may appear small, ‘no big deal’, ‘it’s what the PMO should be doing anyway’, ‘why the need to celebrate or highlight something they should be doing anyway’.

That might be true yet we can’t forget that many of these PMOs will have struggled for a long time to get where they are today, getting through challenge and criticism from the very people they are there to support and serve. Getting to a position of recognition is hard won, so why not celebrate getting there?

This last quote from the survey highlights that it’s not all plain-sailing and that successes, no matter how small should be highlighted. In answer to the question, “What successes can you share about your PMO during the last year?”. “Still existing…”


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About Lindsay Scott

Lindsay Scott
Lindsay Scott is Director of PMO Learning, the PMO training specialist and Arras People the programme and project management recruitment specialists. Lindsay is the project management careers columnist for PMI's Network magazine and co-editor of the Gower Handbook of People in Project Management. Lindsay created and hosts The PMO Conference and hosts the monthly PMO Flashmobs

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