Set Sail on a PMO journey

How to improve PMO resultsAuthor: Romain Tanière

It seems like your projects consistently overrun their budget, are delayed due to over-committed resources and don’t meet business objectives. As a result your team is frustrated, and uncommitted. Your organization reinvents the wheel each time resources are reallocated to a new project. Worst of all, you, the project manager, has to take the heat from senior leadership.

Does this sound like a familiar scenario? If so, what are you prepared to do to break the vicious circle?

Rather than temporarily patching the problems, address the root causes by implementing a Project Management Office (PMO). The undertaking of such an organizational transformation can be daunting but the rewards can be tremendous both from a personal leadership growth and from a business value perspective.

Let’s look at three best practices and tips that will help you succeed in  new projects and have your organization sail as smoothly as possible.

1. Plan your journey: Build a realistic business case

– Assess the culture, S.W.O.T. of your organization and its project management maturity.

– Secure a senior executive sponsor.

– Define the PMO functions and services.

– Lay out tailored goals and objectives for the PMO that will fit the mission and address the identified weaknesses.

Regardless of the original size of your organization, its business model and organizational structure, do quite a bit of leg work up front. Just like for any other project, the better and the more you plan, the more likely you will be successful and stress free during the roll out and life of the PMO. The detailed planning phase will help you define the best PMO structure for your environment. You can customize and fine comb the maturity assessment using external certified consultants but there are also generic tools available to help you interview stakeholders, review current project status and skills of project managers internally without external expenses [1]. Based on the collected feedback you will be able to define the key values and priorities of the PMO (standardization, training, resource management, portfolio review, etc…).

2. Get your ticket to go: Document and report

– Get a signed PMO charter.

– Secure the right PMO resources by attracting the best talent and the appropriate budget.

– Define Key Performance Indicators.

– Report up and down the organization using dashboards and trending charts.

Executives may be by nature eager to see quick results or move on to something else. PMI data has shown that it takes almost 24 months for a full PMO implementation [2] so beware of promising the moon and tackling everything at once. Your PMO will have a short time to demonstrate its competency before getting axed so have a clear mission, prioritize, stay focused on what you are trying to achieve and involve SMEs. Remember that metrics will need to demonstrate that you are doing things right, doing the right things and delivering value.

3. Reach your dream destination at your own speed: Revisit and reinforce

– Take risks and quickly learn from your mistakes.

– Adapt goals and structure as culture change.

– Communicate and leverage PMO successes.

– Train and mentor your staff and team members.

The PMO should be flexible enough as a modular structure and evolve as it transforms the organization and tackles new challenges by using yearly progressive objectives that will support standardization, measurement, control and improvement goals.

However, be conscious that your PMO is not a “silver bullet” that will fix all core business issues so once established, report and communicate throughout the organization on your PMO successes. Show the skeptical how positively the organization was transformed to be better aligned with its strategic objectives. For example how the PMO improved coordination of resource management, increased effectiveness and versatility of team members, reduced overall project and business risks, improved project quality and people skills. Be also ready to accept challenges, recognize mistakes, be accountable for the PMO deliverables. Only then will you be able to secure trust and respect from your team members and satisfy executive stakeholders with the PMO.

Reaching success for your PMO is a journey. May be more than any other project you undertake, you will need to navigate with many stakeholders in stormy political climate before reaching a safe arbor. By keeping strong and confident, following these tips will, I hope, help you sail also your own career to success.
Bon voyage!

About the author: Romain Tanière is a student of UCSC Extension at Silicon Valley – PMO Fall 2010 online course. He is a Program Manager, PMP® at Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation and Co-Founder of French Bio Bay, the premier non-profit French powered Bio Pharma network in the San Francisco Bay Area (, Romain Tanière has held various drug and device delivery research and pharmaceutical development positions with different biopharma companies in Europe and the USA. Ingénieur Chimiste by education, Romain Tanière also holds a Master of Science in Biological Chemistry and a Certification in Project Management.




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