The Art of Obtaining PMO Governance – Without the Bureaucracy

While I could fill this blog with a list of things to do and not to do, I’ve found some of life’s lessons are best communicated through stories. Here’s one of mine. Prior to joining Changepoint I worked for another company as a senior director of PMO, and I vividly remember the first time we rolled out a formal PMO department. It came after the company went through divesting half of its business followed by an equally substantial merger, forming a new corporation. We were coming out of rationalizing our business processes which included a migration to a common set of systems to support the new enterprise.

I suppose we were no different than many other companies faced with the challenge to do more with less staff and the added pressure to deliver projects at an accelerated pace. For example, each Business Unit had its own list of critical requirements, and we were challenged with capacity constraints and a fixed budget. To top it off, we didn’t have an impressive track record for delivery performance – It was clear we had to improve. Improve our speed to delivery, the quality of our work, and forecasting capabilities all while trying to minimize volatility and stabilize our throughput.

We believed the root cause of these shortcoming was how we managed the life-cycle of projects from demand intake through project closeout. If we could establish a framework to prioritize the demand, implement a standardized process throughout our System Development life cycle (SDLC), and adopt formal change control procedures we thought we would be on our way to solving performance issues.

We developed a standard SDLC process that included formal prioritization and change control procedures. Everyone in the organization supported the new process with a belief it was the right way to move forward and solve our shortcomings. Once the new processes and procedures were implemented we had a way to rank and prioritize incoming demand, and our change control procedures were now in place. However, time went by and nothing improved.

What we failed to understand was that improvements could not be made simply by putting processes and procedures down on paper and expecting everyone to follow. We did not realize the need for governance to ensure compliance, or that formal controls were needed to ensure everyone followed the new policies and procedures. I’m not sure how we missed this, particularly since we lived through SOX404.

Compensating for this required formalized audits and compliance throughout our newly formed processes. This required formal reviews with all stakeholders who had a vested interest in the deliverables with a requirement to include support material to prove compliance. As an extension of this compliance, checkpoints and formal reviews were put in place. We thought the formal signoff and approvals would ensure conformance and guarantee success in achieving our objectives, but again time went by and nothing improved.

We found the controls actually resulted in an exorbitant amount of time to prepare for and ensure compliance. To quote one of our project managers: “It takes more time to document, set up and prepare for the compliance meetings than it does to deliver the solution.” Our epiphany came when we realized that governance was actually the art of balancing formal control with the flexibility to get the job done as efficiently as possible, and that too much latitude on either end resulted in sub-performance.

Keep this anecdote in mind when you formalize your own PMO governance processes. As you continually monitor the balance of control against efficient execution, recognize that balance is not static and should be adjusted based upon how well team members are adhering to processes. The better the adherence, the less control will be needed which drives efficiencies and overall delivery performance.

Do you have a personal PMO rollout story you’d like to share?  We’d love to hear them. You can reach us on LinkedInFacebook or Twitter.

Implementing and Sustaining a PMO Role

By Andy Wojewodka, Changepoint Sr. Business Process Consultant

So, Management has decided to move forward with a PMO role, and now you might be wondering “what’s next?” Keep in mind, you wouldn’t be hearing this decision unless there’s something wrong with the company’s current state. It’s usually tied to project delivery performance issues, the lack of timeliness and visibility of initiatives across the enterprise, or uncertainty regarding prioritization and selection of project investment focus. Addressing any of these areas (let alone all three) is a noble cause, therefore before tackling a PMO rollout it is essential to understand expectations, gauge how realistic they are, and create a roadmap ahead of time to ensure success and sustainability.

Understand Expectations

The role of a PMO is as varied as the number of diverse industries and business cultures. Some organizations have a PMO focus to communicate what is happening across the enterprise while other PMO organizations are established to facilitate a governance process for prioritization and conflict resolution. In addition, there are PMO departments held accountable to deliver the initiatives that have been approved by Management. Keep in mind that there are also many PMO departments with a combination of all three roles and responsibilities. It’s important as you get started to determine upfront what is expected from the PMO department and how well the stakeholders are aligned with the PMO’s roles and responsibilities across the enterprise. To get there you’ll want to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is there a clearly defined charter for the PMO?
  • Do all stakeholders agree with the PMO’s roles and responsibilities?
  • Has an organizational framework been defined to support the PMO’s roles and responsibilities?
  • Will the stakeholders support the framework beyond simply approving a budget and giving lip service to the charter?

Determine Whether Expectations Are Realistic

Having an aligned set of expectations is one thing, but it is equally important for Management to equip the PMO organization with the assets and authority necessary to achieve their desired outcomes.  Even with these tools in place, stakeholders must recognize there is no silver bullet, and have the fortitude to withstand the impulse to revert back to old ways of doing things. In order to do so, the PMO must regularly ask themselves the following questions:

  • Is a governance framework in place to prioritize work and mitigate conflicts?
  • Is PMO empowered to achieve Management’s expectations?
  • Is the PMO organization sufficiently staffed to support the objectives?
  • Are there sufficient tools available to manage the objectives efficiently and effectively?

Develop a Roadmap for Success

Rolling out a PMO organization should be viewed no differently than managing any other large project. In other words, the foundation for success is applying and adhering to solid Project Management principles, which means requirements should be clearly defined with a solid project plan and adequate staffing needs to be in place to support end deliverables. With these principles in mind, you can create a solid PMO foundation by taking the following steps:

  • Plan the work and work the plan
  • Establish a steering committee with formal project updates and manage expectations appropriately
  • Establish a formal issue and risk mitigation process
  • Determine the impact of the change that the PMO will have on the organization
  • Develop appropriate Organizational Change Management (OCM) program
  • Track overall PMO performance against established baselines

Sustaining the PMO Practice

PMO sponsors and stakeholders need to maintain momentum well beyond the launch, because sustaining a healthy PMO continually requires the right people, processes, and tools to be in alignment. Don’t forget that a PPM or PSA tool can actually help keep these resources on track and focused on achieving goals of the PMO. Thinking of a PMO rollout like any other project allows you to categorize resources, prioritize, and set milestones which continually evaluate key performance indicators against established baselines. This evaluation process then pushes an organization to not only strive for continuous improvement but also realize the value a successful PMO practice can provide long after implementation. Although a PMO practice, like anything, will never reach perfection, keeping stakeholders engaged through active participation maintains buy-in and focus for the PMO role throughout its lifespan.


Have you experienced a PMO flop? How about a successful implementation? Share your rollout tips to avoid trials and tribulation on LinkedInFacebook or Twitter.