The Top Five Characteristics of a PMO with Staying Power

By Vickie Cleary posted 01-17-2012 12:09 PM


By Vickie Cleary, PMP, CedarCrestone

Project Management Offices (PMO’s) are most valuable when they are focused on addressing the immediate and long-term needs of the audience they serve – the organization’s project managers. I’ve witnessed the rise and fall and the rise and stay of many PMO’s. The ones that stay are those that function to serve the needs of their audience at all times. The audience’s needs continuously evolve, so the PMO should too.

Here are the top five characteristics of a PMO with staying power:

  1. The PMO is Available When You Need It
    Most project managers spend their time between 8am and 5pm in project meetings and interacting one-on-one with their team members. When they get back to their desks (and their computers) at the end of the day, they need to use many of the services offered by a great PMO. There’s nothing more aggravating than learning that the PMO resources you depend on aren’t available when you need them the most. Accordingly, PMO resources should be available for a period of time before 8am and after 5pm. And of course, PMO tools & templates should be available electronically 24×7.
  2. Fresh and Nimble Tools are Right at Your Fingertips
    A valuable PMO provides up-to-date, easy-to-use project management tools and templates. The tools and templates are easily accessed and deployed and designed to ensure that project management tasks are effectively and efficiently completed. The PMO must also provide an  operational framework and standards for project management that consistently  adhere to the vision, mission, goals and objectives of the organization or institution.
  3. Subject Matter Experts aren’t Dusty
    Project Managers need help from people who completely understand the world in which they live – they won’t call upon people who know less than they do. Common chatter among fellow project managers about bad PMO’s usually include statements like, “sure, now tell me something I didn’t know” or “of course I knew that, I needed more…” Accordingly, PMO resources should be very familiar with the daily challenges their project managers are facing, and their knowledge, skills, and experience should be fresh and cutting edge. Nobody looks for support from a dated, dusty resource.
  4. Training is Available in Multiple Modalities and Settings
    Project Managers often think of themselves last – they take care of the project and their team members first. They are typically left with very little time to enhance their own skills and stay fresh in their profession. PMO’s must offer training that is varied in access type (i.e., online versus classroom setting) and available evenings and weekends. Reference materials should be on hand in central locations, and information about the materials should be kept up-to-date and shared with the project management community through an electronic catalog and recurring announcements.
  5. PMO is a Resource NOT a Road Hog
    Far too often, the PMO is viewed as a “project road hog” rather than a super highway resource to get from initiation to close-out. PMO’s should not be so burdensome that they stall the activity of the project. A great PMO offers partnership with the project manager in a way that enables success. Great PMO’s constantly monitor the perception of their audience and adjust their approach to ensure they are serving the ultimate goal – to foster project success.

Project Managers look to the PMO for leadership to help them  solve tough problems, serve as a sounding board for exploring new strategies  and approaches, and connect them with the best resources when asked. PMO’s have  a lot of experience and acumen, and the best rely on that experience to  proactively offer resources that are a match for the environment the project manager is working in. At other times, great leadership simply looks like  shining a guiding light on the road the project manager is traveling.

CedarCrestone Inc.  consults with institutions in helping them design, develop and deploy Project  Management Offices that foster success. We work with the client to assess the organization’s  needs and help them create an effective team with standard project and/or  program management tools and techniques specifically designed to achieve the unique  vision and mission of the institution. Let us know how we can help you build  your dream PMO.


About Vickie Cleary

Vickie Lynn’s experience is focused in the areas of information technology project and program management, and process engineering. With greater than 20 years experience in information technology leadership, she is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) who relies on proven industry standards and best practices to successfully lead teams through projects and programs. She recognizes the importance of combining skilled human resources and solid processes to deliver high quality results. With a proven track record for successfully implementing on-time, within budget, and according to scope, Ms. Cleary has engaged in projects and programs for both public and private sector entities. She is formally trained in CMMI, Change Management, Total Quality Management, and project and program management and is experienced in process re-engineering, organizational leadership, and executive management. Outside the project world, Vickie Lynn can often be found working in the garden or riding her dirt bike through the Sierra wilderness.


First posted to CedarCrestone blog: December 13, 2011