The science of formal project management is fairly new, having been born in the 1950s from the need for greater structure in the construction and engineering industries. Since then, the discipline has gained traction to the point that most large corporations have established a project management office to focus on objectives that fall outside the company’s daily operations. In spite of widespread acceptance, corporate PMOs still experience a degree of resistance from employees, particularly because the projects they execute often result in changes to the way things are traditionally done. Here are three ways to promote the value and utilization of the PMO within your company.
1. Employ Qualified Personnel
Promote the credibility of the project management office by employing strong, qualified personnel and capable PMO leadership. Effective project management requires specialised skills, and the successful leader of your PMO should balance these with a hands-on managerial approach to the day to day operations. He or she should have natural people skills and be capable of motivating and influencing the team.
The PMO leader should have sufficient personal power to work closely with other departments and managerial staff, identifying and developing opportunities for potential business improvement projects. Don’t make the common mistake of promoting a good project manager into the leadership position, unless he or she has the ability to manage a portfolio of current projects at a consolidated level. The leader of the project management office needs to display strong financial acumen and a clear understanding of the company’s policies and procedures. He or she also needs prior project management experience across a wide range of topics.
Employ qualified personnel for the project management office, and publicise their capabilities through the company newsletter or other communications. Each project manager should be certified, professional and have a visible area of expertise. This extends down through the ranks, too; project administrators are often the “face” of the PMO and have the most interaction with project owners, sponsors and other stakeholders. Their presentation and management of project documentation should be flawless to generate the respect of colleagues for the processes.
2. Strategic Alignment with Business Plan
Aligning the activities of the project management office closely with the business’s strategic plan is crucial for gaining acceptance among the staff. Often, programs and projects that reside with the PMO are seen as peripheral to the company’s operations. Business improvement projects, in particular, don’t always demonstrate benefits until they have been fully implemented and rolled out to all areas. This can cause the project management office to be viewed as irrelevant by other staff, resulting in less than ideal co-operation. Circumvent this issue by clearly aligning the PMO’s various projects with specific aspects of the company’s long-term strategy:
- Establish the ways in which the project management office’s action plan connects with the corporate vision, mission and values, and communicate this clearly to the employees of the company.
- Have the PMO leadership work closely with the company CEO and executive team to ensure that all parties have the same end goal and understanding of the objectives.
- Identify a project champion from among the executives for each major project the PMO undertakes, to prevent the development of any rifts between project management office team members and other staff.
This will help to provide focus for the team and to visibly link the PMO’s activities with the broader organizational goals.
3. Communicating the “Value Add”
In order for the project management office to be taken seriously, it must be seen to add value to the company’s activities. Communication is key to achieving this, and that might mean the PMO needs to establish its own channels and methods of getting the word out to company employees. A website, internal newsletter or even a full-scale marketing campaign can help to tell the story.
Strong change management abilities and good stakeholder communications will help managers and employees to accept the PMO’s involvement in projects they consider their jurisdiction. The project management office needs to highlight the value of the various projects, explain clearly how they impact the workers and what the benefits are. A carefully-formulated communications plan for each project will help employees understand its purpose, the expected timeframes, the impact and the benefits.
Support from the Top
Regardless of these efforts to promote the project management office within the company, it’s critical to have unequivocal support from the CEO and senior executives to build a strong, successful PMO . Without these, the PMO will lose credibility and it will have difficulty achieving its goals, leading to a reduction in its value to the company. Leading by example is the most effective method of generating support for new ideas and processes, and this will ultimately result in the company gaining maximum value from the efforts of its PMO.