How to run a small PMO (by Didier Brackx)
PMOs are responsible for lots of different things, and if you ask two PMO managers what they do all day you’ll get very different answers. When you run a small PMO, it’s essential to focus your efforts on what stakeholders are going to find useful. Larger PMOs might do benefits realization management, implementing project management tools and input to business strategy; but if you are doing the PMO job for a small team, you probably aren’t going to spend much time on those.
What were my responsibilities ?
When I started years ago I was responsible for:
- Producing a monthly portfolio report for the CEO,
- Tracking key metrics (our main one was the schedule variance versus the baseline,
- Keeping the team’s Sharepoint site up to date so project managers had access to the latest data,
- Preparing and distributing project management guidelines and coaching the project managers.
- Using the PMBOK Guide as a standard for training !
- Being responsible for the shared network drives where project documents were saved,
- Chasing project managers for status updates,
- Helping project managers deal with escalations,
- Knowledge sharing, as I was well connected and could put people in touch with others who could help,
- And I did a project audit here or there, which was me informally looking through the project plans, risk registers and other documentation and pointing out what was lacking.
There are quite a few things on that list, but it didn’t take very long. The portfolio report was the most time consuming, but it was a really useful management tool and tracked all the projects and upcoming requests for work that might turn into projects. We reviewed it briefly every fortnight and in depth once a month.
Keep your list as small as possible.
If you are taking on PMO responsibilities in a small team, keep your task list as small as possible. Ask your stakeholders what they think is most important, and focus on that. It’s the only way you’ll be able to manage alone, and you can always add in more tasks like process development and governance support later. Good relationships make it easy. The role of the PMO is more than chasing for status updates, although sometimes it can feel like that’s what you spend most of your time doing. The better your relationships with the project managers and others in the team, the easier you will find it! Luckily, I worked in the same office as most of my fellow project managers, so checking in with them was easy. Even so, it was still difficult to get a definitive position about their projects sometimes. Work on building solid relationships with key stakeholders, other project managers and business colleagues so that when you ask for an update (or anything else), they know who you are and why you want the information.
Do a lot of favors.
When project managers gave me a verbal update, sometimes I ended up typing reports for them as that was the only way I’d get the information written down when they were super busy. But I did get the update. We made better decisions and kept more projects on track (and even cancelled a few that weren’t performing) because we had a PMO function. You can see the benefits of a PMO function too, even if you only have a few project managers and a small project portfolio. Simply work out what you want them to do, pick someone (or a couple of people) to do it and then get on with it. If it doesn’t work, tweak your model until it does--you’ll eventually find an approach that adds real business value and works with the time commitment you can offer.