Project management offices (PMOs) have been around for a while and have become a common fixture in many organizations. Despite this, the core purpose and function of a PMO continue to be questioned and debated.

The situation gets further convoluted in organizations in which PMOs proliferate at multiple levels with overlapping or conflicting functions. On the other hand, sometimes when there is clarity of purpose, having too narrow a focus limits PMO value.

Just as DNA contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms, is there a code or blueprint containing all the elements to construct a successful PMO?

The specific form, function and structure of a PMO for your organization will depend on a number of factors like:Gain other perspectives on PMOs. Join discussions at the PMI Program Management Office Community of Practice.

  • your current challenges and needs;
  • the size and type of your organization, the nature and scope of projects; and
  • your organization’s project management maturity.

However, many of the core elements of a PMO can be identified and mapped.
Participants in my SeminarsWorld® “Building the Next Generation PMO and Portfolio Management” seminar over the last 10 years have helped investigate core PMO functions. The challenge was to decode the DNA, or identify the core elements of a successful PMO, that could be scalable and applied to any type of organization or business.

The Six Elements of the PMO DNA
To build a holistic view of the PMO, an integrated PMO framework is necessary. The PMO DNA helps to organize the PMO functions into six broad categories as shown in the diagram below.

  1. Execution and performance: Focuses on the tactical aspects of project execution by providing standardized processes, methodologies, tools, templates, training and support to improve execution and delivery capabilities.
  2. Strategic decision support: Facilitates portfolio management, providing information for project selection and prioritization, highlighting critical information to assess risk, resource capacity and demand management, and enabling decision support for business alignment, benefits realization and value management.
  3. Governance: Establishes a decision-making structure to link the strategic with the tactical, and facilitates and escalates key project/program decisions, including setting policies, procedures and establishing governance mechanisms like stage gates.
  4. Performance management and reporting: Provides consolidated information and transparency with relevant reports that help in tracking and managing project, program and portfolio performance.
  5. Communications and relationship management: Identifies linkages and dependencies, detects systemic disconnects and bottlenecks, resolves communications and interface issues across organizational silos, and develops and manages relationships with stakeholders.
  6. Organizational change management: Since project management is the management of change, the PMO can help facilitate and prepare for change.
    The above elements can be found in a typical PMO, individually, or in combinations of two or more, but rarely are all six areas linked in a holistic way.

How do you apply the idea of the DNA to your PMO? Assess your PMO from the perspective of each of the six elements and evaluate your strengths, weaknesses and missing links. The current point of pain and business needs of the organization will determine the priority of focus.

The idea of the PMO DNA is the interplay and impact of all the six elements on each other. These have to be linked, balanced and optimized to sustain PMO value.

Mr. Jack S. Duggal, MBA, PMP

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