The PMO – What’s the right level of Authority?

“Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere as long as the policy you’ve decided upon is being carried out” – Ronald Reagan

[otw_shortcode_dropcap label=”I” font=”Dancing Script” background_color_class=”otw-blue-background” size=”large” border=”border” border_color_class=”otw-silver-border” shadow=”shadow”][/otw_shortcode_dropcap]n the article The PMO – What is this? we began to explore the PMO function, giving an initial overview, explaining what PMO types exist and listing their area of focus.
But if our organization was ready to create a PMO, there would be some prerequisites to ensure that we’re setting up the right type of PMO.
The first thing to take into account is the right level of authority.
Let’s consider three kind of PMOs:

  • Consultative – that proposes and advises teams on how to run their projects
  • Knowledge – that manages and archives project details and lessons learning
  • Compliant – that creates and sets project management standards and monitors and controls adherence to these standards

We have to know that the level of authority of a PMO determines its ability to influence change management and project management adoption in our organization.
In other words, the less authorized the PMO, the less its influence on change management and project management adoption.
What’s the correlation between levels of authority and different types of PMO functions?

Project delivery

Project Delivery

Project Delivery

For the consultative and knowledge type of PMO, project delivery is seldom a primary function but if our organization decided to invest this type of PMO of this kind of responsibility, and if the PMO missed the authority to take action, then the PMO recommendations would be ignored, and consequently the delivery responsibility of our PMO would be at risk.

Project manager’s development and training

In some organizations, project managers are contracted to or work as consultants for specific projects and they are expected to be up to the standards of the hiring organization; in those organizations that invest in their people, developing employees skill sets is a feature that is looked upon very positively.

Project Manager Career Path

Project Manager Career Path

We have to know that project manager’s development and training are not synonymous.
The project manager’s training is a function that can befit to the consultative and knowledge PMO type because in the consultative role training is assumed to keep the project managers side by side to the standards; in this case, the PMO provides training on tools, methods and templates, but it’s not necessarily responsible for career progression for the project manager.
Concerning the compliant PMO type, project managers usually have a solid reporting line into the PMO and the PMO is accountable for defining the project manager’s career path (i.e. project manager’s development). Of course, this can only happens when the PMO has the authority and the funding to spend on the job.
When our PMO has the authority and the required funding to develop programs tailored to project managers’ career paths, the level of authority of PMO is correlated to the amount of influence over the education, mentoring and guidance of project management within the organization.


Project Repository

Project Repository

Project Repository

All PMOs, regardless of type, need to maintain project data for reporting and auditing purposes.
Knowledge type PMOs are accountable for storing all sorts of project artifacts, such as project schedule data, cost data, resource allocation, methods, KPIs, lessons learned, for providing organization with data useful to evaluate project performance.
Compliant type PMOs are accountable to project’s delivery; understanding past performance, current project performance allows prediction of future performance, leveraging data from lessons learned to improve project delivery time, quality and expectations in our organization.
Consultative type PMOs are accountable for providing project management standards, methodology and templates.
In the compliant type PMOs, the PMO can influence lessons learned, action taken, project audit and evaluation, while in the knowledge and consultative ones this may be difficult, since the PMO is not basically responsible for project delivery.

Project Portfolio

Portfolio function is best suited in the authoritative type PMO because it assumes ownership for organization projects selection criteria, priority and resources.

Common functions to all levels of PMO authority

All PMOs are required to build methodology or methodologies based on some industry standards.
A common methodology is important since it provides a consistent method for performing the project work. This, in turn, gives us the possibility to measure and benchmark success and failure effectively and on an objective and shared basis.

Project Reporting

Project Reporting

Project reporting is an essential function that all PMOs share and must undertake from the early stages of PMO implementation.
Though there may be differences in the details of what type of information is reported, the frequency of reporting, and how it’s reported, all project reporting reflects project progress and highlights the parameters influencing project success.
For some organizations, introducing project management tools is a last step to address; for other organizations the adoption of this kind of tools promotes collaboration, improves teamwork and enhances productivity.
Regardless of how basic or sophisticated tools can be, they all need to be able to provide the PMO and the organization with standard measures on project health check, project progress reporting, resource allocation, cost analysis and so on.
Further, a tool is required to provide executives with project dashboard reflecting the entire portfolio, as well as provide project managers an automated and effective way to report on project progress and provide efficiency and team collaboration to project artifacts.
Some of the most used tools today are (the list is, of course, not exhaustive): Microsoft Project, Clarity, Microsoft Project Server, HP Project and Portfolio Management, Plainview, FastTrack Schedule.


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