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A Thriving Project Management Office: The PMO Consultant's Role

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May 24, 2024
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3 minutes

The acceleration of business change, fueled by disruptions like generative AI and increased geopolitical activity, is forcing leaders in organizations to act quickly and strategically. This environment demands rapid responses, often through the initiation of strategic projects. However, the number, complexity, and speed of these projects present significant challenges. 

Many organizations are looking to Project Management Offices (PMOs) to help them seek clarity and control over their entire project portfolios - instead of having projects managed individually across the organization. Setting up a PMO is a complex and specialized task, often aided by a PMO consultant.

The Importance of a PMO and How a PMO Consultant Adds Value:

PMOs are departments or teams that improve project success rates and efficiencies. They allow businesses to manage their project portfolios centrally. They enable executives to quickly identify projects at risk or prioritize one project over another for better organizational project alignment. This ensures not only the achievement of project outcomes but, by extension, the achievement of business outcomes, which directly affect the bottom line.

This ties to a company's material outcomes, so many organizations are happy to invest in building or improving their PMO capabilities and often look to a PMO consultant for help. A PMO consultant brings an objective perspective to an organization's needs and current project management strategies. They are usually specialists in applying industry best practices to an environment. Their most highly prized advantage: Time Efficiency. Tasked solely with PMO setup or improvement, a PMO consultant can complete the process much faster than internal teams (given their workloads), leading to a quicker return on investment. 

This article aims:
  • To provide a strong foundation for establishing a successful PMO 

  • Clarify the role of a PMO consultant in the setup or refinement of a PMO 

  • Expand on how a PMO consultant can help you with your most foundational asset: the PMO tech stack. 

The Supporting Structure of a PMO:

The PMO landscape has many methodologies and processes for establishing or maintaining a best-in-class PMO. This makes returning to first principles a good grounding, explicitly establishing the high-level PMO types, key objectives, and current trends facing PMOs in different industries. 

There are three types of PMOs based on the level of control over the projects they govern: 

  • A Supportive PMO: With a low level of control, the Supportive PMO serves as an advisory role. It provides support for teams by sharing best practices and knowledge. A Supportive PMO is best suited for companies with a decentralized approach to project management.

  • Controlling PMO: A controlling PMO is well suited for organizations that need more consistency in project execution or organizational project alignment to specific standards. It is characterized by a medium level of control and the enforcement of pre-defined project management frameworks, documentation standards, and more.

  • Directive PMO: This type of PMO takes complete control and accountability for project delivery. The teams are highly involved in project execution and are most suitable for areas of project-critical success, like construction or software delivery. 

A successful PMO must be established or aligned to specific key objectives for maximum impact and efficiency, namely: 

  • Standardization of processes: Ensuring or promoting consistency across projects delivered by sharing or enforcing templates, processes for project selection, and more. 

  • Governance and Compliance: All projects should align with internal policies, rules, and regulations. This can result in developing KPIs or checklists that are reviewed at set points for discrepancies. 

  • Resource Optimization: A PMO is well placed to assess the resource needs and gaps across a portfolio of projects. This helps avoid conflicts or low utilization in teams. 

  • Organizational Project Alignment: Setting standards for and reviewing portfolios at a managerial level will ensure that they align well with the business strategy and contribute to the overall business objectives.

  • Support and Training: As a center of excellence, the PMO team can share best practices, collaborate to solve challenges, and help improve overall project execution. 

As they pursue their key objectives, these PMOs contend with various trends and difficulties. These include:

  • The Rise of Generative AI: This disruptive technology has enabled all industries to create instant efficiencies, and project management is no different. From developing project plans to generating different scenarios that may affect project success, generative AI has the potential to change the way a PMO functions - in a positive way. 

  • Advanced Automation: Automating repetitive tasks or data collection can reduce the manual burden on project managers, freeing them up to assist with more complex or critical PMO activities. The potential impact of the technology spans the entirety of the PMO. It includes data collection, instant matching of resources to appropriate projects, and even real-time dashboards for more accurate decision-making.  

  • Shifting from Functional Project Management Resources to Strategic Influence: PMO teams are no longer valued only for their ability to manage projects. Today, PMO teams are integral to strategic discussions and often influence the setting of strategic goals. By overseeing a company’s project portfolio, PMO teams can help identify strategic gaps between business goals and projects in play. This insight helps PMO’s shape the direction of an organisation and gives them value beyond their function.   

Understanding the basics of PMOs and the environmental factors that drive them provides a foundational context for any company looking to establish or improve its PMO. It also provides a common language to work with a PMO consultant, making collaboration smoother and implementation easier.   

Building or Fortifying the Infrastructure of a Successful PMO:

Beginning with the review of a company's as-is capabilities provides insights into its operations and behavioral norms. The company or PMO consultant can conduct this review by gathering information through interviews, reviewing existing project documents, and conducting interviews with project leads or resources. Combining this data with an existing project management maturity model will help organizations understand and prioritize the areas for improvement. These areas will include project management methodologies, governance and compliance structures, tools and technology, and more. 

Of the many project management maturity models that exist, these are the most common:

  • Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI): This model was initially produced for the U.S. Department of Defense to assess the activities of their software contractors. While this model was developed for many functions, the application of its five levels of maturity applies well to the project management environment: 

    • Level 1: Initial - Processes are unpredictable.

    • Level 2: Managed - There are plans for the execution of projects.

    • Level 3: Defined - There are defined processes across the organization.

    • Level 4: Quantitatively Managed - Processes are measured.

    • Level 5: Optimizing - Data is collected for continuous improvement over time.

  • Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3): This model was created by the Project Management Institute (PMI) and aimed to align all project management objectives with the organization's strategic goals. The structure is divided into:

    • Projects: How to manage individual projects using the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) as published by the PMI 

    • Programs: How to manage related projects so that more benefits can be realized than with individual management

    • Portfolios: How to manage the portfolio of projects so that an organization's strategic goals are achieved

  • Portfolio, Program, and Project Management Maturity Model (P3M3): This model was developed by Axelos, the creators of PRINCE2. It is designed specifically for the project management domain and contains five levels and seven perspectives. The levels range from Level 1, Awareness, to Level 5, Optimized. The perspectives include specific areas like management controls, risk management, resource management, and more. This model is tailored to particular areas, offering a flexible approach to project management functions.

Other maturity models can contribute significantly to companies' strategy when developing their PMOs. It is essential to review each model in detail so that the most appropriate one is applied, avoiding costly time waste. Specialist PMO consultants know the available model and have experience in implementation, which could save companies time and money when setting up or reviewing their PMO. These consultants would also be skilled in critical areas like technology selection and optimization.

The Role of an Independent PMO Consultant in Technology Implementation

Implementing or reviewing a new technology stack is not a simple undertaking. It requires domain knowledge (in this case, project management) and a technical understanding of the software supporting a PMO. Multiple vendors must also be reviewed according to their appropriateness as software partners and the company's needs. 

A solution is to use an independent PMO consultant who joins the company specifically for this purpose. They can methodically work through the company's objectives for a PMO, review the technology landscape, and design solutions that support the desired project management strategies. This exercise can be done systematically and often looks like: 

  1. Project Initiation: Formally kicking off the project will help the business and the independent consultant align on critical factors like the firm's strategic objectives, vision of the future, and current project management practices. It's also a time to set the goals for the PMO build or review project. Meeting with stakeholders will help the consultant understand any perceived weaknesses or strengths from an unbiased standpoint
  2. Review of existing processes or tools: Once the independent consultant has gathered the qualitative information, it's time to begin deep-diving into the company's operations. This involves reviewing the documentation, inspecting the tech stack, and understanding the existing reporting structures. The result is a complete picture of day-to-day activities. 
  3. Needs analysis: By methodically gathering the business's governance, resource, and risk requirements, the independent consultant can prioritize and earmark the most essential needs of the business. Due to the independent nature of using an external PMO consultant, a more objective analysis can be completed which leads to a clearer, better-prioritized list of what the business needs. 
  4. Gap Analysis: Using all the information gathered, the independent PMO consultant can adequately compare the current technology state against the desired state and highlight areas for improvement. The consultant will also identify bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and data silos will also be determined at this point. The independent consultant will be able to leverage their external perspective to bring fresh insights and add greater value. 
  5. Solution Recommendations: Reviewing the software landscape will help independent PMO consultants recommend appropriate tools for a company's environment. The consultant must research each solution in relation to the others so that software interoperability and the sustainability of each recommended company can be achieved. They rely on their broad market knowledge, which provides additional insights into how different technologies are (received or rejected) by others.   
  6. Implementation Roadmap: Prioritizing technology investments by quick wins and long-term improvements will help businesses address the most critical needs first while accounting for adoption and activities active in the process. 
  7. Training and Change Management: An independent PMO consultant will collaborate with technology vendors to provide a structured training program that assists the adoption and efficacy of each solution. They will also provide change management strategies associated with implementing each technology. 
  8. Continuous Learning and Improvement: Checkpoints for continuous learning and improvement should be built into a PMO's structure from the start. This can be done by implementing management monitoring frameworks for the PMO and individual team members. Tools like a Balanced Scorecard can be very useful in helping to track financial performance, stakeholder satisfaction, adherence to internal processes, and intention to improve.

Finding internal resources with the skills and time to approach these activities methodically and robustly is rare. Independent PMO consultants can contribute their objective analysis and time efficiency to creating a best-in-class PMO - especially regarding technology implementations or reviews. 

In Conclusion: 

Setting up or reviewing a PMO takes time and specialist knowledge. It requires revisiting first principles, such as reviewing the types of PMOs, their strategic objectives, and the trends facing PMOs today. These factors help companies understand the PMO's support structure and speak the same language as their implementation partner—whether that be an internal resource or consultant. 

Using an independent PMO consultant has many advantages; these include specialist domain knowledge, implementation experience, and time efficiency. They can deep dive into the many project management maturity models and select the most appropriate for a given organization. This execution capability often extends to project management technologies. The independent PMO consultant will review the technology stack, ensuring that technological bottlenecks are removed, that the technology supports project execution optimization techniques, and that the plan has a logical rollout that supports full adoption. 

How do you find the right PMO consultant? In as little as 48 hours, you can be connected with hand-selected consultants from the Consultport team. Take the first step in your journey and find the best PMO consultants with Consultport today.