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PMO Management Consultants: The Key to Long-Term, Strategic Growth

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Published:
May 31, 2024
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10 minutes

Every year, companies lose millions of dollars to overrun budgets, missed opportunities, and imperfect return on investment.

In fact, research from the Project Management Institute suggests that for every $1 billion invested in projects, $97 million is lost to failed and underperforming projects — nearly 10%. Likewise, a study published in the Harvard Business Review found that the average IT project exceeds its budget by 25%, and one in six projects runs over by 200%.

Robust project management, on the other hand, ensures teams work efficiently and effectively — making full use of the latest technology, adhering to best practices, and operating in perfect harmony with other business units.

This is the role of a project management office (PMO): to evaluate, coordinate, standardize, and improve project management and execution across an organization. It ensures projects are aligned with a company’s overall goals and well-suited to their existing capabilities. 

You may be wondering if your company needs a PMO or if your existing PMO is functioning as well as it could be. In both cases, a PMO management consultant can offer critical insights and advice — guiding decision-making, supporting stakeholders, and facilitating complex, cross-functional collaboration.

This article examines the critical role of PMOs in maximizing performance and ensuring project execution optimization, as well as when to build a PMO and how to assess its effectiveness. It then explores the advantages of hiring a PMO consultant — both for establishing new PMOs and supporting existing ones.

What is a project management office (PMO)? A quick overview

A project management office (PMO) is a department or group within an organization that’s responsible for developing, refining, communicating, and ensuring adherence to project management standards and best practices. It supports project managers (PMs) and their teams, provides guidance and recommendations, promotes accountability, introduces new tools and technologies, and offers training. 

The PMO may also take a more strategic role, helping organizations intelligently assess competing project proposals and determine which projects will likely offer the highest returns.

Essentially, PMOs serve as a central hub for coordinating and supporting a department or company’s projects. The ultimate goal of these activities is to boost efficiency, minimize costs, and maximize Return on Investment (ROI).

For a comprehensive introduction to the project management office — including its various forms and scopes, roles and responsibilities, and advantages and challenges — read Consultport’s essential PMO guide

Key Takeaways

  • A project management office (PMO) is responsible for ensuring projects align with strategic business goals, optimizing resource allocation, and maximizing returns on investment.
  • Increased project complexity, inconsistent success rates, lack of organizational alignment, inefficient resource allocation, and excessive variation in project management methodologies all indicate the need for an improved PMO.
  • An independent PMO management consultant can provide valuable insights and guidance at every stage of a company’s project management journey.

Understanding the PMO and its strategic importance

As noted above, the PMO serves as a central hub for coordinating all of a company or department’s projects and teams. As a result, it can see all of a company’s resources and how they’re being deployed. Compare this to an individual project manager or department head, whose scope is more limited.

This unique, broad perspective allows the PMO to do several things.

  • Manage and allocate resources more effectively. With a complete list of the company or department’s resources, the PMO can help reduce bottlenecks, conflicts, and redundancies, resulting in a more effective distribution of talent and skill across projects.
  • Facilitate knowledge and data sharing. The average, enterprise-size company may lose up to $4.5 million in lost productivity by failing to preserve and share knowledge. PMOs help overcome this by facilitating the distribution of knowledge between teams and other organizational silos.
  • Ensure the use of effective, efficient workflows. Individual teams may be too busy moving a project forward to stop and assess whether their current workflows could be better. Likewise, they may be unaware of new tools, services, and technologies. More than a mere repository of information, the PMO takes an active role in training and upskilling teams.
  • Align project activity with company goals. During the initiation and planning phases of a new project, the PMO can help PMs ensure their own goals are closely aligned with those of the organization. During execution, the PMO can help prevent goals from shifting due to scope creep and similar challenges.
  • Facilitate stakeholder engagement. PMs frequently cite stakeholder engagement as one of the greatest challenges they face today. As an independent, external department or business unit, the PMO is well-placed to facilitate critical, sometimes difficult conversations. It can also offer guidance and tools to enhance communication and collaboration.

Through alignment with company goals, consistent methodologies, and other key PMO best practices, these offices help ensure fewer risks, increased success, and positive ROI.

6 signs it's time to build or update your PMO

If any of these warning signs are present in your organization, it may be time to build or update your PMO.

An independent PMO management consultant can help you create and execute an effective plan of action, but first you’ll need to carefully assess your project operations and success rate.

Here’s what to watch for:

  1. Projects have grown considerably in complexity or number. Projects span multiple departments and involve complex, interdependent tasks. Resources are at a premium, senior leaders must manage multiple competing objectives, and technological and operational elements are highly sophisticated.
  2. Projects have an inconsistent success rate. The organization suffers from a pattern of delays, budget overruns, and occasional failures. Projects have fallen short of their goals, leading to wasted resources and missed opportunities.
  3. There’s a lack of organizational project alignment. Projects stray from core business strategies, failing to support crucial goals or contribute meaningfully to growth.
  4. Resource allocation is inefficient or poorly understood. Projects lack the support, talent, and resources they need to be completed on time and within budget. Project managers complain of strained or missing resources and unrealistic time frames.
  5. Project managers are using different methods and tools. There’s no uniform approach to project management strategies within the organization. PMs use whatever tools are available, and shadow IT is common. Practices vary significantly between teams, with no clear methodology for deciding which is most suitable.
  6. Your company operates in a regulatory-intensive environment. The organization is subject to numerous or complex legal and regulatory frameworks. Frequent updates demand constant vigilance and adaptation. Existing processes struggle to keep pace, increasing the risk of penalties and non-compliance.

Whether your goal is to create a PMO from scratch or improve the operations of your current office, a PMO consultant offers an elegant solution.

PMO Management Consultants: The Key to Long-Term, Strategic Growth

Consultport’s network of independent PMO consultants can offer invaluable insights and guidance for companies in various situations.

An effective stopgap in the absence of an internal PMO

If your organization doesn’t currently have its own PMO, a consultant can be a highly effective stop-gap until a permanent PMO becomes necessary.

Consultants can reinvigorate project management teams by offering them new tools and technologies, improving communications, standardizing methodologies, and advising on resource allocation.

Mid-sized companies on a trajectory of steady or rapid growth may not feel the need to establish an in-house PMO immediately, but working with a consultant can help lay the groundwork for that eventuality. They can also help businesses decide the best time to do so — and how to do it cost-effectively.

When the time comes to build your PMO, an independent consultant can help organize your existing workflows, practices, documentation, and software and transform them into the makings of a fully functional office.

A valuable resource for existing offices

As for organizations with existing PMOs, consultants can assist in several ways.

First, they can evaluate the PMO’s existing practices and assess their overall effectiveness, offering guidance and support similar to how PMOs support project managers. This might mean introducing them to new tools and technologies, spotting opportunities for and offering training, and ensuring the PMO clearly understands company objectives. It could also mean developing new PMO templates, frameworks, and documentation for project managers.

Additionally, many companies engage with consultants during times of significant change, when PMOs are under incredible pressure supporting project managers throughout the transition. Consultants can help PMOs roll out new processes or technologies and ensure buy-in from team leaders and those who work under them, managing objections and smoothing interpersonal bumps.

A PMO management consultant can also help your existing office refine its decision-making processes. They can introduce fresh perspectives, updated methodologies, and new analytical methods for assessing project proposals based on their likelihood of success and relative ROI.

If projects fall off track, in-house PMOs may need support correcting the problem or determining how best to salvage the situation. Some PMO consultants specialize in crisis management and troubleshooting, and their insights have saved companies the loss of significant investments when projects have gone awry.

These are just a few ways consultants can support PMOs, their leaders, and staff. The high level of impact a PMO has on a company’s operations makes this kind of support and oversight extremely valuable. Improvements here can profoundly impact processes and outcomes downstream, making the investment well worth it.

Working with a PMO Consultant: A guide to success

A PMO consultant is an excellent way to increase your likelihood of success and improve business outcomes. To make the most of your investment, there are a few things you’ll want to consider and plan for ahead of time.

Set clear objectives and success metrics

Setting clear goals is the best way to ensure the consultancy delivers meaningful results. It also provides a valuable guide to your consultant, so they know what to focus on and how to spend their time.

There are just as many ways of measuring improvement to project processes as there are ways of measuring the success of projects themselves. These include project management KPIs related to:

  • Planning, such as Budget Creation Cycle Time and Resource Allocation Efficiency;
  • Cost, such as Schedule Variance, Budget or Cost Variance, Profitability Index, and ROI;
  • Stakeholders, such as Stakeholder Engagement and Employee Churn Rate;
  • Timeliness, such as On-time Completion Rate and FTE Days vs. Calendar Days; and
  • Quality, such as Number of Errors, Quality Control Rating, and Customer Satisfaction.

The overall goal of any PMO is to improve these, so a useful approach is to determine which project management KPIs have the most potential to deliver positive change within your company and then inform the consultant that improving these is a primary goal of creating or enhancing the PMO.

Other common metrics more directly related to the consultancy itself include:

  • Total ROI - Before and after consultancy. Compare the total return on investment from projects before and after the consultancy. If the increase in project ROI exceeds the total cost of the consultancy, you have made a positive return on your investment.
  • Adoption rate of recommendations. How many of the consultant’s recommendations have been successfully implemented by project managers or the PMO? Of those that haven’t been implemented, how many are because the recommendations were irrelevant, unrealistic, or otherwise inappropriate?
  • Stakeholder satisfaction. How satisfied are the stakeholders that worked directly with the consultant? Do they feel the consultant was successful in bringing about positive change? Why or why not?
  • Knowledge transfer effectiveness. How proficiently are your teams using the new processes, tools, and methodologies that have been taught to them?

Gather or prepare high-level reports on business objectives, values, and culture

Most companies of a certain size will have a statement of values and documents that speak to and define its culture. If that’s the case, simply make sure they are up to date. Otherwise, it will be useful to draft these before working with the PMO. After all, company values and culture impact significantly on operations and outcomes. Your PMO consultant will want a clear understanding of these elements to ensure their recommendations are relevant and realistic.

Likewise, you’ll need to gather and clearly document your organization's strategic business objectives as well as any relevant key performance indicators (KPIs). This should include long-term goals, specific project targets, and any existing metrics used to measure success.

Creating and reviewing these documents can lead to important, even difficult conversations. You may well end up with significant variation and even conflicting objectives. That’s okay: your PMO consultant will help you determine which objectives should be prioritized and for what reason. The important thing is to be prepared to discuss them, which means having clear, up-to-date documentation at hand.

Establish clear roles and responsibilities vis-à-vis the consultant

It’s important that everyone understands their part in the process and that your consultant knows exactly whom to speak to on any given subject. This can help save countless billable hours, not to mention creating a more enjoyable experience for everybody involved.

For example, you will want to assign one or more individuals to record and organize the knowledge, processes, tools, and resources shared by the consultant. This is vital for ensuring that insights and improvements are retained and can be applied long-term and in situations and environments the consultant doesn’t deal with directly.

Likewise, decide early on who will be responsible for implementing the proposed changes and monitoring their effectiveness. The consultant can help you to some degree, but it’s not necessarily the very best use of your time together. Rather, individual department heads and team leaders should be made to understand their responsibility for doing so.

Finally, designate representatives from senior management who will provide oversight and ensure strategic alignment. These individuals will also be responsible for ensuring organizational buy-in by clearly explaining to project managers and other stakeholders exactly how the recommendations will lead to success and improve their day-to-day lives.

Assess current project management practices

Equally important whether you’re building a PMO or looking to improve one’s operation, preemptively assessing your current project management practices can save significant time and money when working with a PMO consultant.

Conduct a thorough review of your existing methodologies, tools, and processes. Identify what is working well and where there are gaps or inefficiencies, then document this information before the consultant arrives so they can start offering recommendations right off the bat, rather than spending several weeks gathering basic data. Even if the consultant requests additional details, this preliminary assessment will streamline the process, leading to quicker, more effective improvements.

Conclusion

Whether you’re looking to establish a new PMO, enhance an existing one, or simply ensure your projects align with your business objectives, a PMO consultant can provide the guidance and support you need to succeed.

Contact Consultport today to find the right PMO management consultant for your organization and take a significant step toward securing your company’s future success.