Project Management Institute

Burden or benefit

VOICES ON PROJECT MANAGEMENT

The pressure is on for project management offices to prove their worth in tough economic times.

BY PETER TAYLOR, PMP

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As organizations try to deal with the economic downturn, they're taking a hard look at the ROI of just about every endeavor—including the project management office (PMO).

At Siemens Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Software, we believe our PMO for the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region still continues to bring value both to the organization and our customers. But what's the general view of PMOs? Well, an ESI International survey of 60 U.K. executives conducted last November found that many PMOs were being challenged on a number of fronts, including:

  1. The PMO was often seen as an extension of administrative support, rather than a professional body with value-add skills.
  2. Budget cuts necessitated cost justification, a difficulty for the usually non-revenue producing PMO.
  3. The PMO size and organizational setup were viewed as counter to the time constraints under which project managers operate.
  4. There was a lack of understanding of the business benefits of the PMO, especially among executive management.

Even in these challenging times, the PMO within Siemens PLM Software is deemed “fit for purpose.” I believe it's because we have evolved to be seen as supportive of the organization as a whole and not grown to a size that outweighs our business benefit.

From its inception two years ago, the PMO focused on people and process. A survey of the Siemens PLM project management community members and their local management identified three top issues:

  1. A lack of methodology or common process
  2. A lack of skills or training
  3. Resource management

>>For more Voices on Project Management, check out the blog at PMI.org/voices.

>> PROFILE OF A PMO

Company: Siemens PLM Software

Responsibilities:

  • > The overall health of more than 200 projects across Europe, Middle East and Africa
  • > Process methodology adoption and compliance
  • > Skills development of project managers, including training, certification and support

Staff: Three full-time members and a virtual community of another 100 project managers

By developing internal programs aimed at addressing these issues, the PMO was immediately seen as a supportive organization and not merely as administrative overhead. In some cases, we do take the lead on a few select projects. This way, the PMO both maintains hands-on experience and extends qualitative support and guidance to the local project managers—and even delivers a small revenue flow.

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Peter Taylor, PMP, is the Europe, Middle East and Africa director of a project management office at Siemens PLM Software, Surrey, England. He is also a professional speaker and author of The Lazy Project Manager [Infinite Ideas, 2009].

Beyond the initial focus on people and process, the PMO extended its purview to performance and promotion shortly after formation. The move has ensured good communication of the PMO‘s benefits to Siemens management across EMEA as well as to our customers. Delivering a regular newsletter, hosting knowledge-sharing sessions, showcasing project case studies, inputting updates to our methodology and never saying “no” to requests for assistance have all helped put the PMO on peoples’ radar as an organization that helps rather than hinders.

I strongly believe the PMO has a place in a project-based organization, even in these times of restricted finances. In fact, I believe they have a place especially in these times.

On one hand, companies of all kinds face the global recession. On the other, we are part of a dynamic, resourceful and ever-evolving world that demands change as part of its survival. And change demands projects, and projects demand project managers.

History is littered with significant project failures, yet there are also spectacular project success stories linked to the ever-maturing profession of project management.

Those projects that will be commissioned in the future, as well as the ones that are allowed to continue in the current climate, will be expected to deliver higher business impact, endure closer scrutiny from senior management and face far more pressure to deliver.

And who will be under the most pressure? You guessed it, the project manager.

Right now our projects, and our project managers, need the help, support and guidance of a good PMO. Just make sure that your PMO's focus is the right one for your business. PM

> RAISE YOUR VOICE No one knows project management better than you, the practitioners “in the trenches.” So PM Network is debuting its Voices on Project Management column. Every month, project managers will share ideas, experiences and opinions on everything from sustainability to talent management, and all points in between. If you're interested in contributing, please send your idea to [email protected].

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

PM NETWORK MAY 2009 WWW.PMI.ORG

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