PMO success

In the world of project management, we have all learned that there’s no recipe for guaranteed success. The ingredients are there: meticulously detailed project schedules, skilled project teams, primed kick-off sessions, key planning documents and templates, test plans, requirements matrices, customer sign off documents, status reports and meetings, test cases, use cases, brief cases, and so on.  You get the idea. Check, check, check. However, does it all add up to success? Sadly, not often enough. Alternatively, at least none of these guarantee success; these are all just ingredients to potential success.

essentials of project management communications success
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Repeatable processes – now they help. If we have processes and templates and documents that we as project managers can use over and over again on SUCCESSFUL projects, then we have a pattern; a stable process to follow. Dare I say the makings of a methodology? Then we are not relying on luck to get us through every time. We know what works…we’ve learned what works…and we can keep doing it. And if we have a well-run, well-staffed, and well-lead project management office, or PMO, overseeing all of this then we have something we can offer our project customers. We have structure…and maybe best of all – leadership backing. Or do we? PMOs are built and crumble and rebuilt all the time. I have been through it many times myself…sometimes within the same company and sometimes within the same twelve-month period.

Through it all, I have come up with what I consider to be some key factors or ingredients that go into making a good PMO great…or at least making a good PMO viable for the longer haul. Something project managers can call their own and see value in. Something that the organization as a whole can see value in. And maybe most importantly, something our project customers can see value in.

Here are my four key ingredients for PMO success…

Executive support – If you build a PMO and you don’t have executive support you might as well close up shop immediately. I was part of a PMO at a major Fortune 500 organization, and we were actually at war with another competing group to be the project leaders in the organization. Is it any wonder we failed miserably? Everyone lost. Six months later we were building a new PMO only to see it also fail due to weak leadership and poor structure. Senior management buy-in is necessary or there’s, no reason to continue.

True PMO director – The PMO needs to be led by an experienced project manager who leads, not a leader who manages projects. If your PMO director spends too much time leading projects, he will not be there to support staff and knock down barriers.

Experienced project managers – Staffing your PMO with PMP certified project managers sounds good, but PMP certification is no guarantee of success. You must have PMs who have led projects and know how to make good decisions and can interface successfully with their teams and their customers.

Repeatable processes – Finally, the PMO needs repeatable processes, useful templates, planning documents, and policies to succeed. A sound methodology to follow. Success needs to be repeatable, not something you fall into.

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About the author: Brad Egeland is an IT/PM & Business Strategy consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience. He can be reached at, or you can visit his website at