Building Value Through Sustainable Project Management Offices

Abstract: Organizations’ attempts to implement and gain value from investments in project management have resulted in rapid growth and, in some cases, demise of project management offices (PMOs). The recent research literature on PMOs provides an ambiguous picture of the value case for PMOs and suggests the tenuous nature of their current position in many organizations. In studying project management implementations for the Value of Project Management project, we chose to use three detailed cases and comparisons with the remaining 62 organizations in the value project to study how PMOs are connected to value realization for organizations investing in project management. Specifically, we sought to understand how PMOs deliver sustained value to organizations. Using the theories of Jim Collins (Collins, 2001; Collins & Porras, 1994)) as an interpretive framework, we explore these cases to understand how to create and sustain project management value through investments in PMOs.

Reference: Project Management Journal, Vol. 40, No. 1, 55-72.

Link: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/122217098/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0

The paper reviews three companies’ PMOs in depth and compares them against some principles derived from Collins’ work, including:

  • Build a core ideology for the long term
  • Pick the right PMO leadership.
  • Staff the PMO carefully.
  • Create a culture of discipline.
  • Confront the brutal facts, but keep the faith.

While I have tremendous respect for Collins and his contributions, I am not persuaded his research results are intended to be applied to departments, or even divisions or business units, inside an organization. Thus I find the this research method very curious. I don’t think you can compare PMO leadership with organizational leadership at the top level. In addition, I question how were these three companies chosen (at random, or because they illustrated the conclusions the authors wanted to convey), and how were these particular principles from Collins’ works chosen?

The authors conclude that “we think effective PMOs continue to add value specifically by changing and reinventing themselves–as long as they stay focused on the principle of improving project management in the organization.” There is too little data to have confidence in this conclusion.