The Rise of the Business Focussed PMO

  • Professional Services Director
  • IT Project Management
  • "The importance of the PMO in controlling costs; flexing resources for agility; helping drive and deliver business change – all these attributes have been a powerful force for good in IT Projects!"

  • This feels like a door we’ve been pushing at for a long time. Companies and organisations seeking greater efficiency and tighter monitoring and control of IT projects opened Project Management Offices (PMO) and quickly got the results that they desired and more!

    As IT Projects became more business case led, as IT departments transitioned from backroom support to facilitators of business change, it seemed a natural progression for the PMO to become more business focussed. If you were to create a Venn diagram of business needs and the natural PMO skillset, this progression would be even more of a no brainer.

    The importance of the PMO in controlling costs; flexing resources for agility; helping drive and deliver business change – all these attributes have been a powerful force for good in IT Projects!

    All these skills seemed easily transferrable to the wider business mission and, at a time when companies are having to keep an even closer eye on costs, it almost feels negligent not to deploy them.

  • What is a PMO?

    First, let’s be clear what a Project Management Office is. A PMO is an internal or external resource that sets, maintains and ensures standards for project management across the organisation. So, the PMO is your one-stop shop for best practice, project status and mission direction.

    As Brian Weiss, of the Project Management Institute, says, “At the end of the day, PMOs are in place to help organisations deliver value to their stakeholders to projects and programs.”


    Did you notice - nowhere in this resume do I mention IT? That’s because ‘a project is a project’ – it doesn’t matter what it’s deliverables are - the skills needed to deliver business change are the same as the skills needed to deliver an IT Project – why wouldn’t you leverage them?

    Success in numbers

    A recent PMI Pulse of The Profession report (sub-headed “Success Rates Rise”) found those companies that aligned their enterprise-wide PMO to strategy had 38% more projects meet their intended goals and deliver on business need, they also had a third fewer projects considered to have failed.

    It’s a success rate that can be copy/pasted to other aspects of your business.

    So why are many PMOs hard-wired to be an IT only resource?

    We hear many explanations as to why firms and organisations are not accessing the benefits of a PMO in a wider business context, distilling them down they largely fall into three key categories:

    1 – It hasn’t dawned on many businesses that the skills held by the guys driving IT change (with great business success) can also drive more general business change, efficiency and even growth.

    When we point out the transferrable attributes, they are usually sold on the idea but reluctant to ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’ – they express a concern that expanding the responsibilities of the PMO might dilute its efficiency.

    2 – Some PMOs lack confidence to leave their comfort zone. If you’ve created a reputation delivering your organisation’s IT projects, why risk it by dabbling where you don’t perceive you have experience? Again, when we point out those obviously transferrable attributes, they get it but are also nervous about diluting their potency by widening their portfolio.

    3 – The business doesn’t have a Project Management Office. Working with Project Management Offices as regularly as we do, we are still a little surprised that some organisations haven’t opened a PMO! In a recent survey close to nine out of ten businesses either had one or were planning to open one – there is a reason for that!

    We have some sympathy - especially with points 1 and 2 and even point 3.

    Writing for, Andy Jordan shares this golden rule:

    “A business-focused PMO is very different from a traditional PMO, and organizations cannot assume that an existing function can be evolved; it may require a completely new structure to be created.”

    He writes, “A PMO in IT (or any other department) was created in order to improve project execution within the department. While there can be discussions about how effective an individual PMO has been at achieving that, the intent was to make the mechanics of project delivery more effective and efficient. This is one of the biggest challenges in evolving a PMO to become business focused—it risks moving the PMO away from its primary purpose as far as the organizational reporting lines are concerned. I’m not suggesting that department heads are in any way opposed to the concept of a business-focused PMO, simply that they don’t want to have to pay for the creation of one by giving up on the services of their existing PMO function.”

    So, it’s natural to have those concerns. It’s how you address them where the gains are to be had.

    Fortunately, there is a solution that addresses all three concerns.

    The Virtual PMO

    Stoneseed’s virtual PMO service offers you benefits of Project Management Office, without the commitment of a full-time resource on-site and without spreading your existing PMO too thinly!

    The Virtual PMO is a flexible consultancy, where you can align resources as and when you need it to deliver specialised PMO expertise on a cost-effective, part-time basis. With low cost set up, it can be deployed to support just one project, multiple projects or a programme of projects in any geographical location. Virtual PMO can also be used as the starting point for establishing and evolving your Project Management capability.

    Stoneseed’s Virtual PMO supports your project activities across the 12 PMO knowledge areas, we offer three levels of PMO each of which builds upon each other; Basic, Standard and Advanced PMO. Download our brochure to find out more.

    The benefits of a business PMO

    We asked clients, colleagues and industry experts who had benefitted from a PMO with a wider portfolio to share the main rewards they had gained from doing so, they told us

    • Measurable, repeatable, sustainable long-term benefits to the business
    • Greater agility
    • Better alignment between projects and deliverables and corporate strategy and culture
    • More efficient sharing of resources, tools, methodologies, and techniques
    • Better development of project management methodology, best practice and maintaining of standards and faster identification of opportunities to share methodologies across the business.
  • Centre of excellence

    What these people are describing is a centre of excellence! Who wouldn’t want one at the heart of their business?

    The PMO is a place to develop great talent too. Increasingly we are seeing project managers promoted more quickly in organisations with a PMO. It’s anecdotal but a PMO encourages best practice and those delivering their best inevitably get noticed and marked for career progression - at a time of business uncertainty especially, this is a key retention incentive. This can even be achieved with a virtual PMO – everyone ups their game!

    We’d love to help you transition your existing PMO thinking into a fully functioning business PMO or perhaps help you start your PMO journey from scratch.

    Stoneseed VPMO brochure

    Author  Bio

    David Cotgreave MBA, BSc (hons), PRINCE II, is Professional Services Director at Stoneseed, with over 30 years’ experience in IT Project Management & Consulting. David has worked with organisations such as BT Engage IT and KPMG, before founding Stoneseed in 2009 and has gained considerable business experience whilst working with a wide range of organisations across the UK and Europe carrying out a range of strategy, review and implementation projects. David is currently responsible for leading the Programme and Project Management Services  PMaaS offered by Stoneseed.

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