Survey casts doubt on effectiveness of programme management offices

A major study has questioned the effectiveness of the way businesses run project and programme management operations.

A major study has questioned the effectiveness of the way businesses run project and programme management operations.

Over the past five years, a growing number of businesses have created professional project management offices (PMOs) to provide project management expertise to IT and other parts of the organisation.

But a survey from ESI International of 3,700 businesses worldwide reveals organisations are increasingly questioning the value of their PMOs and their ability to measure the effectiveness of their work.

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"The majority of organisations with PMOs understand the advantages that PMOs offer," said LeRoy Ward, executive vice-president and ESI International, which conducted the research. "But there are a numerous areas where PMOs need to step up their game."

The survey, which canvassed views of employees inside and outside the project management office, found many PMOs were more focused on process rather than strategy. Only 15% said they tracked the return on investment and the benefits of the projects they managed.

Some 60% said the value of the PMO had been questioned in their organisation and 40% said their PMO is only operating at a fair or poor level.

The research reveals a gulf between the project management function and the rest of the business including IT.

One of the key roles of a project management office is to train IT and other staff in best project management practice. But only 60% said their PMO was active in developing their careers.

"There are many people out there that really don't think the PMO is doing a good job in assessing their needs," said LeRoy Ward. "If I am out there and I feel I am being ignored, in my darkest moments I might have some questions about the PMO."

PMOs are strong at delivering hard project management skills such as project management methodologies, but less adept at measuring the impact of the training they offer on project and programme performance.

In Europe, Middle East and Africa, 25% of PMO staff say they do not measure the impact of training at all.

Ward advises PMOs to become more relevant to IT department by helping IT professionals gain formal certification in project management techniques that will benefit their career development.

"Certification is one way organisations can show an interest in the individual," Ward said. "For most people I meet in my travels, certification is important to them."

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