Project Management

Just say no to a centralized program management office

A centralized program management office may seem like a good idea in tough economic times, but don't overlook some hidden dangers. Share your views on PMOs with the Builder.com community.


So your company just announced another reorganization because of enduring economic pressures, and one of the suggestions is to centralize product and project management into one elite program management office (PMO). Senior managers argue that, by uprooting project managers from the development group and centralizing them in one location, the company will strengthen the product development cycle. While a centralized PMO sounds like a good idea on the surface, potential dangers could hamper the impact of this “elite” group.

Danger #1: The club mentality
Newly centralized PMOs run the risk of degenerating into a “club atmosphere” with a PMO vs. the developers attitude, in which the PMO is charged to “save the company” and “provide the development team some discipline.”

When a PMO becomes too much of a political entity, projects suffer because PMO members’ focus is on boosting their standing with the company’s executive team and backers instead of working with the development team.

Danger #2: The disappearing PMO
Separating program management from the development organization can also be the PMO’s exit from accountability for the day-to-day tasks of product development. When PMOs miss their deliverables or delegate too many tasks, such as requirements, documents, and functional specifications, developers and others will start to see them as a hindrance instead of a resource.

A PMO that disappears during the middle of a project loses credibility with the people who worked through the entire project. A PMO that reappears just before launch with a list of real or imagined issues only invites discord.

Danger #3: PMO politics
Corporate politics are a part of office life, but the rise of a new department like a centralized PMO can add new shades to an old issue.

When personal agendas overtake corporate agendas, critical development projects are hobbled by distrust and extra efforts to document steps in a bid to deflect any blame that might come if the PMO misrepresents a corporate project.

Danger #4: Drama school
If the PMO experiment begins to sour, PMO members may feel they need to justify the department’s existence. In other words, they’ll generate drama so other organizations will grasp the PMO’s importance. Of course, this comes after the PMO has lost touch with the daily grind of the development process.

Obviously, you may not have the power to prevent the creation of a centralized PMO, but if you find yourself a part of one, stay involved with the development team and pass on the unnecessary drama.

Centralized PMO?
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