Five tips for a winning PMO

Read time 3min 40sec

A winning project management office (PMO) is not one that has the latest technology, or implemented the bells and whistles. Rather, it’s one that has the support of the organisation it serves because it adds real value to the business.

That’s the view of Avonisha Parsotham, who heads up the PMO at Cummins Africa and Middle East, a diesel and alternative fuel engine and generator manufacturer and supplier.

Cummins Africa’s PMO was the 2018 winner of the South African regional leg of the annual international PMO Awards, which are held under the auspices of the PMO Global Alliance.

Speaking at the quarterly PMO Forum in Sandton last week, Parsotham told delegates that she had decided to enter the PMO awards in order to provide recognition of her team’s achievements, as well as to benchmark the PMO against others in the region, and to boost its standing in the eyes of other stakeholders within Cummins, both in Africa and the global organisation.

When she joined Cummins Africa in 2014, the PMO consisted of just two team members using Microsoft Project and Excel. Her goal had simply been to establish a basic project methodology for the many facility projects or capital investment projects undertaken by the company throughout Africa and the Middle East.

By 2017, the PMO had grown to eight team members, and its project scope had been broadened to incorporate business projects, including strategic projects and the establishment of new business entity start-ups.

One year later – the year in which it won the South African regional PMO award – the team had grown to 10 members. It partnered with the finance team for the management of the financial year-end closure. It had also introduced – and was conducting – change management throughout the organisation. It had implemented a formalised internship programme that was used to promote a broad, company-wide understanding of project management and the PMO and was also recruiting potential PMO team members.

In pure number terms in the past year, the PMO delivered projects to the value of $22 million, spread across one large facility project, five smaller projects, one business programme, and another five smaller business projects with a cost variance saving of 0.64% and over $2 million saved as a result of supplier negotiations, and value engineering of scope and budget.

Parsotham attributed the success of the Cummins Africa PMO to five main factors, which should be the goals of every PMO leader.

1.      Stakeholders – buy-in and PMO championship

Develop champions in the organisation at various levels who will advocate for the PMO and recognise that it can take on different types of projects. “Don’t just think of PMO delivery as compliance with governance of PMbok. Rather, reposition yourself as a partner to the business,” she said.

 2.      Business impact – meaningful reporting

Don’t report on project stats or PMO stats. “To add value, you have to give your business leaders meaningful information in a meaningful way. If that means ditching the bubble charts and prioritisation matrix, so be it,” she added.

3.      Governance – less red tape and more enablement

Make sure that your governance is collaborative. Ensure that it comes from the PMO team so that they are happy to be held accountable. Create an environment where they hold each other accountable and governance is not seen as a stick but a tool to help them be successful in their projects.

4.      Innovate – think outside the box

 “While I would like a textbook PMO, I see that only 60% of what my PMO is doing can be regarded as conventional PMO stuff. However, it’s the other 40% that is really creating value,” she said.

5.    Implement effective technology

Sophisticated project management systems that come with all the bells and whistles, if fully implemented, come with complexity and increased administration requirements – and can result in decreased buy-in from inexperienced users. “Start off with a system that is relatively easy to use, requires minimal training, and then progressively switch on the bells and whistles,” she concluded. 


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