I received the August 2011 issue of PM Network in the mail today and one of its main articles (titled Selling the value of a PMO) caught my eye. I haven’t got my head sufficiently out of “vacation mode” to read this issue yet but this article’s title struck a chord. I’ve written previously about both the benefits and the challenges posed by PMOs and yet I’ve never directly challenged this necessity to “sell PMO value”.
It’s unfortunate but true that a reasonable percentage of PMOs that are shut down have their “plugs pulled” because of a lack of perceived value so this need to justify their existence is not likely to disappear any time soon.
However, this got me thinking about other areas of a business that are not always perceived as impacting the front-line – why do we never hear about the existence of HR or Finance departments being justified? My belief is that it comes back to the notion that project management is still not viewed as being a core function in most organizations. If it were, then while there would be a reasonable expectation of operational excellence which could drive the need to outsource commodity services (similar to how payroll functions are often fully outsourced while recruiting rarely is), the thought of completely shutting down a PMO would be as unthinkable as firing one’s entire Finance department.
This lack of clarity about the value that project management (and by association, those organization structures that support excellence in its execution) brings is seen beyond the enterprise – take a look at LinkedIn’s Project Management Answers forum – it has been filed under Business Operations, whereas Planning & Change Management are identified as “Management” topics.
Perhaps it will take a generation (or two) of successful PMOs to cement their status as being a fundamental support mechanism for a management discipline that is critical to business success.