One of the most valuable but least talked about benefits that project management offices (PMOs) can offer is customer service.
In the non-PMO world, customer service is something that's tied to sellers focused on scooping up all kinds of customers, trying to swell their revenues by attracting any and all possible buyers for their products or services.
PMOs should behave the same way, but they should emphasise cost reduction rather than revenue, and relentlessly deliver value rather than focus on acquiring customers.
PMOs are service entities that sell their products and services to customers — the governance framework, divisional PMOs, project teams, and importantly, the business and IT department (the originators of projects).
What PMOs should not be are sellers of process, particularly complex process. And here's why. Focusing on process is a bad idea. It's guaranteed to ensure your PMO is viewed as a costly exercise, too focused on compliance and never quite able to perform and deliver value to the business.
And lack of performance is a big problem for PMOs. We've seen many PMOs who agree to adopt models of 'all things to all processes' which then proliferate across the project portfolio management (PPM) environment.
Their forlorn hope is that this will satisfy everyone. In practice, they end up satisfying no one. PMOs that add value work hard to deliver only that which is project-related and concentrate their efforts exclusively on delivering products and services to their customer segments.
This is where they most directly add value; it represents the ultimate payoff enabled by the leadership they show and the influence they develop through their relationships.
Traits of effective PMOs
Effective PMOs have but one raison d'être — to improve the lot of, and make life easier and more productive for, their customers. To do this, they must offer a clear, well-articulated value proposition — a simple statement of the benefits that the PMO provides, along with the approximate price it will charge each customer segment for those benefits.
Successful PMOs deliver concrete, observable value as a direct result of the products and services they deliver to their customers. These drive a range of valuable outcomes such as better project execution, more value, objective value-based investment decisions, effective governance, and greater project environment productivity with less risk and dramatically reduced cost.
They also segment their customers by product or service and then sell (or provide) solutions that meet the requirements of those segments. The reason for this is simple - all PMO customers are not created equal and have different needs.
It's pointless talking to senior members of a project investment committee about execution matters when really their interest lies in ensuring that project investment drives competitive advantage.
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