Why is there a lack of consensus on the value and contribution a PMO makes to the business?

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O'Brien, Chris
Issue Date
MBA in Executive Leadership
Dublin Business School
Although a relatively new business phenomena the Project Management Office (PMO) has since its inception in the early 90’s presented itself in a number of guises and today has evolved into a strategic management unit that not only supports company strategy but is a main stakeholder in the decision making process. Many companies who seek to drive business performance through projects have taken the decision to establish PMO’s to manage programme and project activities across the organisation. Despite spending 25 years on this evolutionary path, opinion across industries and academics remains without consensus as to what role the PMO performs and what contribution if any it makes to business performance. Aubrey and Hobbs (2007) found that there was a significant variation in models deployed, their functions, and wide-ranging views on value, demonstrating the variance and broad range of PMO performance. Business managers consistently question the value that the PMO delivers and argue that the significant overhead associated with the structured approach to project management hampers decision making and reduces the flexibility needed to react to changes in implementation and scope. These positions are further nurtured as PMO’s often take on functions normally managed by the line removing elements of control and decision making they have grown used to. Previous studies found that “the justification of the PMO remains a recurring problem in organisations; with almost 50% reporting that the existence of their PMO has been recently questioned” (Aubrey & Hobbs 2007). Despite this finding, PMO managers and project professionals passionately argue that the structured approach to managing projects delivers real, sustainable and measurable benefits to the business. These entrenched and opposing tenets are central to the lack of consensus regarding the value and contribution a PMO delivers. In an article in 2001 Thomas et al pointed out that “After more than half a century of history in the management of projects, its contribution to performance is still not acknowledged outside the group of professionals who believe in project management” (Thomas et al 2002) The aim of this dissertation is to examine and interpret information from previous research and thinking, and using the output from this author’s research on the subject, try and advance the current body of knowledge and suggest an accord regarding the value and contribution a PMO makes to a business and its performance. Author keywords: Project management office, PMO, value, contribution