The Project Notebook

Forms of PMOs: Departmental

When I was with Siebel Systems (now a part of Oracle) the Global Services organization had its own PMO. To the best of my knowledge, it was also the only PMO in the company and the Engineering function had a different management structure. The primary focus of the PMO was naturally on client engagements, but it had evolved into an interesting structure.

Roughly half of the approximately 30 people were considered the “practicing” PMO. The practicing PMO monitored client engagements to identify those with high risk, supplied senior personnel to review projects and project managers, and delivered a set of project related services to clients and client engagements. I was part of the other half which was primarily methodology development. We maintained and improved the methodology by which client engagements were delivered and managed and as well as created and maintained the project-related services delivered by the practicing side of the PMO.

Working in methodology was a really good fit for me. Having spent many years managing projects and creating tools and templates and no stranger to having colleagues around the world, I had a lot to offer. I created a Risk Assessment Workshop which was delivered by the “practicing” half of the PMO and developed and patented the Siebel Estimating Tool to estimate projects involving pre-written software modules. These were created in response to business problems reported by Global Services management and the practicing PMO.

The most interesting part of the PMO was that it was virtual. The manager was at Siebel HQ in San Mateo, my manager was in Atlanta, and I had colleagues in Denver, Mexico City, London, Sydney, and elsewhere. This meant lots of email, conference calls, and occasional trips to San Mateo and Atlanta for face-to-face meetings. So we were far from the “typical” departmental PMO.

I hope you found this brief profile of a specific departmental PMO interesting. Obviously PMOs of this nature focus on business and project issues of the department they are associated with. I’ll take a look at some other organizations in the future.

Forms of PMOs: The Project Support Office

In my capacity as Component Mentor this week, I came across a question about the forms of Project Management Offices or PMOs. As some of you may know, there is currently no one anwer for this. The PMI PMO Specific Interest Group is currently tackling standards for PMOs, so this may change in a few years hence. In the meantime, I thought it might be useful to my readers to provide some high level information about the Project Support Office I direct.

Like all good PMOs, the PSO started with executive sponsorship, a business case, funding, and a mission. Our funding was provided in the form of a fractional resource from each functional department with the mission of providing project and project-related services back to them for both internal and external projects. Internally, we mostly handle product development projects. Externally, we focus on client implementations of these products.

Being a small company of around 50 employees, this translates to many different things. For product improvements, we gather and write requirements and shepard them through to production,often contributing to testing and developing roll out plans. For client implementations, we exercise our client project methodology, developing plans, implementing products, loading data, and managing the project.

Some astute observers may have noticed these contributions revolve around client and professional services, product development, and project management type functions, but doesn’t really touch on departments like sales and finance. So how do we provide services to them?

Our sales environment is very heavily RFP driven, so working on RFP responses is a great way to train new project managers on the products and introduce existing project managers to client needs and expectations. Experienced consultants have established deep product expertise and participate in and often lead sales demos. Like most small companies with efficiently managed resources, we need to “wear many hats”.

During the coming year, we plan on increasing our focus on projects and clients, along with our own “people” development, examining each function carefully for alignment to this main mission. This means, for example, that if we do not take on any new project managers, our participation in RFP responses may be limited and we will focus more on what our experienced project managers can do for clients.

In some future weeks, I’ll tackle some other forms of PMO, so if you have a particular interest, please drop me a comment to this post or email to Here’s to a New Year of successful projects!

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