Donna Fitzgerald

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Donna Fitzgerald
Research Vice President
5 years at Gartner
31 years IT industry

Donna Fitzgerald focuses her research on strategies and approaches for using program and portfolio management as a way to create unique business value. Read Full Bio

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The Value Proposition of the PMO – Is it changing? (part one)

by Donna Fitzgerald  |  July 30, 2013  |  2 Comments

I’ve recently been spending a lot of time thinking about what our clients really need to know to be successful in running a PMO.  This is a little more difficult than it might appear because the first thing we need to convince people of is that what they think they should be doing according to all of their PMI oriented best practices and what they actually need to be doing are very different things.

For the moment I’ll spare you all a long rant on why this is true and just cut to the meat of my proposition.  The first is that consistency of process (if it ever had a value) is no longer enough to make the grade in the new normal.  Delivering the product of the project (i.e. what the customer really needed in the time frame it was needed by and at a price they can afford) is what is required.  Based on hundreds of calls with clients I feel it’s safe to say that most PMOs are coming up short in this area.

Before anyone starts getting defensive – I understand that it isn’t your fault.  That you don’t have resources to staff your projects, that the business doesn’t engage the way they should, that you don’t have good quality PMs, and the list goes on; but here’s the bad news – Management doesn’t careFixing it—whatever it is—is what you get paid to do.

How you react to the above sentence is the first challenge.  My view is that since most of you came up the ranks as working PMs you cut your teeth on the mantra “the difficult we do immediately – the impossible just takes a little longer.”  After all, managing a real project is not work for wimps.  The hours are long, the pressure is significant and the risk of catastrophic failure is ever present.  So the one thing I generally feel confident about is that an experienced and talented project manager, whatever else his or her shortcoming maybe is always up for taking on a difficult piece of work.

So here’s my challenge– if you are head of a PMO today there is a distinct probability that you may not be in that job in 3 years either because the job won’t exist or because you’ve been asked to find a new position elsewhere in the company (we are putting the odds at 50%).  What I’d like to do in this series of blogs is explore how you can take that probability down significantly.  There will definitely be work involved and you will have to be brave enough to do things other PMO managers probably aren’t doing, but the mark of a leader is a willingness to break free of the herd and lead into potentially uncharted territory.  The only thing you have to do now is decide if you are up for the challenge.  If you are then come join the LinkedIn Group and become part of the PMO Leaders Challenge.


Category: New Normal PMO     Tags: , ,

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Holger Heuss   August 1, 2013 at 11:22 am


    I come back to my good old question of asking what do you assume the “PMO” to be and which are the accountabilities associated…

    Given what I see as the different variants of PMO – I would be concerned to think that PM are naturally good in a PMO if we talk about an enterprise variant.
    For me, portfolio management is a different discipline (somewhat controversial compared to PMI, admittedly) which is only a relative but not a sibling to project/program management.

    Kind regards

  • 2 Donna Fitzgerald   August 1, 2013 at 11:40 am

    couldn’t agree more. It’s one of the reasons level 2 PMOs have so much trouble with “demand management” and ‘prioritization” all of which are code words for “we don’t do true portfolio management”.

    I think organizations struggle with the what and the whys of portfolio management and all the confusion around the topic (is any list of projects a portfolio? what does managing a portfolio really mean? What skills do you need to do portfolio management?). We have some good research on how to do classic investment oriented project portfolio management but an organization still needs to be ready to consume it.