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Why having a PMO can save your IT project millions

A project management office is the key to communicating with the wider business

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It’s a common refrain that, in life, things are only as easy you make them. With this in mind, you’d think that implementing and managing a new IT project within any organisation would be a simple, easily achievable process, wouldn’t you?

The reality is, of course, rather different. Indeed, what many fail to take into account when they are at the project planning stage is the sheer number of stakeholders that need to be involved at every stage of the process. Think about it - when was the last time you saw a significant IT project implementation which sat in isolation of other business functions?

The truth is that IT projects - perhaps more than any other kind of project - have a significant impact on all aspects of how a business operates. It doesn’t matter if your organisation is large or small - everything from HR to finance and even procurement is impacted by IT, which means that the co-operation of each of these individual departments is vital if IT projects are to be successful.

All of which is why having a PMO, or Project Management Office in place is something that is increasingly becoming a critical component of how any modern day IT project is put together. For the uninitiated, a PMO is an internal group within a business that ensures projects are run and completed successfully, and within budget. More than that, however, it also acts as a key interface between the two sides of the business representing, respectively, the portfolio of business change and the ‘business as usual’ side of the organisation.

What this means is that it helps the wider organisation and each individual department to understand the project, its objectives and how it can positively impact on them. Without it, there can be a danger that internal departments either don’t take the project seriously, or don’t allocate enough of their time to ensuring that it is a success.

Perhaps, however, the most misunderstood function of the PMO is that of why it exists at all. It’s important to remember that the existence of a PMO is not the be-all and end all of an IT project - without it, projects will still take place, but it’s just more likely that they will be done very, very badly.

A good example of this is the UK Border Agency, which recently got so entangled in its IT project that it took its eye off what was actually needed. As a result, it eschewed a simple workaround which would have solved the issue and instead made a multi-million pound investment in software it didn’t need.

The bottom line is that IT projects are rarely as simple as they look on paper. The role of the PMO might not be one that grabs the headlines, but it is one that can ensure that projects are completed on time, within budget, and with the help of the rest of the business. And, of course, as the UK Border Agency has demonstrated, it can also help you to stay out of the headlines for the wrong reasons!

Posted by Pat Phillips, Practice Director at independent IT and business change professional services firm, Xceed Group

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