The Virtual PMO

A few of the most common questions we get at Pranagy Unlimited LLC are:
* Is a virtual project management office right for my organization?
* What does my firm need to start a PMO?
* What are the benefits of a PMO?
* How does my company start building a project management organization?

Here are a few answers…

Where the virtual PMO works

Collaborative corporate cultures are well suited to the virtual project management organization. In mid-2000, The New York Times Co. launched a virtual project management organization (PMO) with a decidedly different approach than the centralized model. The first PMO was “centralized with an iron fist,” says Vice President and CIO Michael Williams. ” Every task was reported, which was fine for that exercise, but it really wouldn’t work in our culture. After Y2K, we adapted a new PMO to our collaborative culture.” The current virtual PMO offers project management guidelines via an intranet.

What you need to start a virtual PMO

The virtual PMO starts with :
1. A Project Management methodology – this is often a collection of documents to fill out and who to send them to, and it should be supported by…

2. A Project Management Office, which contains the following:
• Guiding standards
• Business-led Enterprise Architecture preferences
• Methodologies (workflows, best practices, understandings)
• Process designs (functions, processes and procedures)
• Enterprise-wide quality and process initiatives (Balanced Scorecard, CMM, 6Sigma, ITIL, PMBOK, etc)

Communication in a virtual PMO

The matrix below is based on a table from Mastering Virtual Teams (Duarte and Snyder, 2001), can assist in choosing the appropriate technology based upon the purpose of the communication needed. As Figure 1 shows, synchronous multi-media communication is most effective. The firm’s staff may need to increase the use of electronic meeting system with audio/video and text and graphics to improve communication. One example of such a tool is WebEx. The firm may also want to consider expanding its use of instant message technology both internally, as well as externally.

Care should be taken when embracing an instant messaging communication tool. Workers that utilize instant messaging need to learn how to manage their time between their existing, familiar media, and this technology. One pitfall of instant messaging, if not addressed, is the potential for disruption. Instant message software often has settings to allow or disallow “pop-ups”, as well as setting the availability of status. Workers must learn how to set their status appropriately in order to effectively limit disruptions at times when their individual productivity would be negatively affected.

Figure 1: Communication Technology Effectiveness Matrix
Source: Duarte, Deborah L. and Snyder, Nancy Tennant (2001)

Benefits of a virtual PMO

Enterprise Level Benefits – The collaborative PMO offers benefits at the enterprise level, some of which include :
• Portfolio, Program and Project alignment
• Clear alignment of all project initiatives to business benefits
• Management processes for effectively identifying, assessing, selecting, and managing programs
• A ‘centralized’ view (a single view of activity, resource allocation, etc.) of all projects across all programs
• Operational visibility which makes it easier for management to see how resources are being deployed and utilized
• Pre-selecting which programs to target so the portfolio best matches the enterprise-resource-mix for maximum on-going yield to the business

System Level Benefits – A collaborative environment for programs and projects provides:
• Rationalized IS and IT architecture support costs
• Visibility of all projects across the business
• Consistent application of best-practice project management approach and techniques across the business
• An agile environment that continually captures information
• Effective resource utilization and skills visibility
• Reduced mail-server load
• Project activity, information and communications coordinated

Moving toward a virtual PMO

The objective would be to move to a fully collaborative environment so that there is a single source of project information across the enterprise.

Implementation steps

To implement a collaborative PMO a staged approach must be taken. The first stage has two objectives. The first objective is to conduct an analysis of the current state in order to assess project operation and methodologies.

This is combined with a secondary objective of communicating the business framework that the new environment will operate within.

The objectives are:

1. Analysis of your current methodology and its delivery mechanisms to understand and clarify potential impact

2. Communicating a business environment for collaboration framework
This is followed by a requirements analysis and a situational report that includes:
• Development of ROI
• Securing high-level management support and funding based on ROI
• Establishment of a stakeholder-led Project Review Committee

The virtual PMO framework is established within the context of portfolio, program and project management operations. When the virtual PMO framework is established and supported by collaboration it becomes an automated framework for the governance and operations management of programs and project management. An electronic ‘wrapper’ that delivers end user project services across the enterprise.

The collaborative business environment of the virtual PMO framework wrapper focuses on electronically delivering information, the workflows associated with program and project management and at a later stage, possibly automating the product/solution configuration processes. A collaborative business environment decreases politics, organizational resistance, and business silos.

Using a collaborative approach will also enable HR management services to be integrated into the process and indicate the operational, management and control mechanisms managing and delivering the outcomes of programs and projects which may be lacking, or are inconsistent across a number of areas of business operation.

The virtual PMO framework provides the organizational structure and technical enablers required to capture information effectively, continuously leverage knowledge in order to support increased economies of scale of operation and effectively manage business complexity.

Learn more about the virtual project management office at

Megan Santosus, Why You Need a Project Management Office; Jul. 1, 2003 Issue of CIO Magazine

BvW Global Pty Ltd and its Associated Partners Page 2 of 10; White Paper: Collaborative Project Management Office (PMO) New Ways of Thinking…