The five elements of a successful PMO

Dara Jafari
Decades ago, the idea of a council outsourcing the management of their projects would have been unheard of. But today, with increasing pressures on resources and scrutiny around spend, the idea of a Project Management Office (PMO) is becoming increasingly attractive to local authorities.

Having worked with a number of councils to manage their portfolios, I’ve pulled out what I believe to be the five most important elements of a successful PMO.

Efficiency

At its heart, a PMO is all about making projects more efficient. Using an external project management expert gives you access to not only people who live and breathe efficient project management, but to tried and tested PM tools their company has invested in.

Crucially, a PMO allows you to save huge amounts of time in tendering each and every project. We’ve estimated that for a typical £500k project, it takes a council approximately 450-man hours to set the project up to RIBA stage 1 – a PMO can do that in a quarter of the time, saving approximately £10k per project. If you have 80+ projects starting up every year, that adds up to a huge cost-savings!

Collaboration

For councils to be successful, they must collaborate, drawing in the best expertise to deliver the best services to their constituents. Collaborative working is a fundamental part of a PMO. Together, a PMO and a council can deliver not only more project, but better outcomes. 

Expertise

A good PMO gives a council unlimited access to experts, people with niche skills and with knowledge in areas that are at the heart of its strategy, whether that’s inclusivity or Net Zero.

Local supply

What is often overlooked is that a PMO can provide not only efficiency, but social value. If a PMO pulls together a local supply chain to deliver local projects, it can make a huge impact on jobs and skills in the area. The PMOs I’ve worked on that have had the most impact have been those that employ staff locally, both within the primary consultant company and the local supply chain.

Trust

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a good PMO must be grounded in trust. PMOs and councils work hand-in-hand to create long-term strategies. They work as a single, integrated team; not an outside body, but a key team member that is always present.

With councils across the UK looking to implement PMOs, it is imperative that we draw on best practice and lessons learned from what has worked in other cities.

For more information on how PMOs have worked for, and benefited, other councils, please contact me.

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