Establishing a PMO Culture

David Clifton
Project Management Offices bring global best practice to Middle East clients.

Project management office (PMO) has become the mainstream organisational structure for standardising the practices of companies delivering large capital projects and programmes. Middle East government entities increasingly want to embed these global best practices into their delivery.

The PMO is a group or department within an organisation, responsible for defining and maintaining the organisation’s project management standards. The PMO aims to standardise and introduce economies of repetition in project execution, and is the source of project management documentation, guidance and metrics.

The PMO is a group or department within an organisation, responsible for defining and maintaining the organisation’s project management standards.

Maturity levels vary for PMO implementation in the Middle East region. In the UAE, Dubai clearly leads the field, having begun its PMO journey over ten years ago. Kuwait, too, has made good inroads.

Qatar has identified and implemented a strong PMO-led delivery solution due to the volume of construction activity around the 2022 FIFA World Cup and the country’s 2030 National Vision. We are working with our parent company Atkins to support Ashghal (Public Works Authority of Qatar) on the Central Planning Office (CPO) to co-ordinate major multi-billion dollar transport and infrastructure projects.

Saudi Arabia also has a huge volume of work, and acknowledges the part PMO and PgMO (Programme Management Office) will play in its stated aim of developing a programme management culture for megaprojects.

Effective PMO harnesses the application of integrated software management across the supply chain.

Effective PMO harnesses the application of integrated software management across the supply chain. As the drive for best practice continues, we can expect to see the region adopt Building Information Modelling (BIM) to streamline the delivery process.

Dubai Municipality, for example, is mandating the use of BIM for Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing (MEP) submissions on projects in the near term. Saudi Arabia is also keen to move towards widespread BIM adoption, to enhance clash detection and gain better surety on time and cost parameters.

Establishing a PMO culture can transform the in-house workforce and its systems. However, empowerment and engagement of stakeholders are needed to transition the organisation to new working ways. To institutionalise the necessary skills, commitment is needed from the organisation’s highest level.

Establishing a PMO culture can transform the in-house workforce and its systems.

Our experience is that mid-range management commitment is the most challenging to secure, as new systems can be perceived although it takes time for new methods to be understood, accepted and implemented.

Other challenges include lack of defined project scope, lack of stakeholder management and lack of realistic schedules. The PMO approach tackles these issues, but needs senior governmental or board level support and, in some cases, legislative changes to make long-term improvements to procurement strategies.

In-house teams may not be fully equipped for PMO development and implementation, and consultancy input can provide the necessary leadership. Faithful+Gould is driving several initiatives that bring PMO culture to the Middle East, setting new benchmarks for world-class delivery.

One of our most mature examples is our work with Kuwait’s Ministry of Public Works (MPW). We have trained a team of 250 MPW professionals to manage and operate projects, as part of a PMO initiative that brings culture change and greater efficiency to the Ministry. The resulting PMO capability will enable MPW to exercise ongoing control throughout the project lifecycle, including efficient whole life operation and maintenance of completed projects.

We are also working in an industry advisory board with Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Economy & Planning, to develop a PMO brief and provide initial parameters to enable successful programme and project delivery. Saudi Arabia is keen to improve its project and programme performance, in a context of updated construction practices – moving towards a model of best value, not best price, for example.

There is growing emphasis on the legacy aspect of PMO services. The organisation needs to have ownership of the completed solution at the end of the implementation commission, to ensure successful change management and continuous improvement. PMO design must therefore be adaptable, enabling the organisation to be consultative, directive or controlling; facilitating growth and maturity, to deliver maximum value to the organisation. The improved skills base should support a globally attuned business culture and address succession planning.

Faithful+Gould provides PMO services globally in a wide variety of public and private sector commissions. As well as training and professional development support, our PMO service encompasses communication and change management, and space management, in government, real estate, construction, IT platforms and facilities management.

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