Having worked for both internal Project Management Offices (PMOs) and external, customer facing PMOs, I have noticed some significant differences in the approaches and the value each of these PMOs brings to the table. The argument is an extension of the IT department discussion, and whether it serves the organization internally or can it also be leveraged to serve external customers?
External customers must be the focus of the effort. These are the customers that give the organization money to purchase the product or service the organization produces. If the organization is not operating efficiently, PMOs can help by executing projects that improve the organization’s ability to execute, but in the end, it is the external customers acceptance of the organization’s output that determines the organization’s success. And the benefits organizations derive from PMOs can also be extended to external customers.
When an organization delivers products or services to its customers, that activity can benefit from the discipline of a PMO. The application of project management principles to customer facing activities inevitably increases the probability of success. And successful delivery to customers is the name of the game.
So why is this not a universal thing? Why are customer facing PMOs not more common?
For one, there is an expense associated with a professional project management function. And that expense must be paid for by the customer. This increases the cost of the product or service, challenging the competitiveness of the organization. But the reality is that there is a higher probability of successful delivery with the application of professional project management to customer delivery activities.
How much does a failed customer delivery cost?
Large and sophisticated customers have PMOs of their own, and they can understand and appreciate the value of a professional project manager. However, this message needs to be built into the value proposition and the sales process. It cannot be a surprise or an “add on” cost after the sale.
On the delivery side, the PMO must build value by developing and adhering to a lean, efficient delivery methodology, one that can be easily communicated to the customer. The sales force needs to build the delivery methodology into the sales narrative. Customer facing PMOs cannot afford to spend cycles on processes or activities that do not add value to the customer delivery.
PMOs have a place in customer delivery and can be a differentiating factor that provides a competitive advantage, particularly in technology services and products. However, they need to be lean, efficient and laser focused on achieving customer objectives with the minimum amount of effort while increasing the chances of a successful delivery.