Importance of the right sponsorship for a PMO

Comments Off on Importance of the right sponsorship for a PMO 06 September 2011

As discussed in post How to set up a PMO, the correct level of PMO Sponsorship is critical for the PMO to achieve success.

Clearly Defined Sponsor

When you are in the midst of setting up a PMO, confirm there’s a obviously defined sponsor. If you do not then the PMO won’t be seen to having any real authority. This could usually result in many of the project managers either doing the absolute minimum in respect of requests or nothing whatsoever.

Type of Sponsor

Ideally the PMO ought to have a sponsor who is part of upper managers. This will supply the PMO with credibility as the PMO will receive a level of referred authority.

PMO Sponsor Behaviours

The PMO sponsor must entirely ‘buy-in ‘ to the purpose and value of the PMO. This will enable them to be an envoy to their peers and to other members of staff. If they do not ‘buy-in ‘ and are only doing it because they need to or nobody else available, this is terribly threatening. Project Managers and other staff members will quickly pick up on this and you will find it terribly hard to get successfully running.

In this eventuality you may often find that the PMO will make a request, the project manager will escalate to their line manager, the line manager will then go directly to the sponsor and they may agree it does not have to be done. The PMO’s authority is totally undermined and the project manager will know that they can do the same continually to push back.

The sponsor should generally be an affiliate of upper managers. This is critical as this will provide a level of referred authority.

Bullet Point Plan

– So what are you able to do about this? Like many things in life it’s best to have a strategy and address these potential risks before they happen.
– Ask who the sponsor is? If they are not senior enough or do not have the required amount of respect/authority, raise this with your line manager to encourage a level of executive support. Spell out that you would like this to be a success and that sponsorship is vital.
– Meet with the sponsor. Find out how committed they’re. Remind them of the responsibilities and that for the PMO to be successful you want their support. Make it clear that they have got to be careful not to let the PMO be undermined by consenting to direct requests/dispensations for individual projects. Remind then that you both can only be successful by collaborating.
– Set up frequent update meetings to keep the sponsor updated. This could enhance trust, permit you to talk about successes and most critically make them mindful of any issues before they hear it else where (or worse are caught out in a meeting with their peers).
– Constantly remind them of the value of what’s been achieved.

It is always better to have these conversations at the start of a project, not when issues have happened and become emotional.

Simon Wilkinson is the owner of Practical PMO. He writes a regular blog that provides practical understanding of setting running a successful Project Management Office. Covering simple questions like “What is a PMO?”

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