PMO Governance: The Good, Bad and Ugly

PMO Governance: The Good, Bad and Ugly

Insights | 28 July 2015

Mention the term governance and the responses typically range from: controls, framework, templates, accountabilities, rules, assurance, policies, procedures, standards, to the ‘police’.

What does governance mean to you, your PMO, your organisation? Is it supportive or merely a hindrance? Is it about ‘big brother’, an unnecessary overhead or simply assumed? Do you have the ‘right’ level of PMO governance in your organisation? More importantly what is the ‘right’ level of governance?

Governance in a Corporate Setting

If we go back to the origins of why we focus on governance, consider the Governance Institute of Australia’s definition: “… the system by which an organisation is controlled and operates, and the mechanisms by which it, and its people, are held to account. Ethics, risk management, compliance…are all elements of governance”.

All quite applicable in a PMO context. Regardless of whether we are operating in a PRINCE2®, PMBOK® guide, waterfall or an agile environment, (yes, even agile) some form and level of governance is required.

If you aren’t convinced go check out the antonym for governance: think weakness and incapacity. Not concepts we want to associate at a corporate or PMO level. Effective governance is a fundamental and necessary pre-requisite for an effective PMO.

Effective Project and Programme Governance

Governance for the PMO should be about pragmatism not bureaucracy. Think about it in terms of protecting reputation and capacity to succeed.

So do you have effective processes and procedures (including for example, templates and role descriptions) for how project and programmes are setup, managed, monitored and controlled? They could incorporate the PMBOK® guide, PRINCE2, agile, MSP® or even the latest PRINCE2 Agile™.

Your project and programme management methods/systems are your governance frameworks. To be effective they must be appropriate, understood and respected. It is not about overburdening or overwhelming a simple project with countless templates and signoffs. It is about the appropriate level of control given project and environmental factors; it about ‘doing things right’.

Effective Portfolio Governance

When we turn to portfolio management the focus should always be back to ‘Are we strategically doing the right initiatives?’ Governance at a portfolio level encompasses:

“…the structures, accountabilities and policies, standards and processes for decision-making…to answer the key strategic questions: Are we doing the right things?, Are we doing them the right way?, Are we realizing the benefits?”

Management of Portfolios (MoP®), AXELOS 2011

6 key factors to consider in Effective PMO governance

So next time you are talking about governance consider the following factors. Do your governance frameworks:

  1. Advise and guide (not manage and execute)
  2. Endorse and adapt best practice and standards
  3. Focus on ‘Doing the right things’
  4. Promote leadership
  5. Prioritise
  6. Provide decision making and direction

PRINCE2, MSP and MoP are registered trademarks of AXELOS Limited

PRINCE2 Agile is a trademark of AXELOS Limited

PMBOK is a registered markof the Project Management Institute, Inc.



Speak to our Principal Consultants for advice on Governance within your PMO and organisation. +65 6818 5771.

Click here for more information on our Management of Portfolios (MoP®) Course.

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