Beyond Tools and Processes: Embracing a Human-Centered PMO for Project Excellence

Beyond Tools and Processes: Embracing a Human-Centered PMO for Project Excellence


By Jerry Black, Director of the Criterion PM Center of Excellence

The rise of project management software, Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools, and increasing technology automation is beginning to have profound impacts on project management and the role of the Project Management Office (PMO). While AI certainly lends itself to doing some functions of the project manager, such as assigning resources, balancing projects across a portfolio, and generating standard reports, our experience demonstrates that the human factor continues to be the linchpin for orchestrating successful endeavors. We embrace using AI tools and automated processes to free up valuable project manager time while maintaining that a human-centered Project Management Office (PMO) will remain crucial for the success of IT programs in the Federal Government.

The PMO serves as a central hub for project management excellence within an organization. While its main responsibility is to ensure work is completed on time and within budget, it also promotes efficiency, consistency, and transparency and plays a vital role in fostering effective collaboration and communication, which are essential for project success. Examining these functions of a PMO reveals that people-centered collaboration and communication are at the heart of each:

  • Standardizing project management processes, methodologies, and tools to ensure consistency while enabling communication and collaboration among project teams.
  • Defining project management policies, guidelines, and best practices to ensure projects align with organizational objectives, adhere to regulatory requirements, and follow appropriate project management standards.
  • Understanding and maintaining an overview of resource availability and demand across projects in order to identify and resolve resource conflicts, ensuring that the right people with the right skills are assigned to projects.
  • Establishing a framework for identifying, assessing, and managing risks throughout the project lifecycle to promote risk mitigation strategies, monitor risk exposure, and facilitate the implementation of risk response plans.
  • Leveraging past experiences and enhancing future project outcomes using a repository of project documentation, templates, and historical data developed and maintained via AI tools and automated processes.
  • Equipping teams with the necessary skills and knowledge to deliver projects successfully through project management training programs, mentorship, and guidance on project management methodologies.
  • Establishing communication channels, managing stakeholder expectations, and ensuring that project-related information is appropriately disseminated, which helps maintain positive relationships with stakeholders throughout the project lifecycle.
  • Enabling effective, data-driven stakeholder decision making based on all the variables of an organization, from project progress/status and key performance indicators (KPIs) to the pulse of the people in the organization and planned future actions.

Creating a PMO can be a complex endeavor, presenting organizations with several challenges during the implementation process, including organizational resistance and resource constraints. Addressing these challenges requires careful planning, effective change management strategies, stakeholder engagement, and ongoing communication. We have found that leadership provided by experienced subject matter experts who are wholly committed to helping the organization meet its mission more effectively can help overcome these obstacles by customizing the PMO to fit the organization’s specific needs and culture.

Despite advancements in technology, the human-centered PMO will remain a vital component in Federal organizations’ project management success. Its focus on collaboration, communication, and skillful adaptation – thoughtfully augmented by AI and automation – will ensure that Federal IT projects are delivered efficiently and effectively, contributing to better mission outcomes.