The Role of the Project Management Office


By Andy Cuthbert



Taken statistically, 90% of companies consider project management competencies crucial, yet many still struggle to consistently manage projects effectively, improve processes and meet strategic business objectives.  According to the Standish CHAOS Report (2009) only 32% of projects were completed on time, within budget and delivered measurable business and stakeholder benefits, including quality. The reasons are complex and interwoven, according to a KPMG survey of 252 organizations, inadequate project management implementation constitutes 32% of project failures, lack of communication constitutes 20% and unfamiliarity with scope and complexity constitutes 17%. Accordingly 69% of project failures are due to lack and/or improper implementation of project management methodologies.

Standard processes and techniques used inconsistently by project managers results in project management applied in a reactive manner, the time required to manage projects proactively is not built into the workplan. Project management is considered ‘overhead’ and projects are ‘successful’ in spite of a lack of planning and project management, through heavy stress and overtime work throughout the life cycle. A Project Management Office (PMO) involved in project-related tasks will follow up on project activities, reporting on project activities, problems and requirements to executive management as a strategic tool in keeping implementation and decision makers moving toward consistent, business-focused goals and objectives; this is the department or group that exists to define and maintain the standards of processes and methods within the project management organization. The PMO strives to standardize and introduce economies of repetition in the execution of projects and is the source of documentation, guidance and metrics on the practice of project management.

The Pros and Cons

The University of Quebec at Montreal conducted a survey which revealed that the value and relevance of PMOs has been questioned in more than 50% of the organizations to have implemented one, but if the value cannot be described it will be difficult to persuade executives and sponsors that this is a required asset.   Furthermore, there is little consistency in how PMOs are implemented and the exact reasons for deploying project management practices are different from company to company due to unique cultures and methodology.

While it is now common to find a PMO structure in many organizations, research shows they play a wide variety of roles and while, in a multi-product line organisation, the majority of managers understand there is value to having this facility, most find it difficult to articulate the value proposition.


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About the Author

Andy Cuthbert


Having graduated from the University of London with a BSc. (Hons) Geology in 1981, Andy went on to complete an MPhil. in Geology before joining the Oil Industry in 1984. He has 28 years of oilfield experience, 10 years with Schlumberger and 18 years with Halliburton.  Amongst the years spent with Halliburton Andy has been involved in projects of ever increasing complexity involving the introduction and coordination of new technology.  Time spent as the Project Coordinator for the BG Group in Tunisia in 1995 was succeeded by Project Management in Norway in a production sharing project and on the Talisman Gyda project in 2004. A move to Malaysia in 2006 saw Andy leave project management to take up a regional management position for operations in Southeast Asia, China, the Indian sub-continent and Australasia.  A year after moving to Houston in 2009 he resumed his role in Halliburton Project Management and has participated in or is currently involved in projects in the USA, Tanzania, Singapore, India and most recently in Iraq .  Andy has written or co-authored drilling industry technical papers for the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) on both Directional Drilling and Multilateral Technology and given presentations to the SPE community all over the world.

His main hobby is rugby union; he is an International Rugby Board (IRB) Level II referee and currently lives in Houston with his wife and two children.  To contact Andy, send email to [email protected].  Halliburton’s corporate website is http://www.halliburton.com/.