An investigation into the efficiency & effectiveness of Project Management Offices(PMOs)

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

PMOs are complex organisational-specific entities. Companies are increasingly establishing PMOs in search of more favourable outcomes for their projects. However, these PMO organisational structures are rarely found to survive and are often disbanded or transformed every few years. The PMOs implemented in the public sector are faced with the task of justifying their value to business over time. These PMOs function in particularly stressful environments as they run complex projects that are driven by politics. The public sector provides a unique context in that organisational transformation is likely to occur every few years with the election of a new political cabinet. The notion of a PMO is a relatively new phenomenon with limited research available at present. There are few practical and theoretical guidelines identified in the research literature. The public sector environment has received even lesser research despite offering a unique organisational structure that commonly undertakes large, complex and political-focussed projects. The purpose of this study is to seek a better understanding of the contribution made to public sector PMO value in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. An understanding of the efficiency and effectiveness factors involved can aid managers in identifying where to focus their efforts to ensure value-add of new services and products are achieved in the public sector. A mixed method research approach was employed to investigate the public sector PMO organisational environment case study, using interviews and a complementary survey. A model of the factors that contribute to the efficiency and effectiveness of a PMO was derived from the research literature. This was followed by an in-depth case study of a public sector PMO. The factors relevant to the case study were captured using interviews and then analysed using thematic analysis. The results were then compared to the model. The study revealed that most of the public sectors PMOs (77%) was found to be structured as virtual PMO offices with varying levels of capacity and authority. The results of the survey found that most of the PMOs focus in terms of efficiency was on productivity (60%), planning (20%), and profit (20%). In terms of effectiveness, the foci were mainly on responsiveness (40%) and flexibility, adaption and innovation (60%). It was concluded that project management maturity could be significantly improved by focussing on the areas that were lacking for these PMOs, i.e. benchmarking, hiring external consultants with PM knowledge and linking with external consultants.

Includes bibliographical references.