Does anyone work with a central PMO (Program Management Office) or team?

Does anyone work with a central PMO (Program Management Office) or team?
If so I would love to hear your feedback, from a Product POV, what they do that you find helpful - and specific examples of things they do that you don’t find helpful.


I did.

Trying to encourage my new co to do it too.


@Ahmad, how did you find them helpful? Was there a specific thing they did that made your life easier?


@Heather, keep up the hygiene of our projects, use our tools in the most optimal way.

They don’t let sloppiness or unfamiliarity take root.


@Ahmad, that sounds a lot like what a lot of companies call “Product Operations” now. Is how you see the value of PMO different?


@Natasha, Yeah, I guess it’s the same.


@NatashaMartin, based on @Ahmad’s comments - how do you see the two overlapping? My impression is that Prod Ops is most focused on prod delivery but not necessarily the x-functional alignment.


Haha, well, I have to issue a huge caveat here that I foster a lot of bias and some baggage with regard to PMO, and I’ve never experienced PMO in a “modern” organization.

So, my extremely biased and probably naïve opinion is that the problem PMO has traditionally solved should be absorbed into mature product organizations. Within the teams I’ve worked with most recently, cross-functional alignment was the responsibility of the product teams or in some cases product leaders. Offloading this responsibility to a separate team never seemed to make much sense.

I’ll add to the caveat above that I’ve also never worked within a modern but giant tech company, so maybe some degree of scale makes PMO more relevant in contexts I just haven’t experienced…

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I echo basically everything @Natasha said above, especially the bit about how that work should be absorbed into mature and empowered product teams. Of the dozens of program managers I have worked with across 4 companies, I can count on one hand the number of actually useful program managers I have ever worked with. The caveat is that the biggest startup I’ve worked at had ~600 FTEs, but all others have been <200.The good ones saw their role as enabling the teams to do their best work vs the bad ones saw their role as telling the teams what to do, how to do it, and by when they needed to deliver it.

Good behaviors:

  • Strong partners with product managers and tech leads to understand what had to get done, and then always looking for ways to streamline coordination/administrative burden by either asking what non-core functions for us they could take for us, or proactively enabling us to spend more of our time in our areas of expertise vs. coordination.
  • Always looking for ways to evolve processes to better serve the people doing them.
  • Setup concise, easy to use (ideally automated), and repeatable methods to collect and distribute updates.
  • Constantly looking for BS meetings to cut, or replace with an async version.
  • Jointly identified dependencies between teams with PM and Eng, worked as a partner to define mitigation/coordination strategies, and then appropriately held us accountable for the activities WE agreed to together. Also totally receptive when new information causes a plan to change.
  • When a team escalates a problem, helps them figure out how to solve it on their own before pulling in execs. Help teach teams to unblock themselves.

Bad behaviors:

  • Try to take over prioritization responsibility and then communicate conflicting priorities to teams.
  • Tell engineers how to do their job and impose deadlines without any input from them.
  • Putting the onus on PM or Eng to “provide an update on this” with no structure or proactivity to do it themselves.
  • Escalate and then walk away. A mindset of, “hey, I escalated my team’s issue so my job here is done”.

As you can probably tell, I don’t think very highly of PMO in general. However the good ones I’ve worked with were fantastic partners.

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