CIO Interview With Rob Meilen, CIO of Hunter Douglas: The PMO and CIO Relationship

Posted by Amy Fowler Stadler on 10/8/15 11:10 AM
Find me on:

Rob Meilen, Chief Information Officer at Hunter Douglas

Leading up to our Colorado PMO Forum, we had the opportunity to sit down with Rob Meilen, Chief Information Officer of Hunter Douglas, and discuss the structural and personal relationships between CIOs and PMOs, the characteristics of successful PMO leaders and offices, and the career path from PMO leader to the CIO seat.

Keeping with our PMO forum theme 'From the CIO Seat', we asked Rob to address two broad areas of questions from his point of view as Chief Information Officer:

  • What do you REALLY need from your PMO Leaders?
  • What does a PMO leader need to do to get to the CIO seat?

Read on for a CIO’s perspective on what is critical for PMO leaders to put into practice.

1. What do you REALLY need from your PMO Leaders

At your organization, what is the purpose of your PMO and what do you want it to accomplish?

Our PMO started as consultative and is moving towards more prescriptive.  We started with a small number of folks (PMs), both managing projects and teaching others.  We wanted to make everyone better at managing projects and also to play a role around IT processes and governance. 

What about 12 – 18 months from now?

I see it continuing to evolve to be more prescriptive.  Also starting to take on program management.  More of an emphasis on metrics and measurement. 

Is it an IT PMO or Enterprise PMO?

IT…mostly focused on project delivery.

Do you have multiple PMOs in your organization?

No we do not.

What role do you feel the PMO plays in supporting IT and corporate strategy?

Our PMO has not had a role in facilitating the development of an IT strategy. It hasn’t been a primary role as it relates to aligning with IT strategy. The new steering committee is looking for more information about the project portfolio (want to be leaner, cost containment).

There are lots of forms of PMOs (administrative/ reporting, project delivery, Center of Excellence, etc.). What do you feel determines the appropriate form and why in a given IT organization? 

All politics are local, understanding internal company dynamics and needs, maturity, stir it all together to decide on the right form. Also think about what’s hot right now.

Where (in terms of capabilities, function, etc.) have you seen PMOs succeed and fail in the past?

If it’s a PMO involved in project delivery, have projects succeed in ways that business sponsors notice and attribute to the PMO. On the flip side, a PMO or PMs that are too methodology focused tend to lose site of the bigger picture, the organization rejects the organ transplant.  Success or failure also rests on communication skills amongst leaders, PMs, and executives. 

Why do you think PMOs tend to come and go with an average lifespan of less than three years before they implode and are eventually reinvented?

Sometimes it’s driven by business cycles, from expansion mode to contraction mode, it’s a common lever to pull to cut back on projects and therefore, PMs or the whole PMO. Same thing with programs if cycling down.  PMOs come about and flourish to a large measure based on the sponsorship of the CIO. If there is a CIO change, that could impact the PMO.

If there were one “thing” you could tell a PMO leader in terms of being successful, what would that be?

All politics are local, understand what succeeds inside the business and tailor accordingly.


2. What does a PMO leader need to do to get to the CIO Seat


Do you see a potential path from PMO leader to CIO? 

Yes, if that person has other relevant experience in IT. The decision maker is going to want to know other aspects the candidate knows.

What qualities, traits, and experience do you look for in a PMO leader?

Good knowledge and skills and basics around project/program management, financials, great communication skills with lots of different types of people and levels, patience and lots of persistence, diplomacy, high integrity, high honesty, credibility, trustworthiness, and accuracy.

What other career paths can you think of for PMO leaders?

In larger organizations, Chief of Staff kinds of roles. If a business is growing new products or lines of business, the PMO leader can greatly help with that.  Process engineering or operations research kinds of groups.  Enterprise PMO leader, even a Marketing PMO leader.

If there were one “thing” you could tell a PMO leader in terms of career advice for becoming a CIO or other corporate advancement, what would that be?

Sounds sort of obvious, but keep focusing on business success, and really dial in the communication side of things. Some of this is about luck and timing and building relationships with those making those decisions.

A big thank you to Rob for taking the time to sit down with us and share his expert insights!

With the average lifespan of a PMO office at just under three years it is critical to identify the warning signs that your PMO may be on the brink of disaster. We teamed up with Innotas to explore this crucial topic in the partner webinar ‘10 Signs You Need To Reinvent Your PMO’.

Watch the webinar recording to ensure you can identify red flags before they become unmanageable problems!

10 Signs You Need To Reinvent Your PMO

What are some of the characteristics you like to see in PMO leaders? Do you think there are other ways for a PMO leader to make it to the CIO seat? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Topics: Executive Playbook, PMO