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This is an informal overview of setting up a PMO in an organisation. It looks at what a PMO can do, the steps to take, making it work and retaining support. Areas touched on include benefits, direction, organisational structure, co-operation and change.

Author: Dave Roney Consultant at i3Works

What is it?

So, you’re thinking about whether setting up a PMO (Portfolio, Programme or Project Management Office) is right for you. A PMO is more than a centralised project team, it is a great enabler of benefits. On a business level it links your projects to your business strategy, it identifies dependencies and it provides the governance, planning and risk management to deliver to cost, time and quality. At a programme level it contains the knowledge management and best practice to ensure benefits are realised and benchmarked.

Setting it up

If you’re going to set up a PMO you must do so with the commitment of the business behind it with the first job you have being to agree a vision and/or charter. This sets out the need and reason for the PMO to exist and explains where it sits in the business. It gives it direction, the authority to be able to operate effectively and specifies what it will and will not do.

The next step is to consider how your business currently operates and how you want it to in the future. Will you need to restructure to staff the PMO? Perhaps develop new processes and templates? Or focus on working with the partner business areas most commonly involved with projects (such as procurement, IT and communications) to prevent capacity bottlenecks and agree resourcing and prioritisation strategies?

While this is going on it is vital to identify and work with your stakeholders. As with a project (which this essentially is) you need to know what the stakeholders want to get from it and what motivates them. It is highly likely that you will also want to include some of them in the governance team who will provide oversight and control. Again, as with a project, agreeing this control is hugely important as it establishes how progress will be monitored and checked and the mechanisms for managing issues.

Staffing the PMO is next on the list. Whether you have restructured or recruited to fill the positions, you will have done so with a firm idea of the types of role needed in the team. For these roles to be carried out effectively it is essential to understand what skills the team already have in place and what training needs there are. Once identified, this training can then be produced as a professional development package.

Getting it to work

You now have the PMO set up and staffed by people with the right skills, so how do you make sure it works? Change management is key here and must be tackled both emotionally and logically. You need to keep engaging with and selling the idea of the PMO to the business and staff, identify and implement any change enablers, remove obstacles and make sure your ideas and direction are known and understood.

Retaining support

Finally, how will you retain support? To ensure on-going support the PMO has to establish credibility and impress. Benchmarking must be carried out on all work to show tangible gains and beware of over selling as setbacks at an early stage may make it hard to regain momentum.

The best and safest way to do this is to produce some small, quick wins. Concentrate initially on projects with supportive management and a high likelihood of success.