Establish a top-class PMO in 8 steps

You’ve had a chance to read all about PMOs and why they’re so valuable to the future of an organisation. You’re sold, and you need one in your organisation now! So how do you get started? It may seem like a daunting task and every other website is giving you a different process. But don’t worry! We’ve put together the clearest and most practical guide to starting up your PMO.

Why should I establish a project management office?

There are plenty of benefits to establishing a project management office in your organisation, including:

  • Giving your organisation greater transparency and detailed understandings of their projects
  • Aligning all project activities to the organisation’s strategic goals
  • Optimizing an organisation’s resources and portfolio
  • Achieving consistent results through project governance and standardization
  • Improving communication and collaboration between teams and departments
  • Facilitating the sharing of resources, methodologies, tools and techniques to improve project success rates
  • Supporting project teams so they have everything they need to be high performers

If you’re still not sold on the PMO, read more about how they can make a difference in your organisation here.

The 8 steps to establish a top-class PMO

Establishing a PMO can be approaches like starting a project with clear gates and milestones to be met and cleared. However, note that not all these steps are directly sequential so refer to our flowchart below to guide you through the process. Now let’s get started!

Establish a top-class PMO in 8 steps

Step one: Establishing management buy-in & sponsorship

Having the support and backing of the senior management is one of the most critical first steps you need to make. A PMO will often bring a lot of changes with them as they bring in new standards and processes. If senior management is not sold on the purpose and value of the PMO, there would be natural resistance from everyone else to support the PMO. PMOs depend on trust, support and transparency of senior management and the wider organisation if they are to be truly successful. 

A key way to secure buy-in is to directly show the return on investments the PMO will bring and provide a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis that shows how much value a PMO can bring. Setting your PMO up for quick wins in the short-term will also help secure buy-in and support as the PMO grows.

Step two: Setting up the framework and planning

This is where you set the foundational goals, vision and mission of your future PMO and how they align and address your organisation’’s greater strategic goals. At this step it is common to create a charter document that will clearly outline these goals and objectives so they can be effectively communicated to all key stakeholders involved in the establishment of the PMO.

At this level, you are making a decision on what type of PMO you want to establish and their intended function. This choice is typically informed by the size of the organisation, the amount and type of projects and the organisation’s current project management maturity level. 

Step three: Conducting organisation assessment and gap analysis

Beyond assessing the organisation’s current PPM capabilities, the establishment team also needs to assess the current project management practices, team readiness for change and organisational environment to gain a bigger overall picture of their current position. This allows the team to understand the gap between their current state and their desired position post-PMO establishment.

The gap analysis critically provides a deeper understanding of the amount of effort needed to achieve the PMO goals and lays out a clear step-by-step path to achieve it. Information from surveys, interviews and questionnaires are often very useful to gain both qualitative and quantitative data that can better inform the PMO establishment process.

Step four: Hiring your PMO team members

This step can be conducted simultaneously with steps six and seven, though it is recommended to not be done prior to the first three steps. Depending on the type of PMO, you may either have PMO-centric operational staff alone or also hire direct PMO project managers. Depending on the needs of PMO, team members need to fill the functions the PMO was designed to provide and must have skills that match those functions.

A typical PMO team will have the following roles (though not limited to these):

  1. PMO director
  2. PMO managers
  3. PMO analysts and coordinators
  4. PMO support staff

Depending on the size of your PMO, you may need to also hire project, program and portfolio management staff. It is best to hire your PMO director early within the process so they can provide their expertise and knowledge and inform the decision making process of the PMOs establishment.

Step five: Training team and project managers

This step should be carried out once the project management framework, processes and systems have been selected so staff are being trained with the relevant information for the PMO future mode of operation. Often, both new and pre-existing staff may not have a deep understanding of the systems intended to be put in place and need the appropriate training to allow them to make the most out of the PMO frameworks right from the start. This is important to set the PMO up for early success, an important factor to securing long-term management buy-in to the PMOs activities. 

Step six: Developing the project management methodologies, processes and templates

There are many different project management methodologies that the establishment team can choose to develop their processes from. These methodologies suit different types of PMOs, organisations and their desired functions. Once a methodology has been selected, a clear process for how projects should be carried out is documented and communicated in a way that can be easily understood and applied by the user. Several different forms include flowcharts, step-by-step documents, a project gate evaluation system, clear communication frameworks, and much more. A standardized template is then made to be used by all teams and projects within the organisation.

Team and staff members may need some training sessions to ensure everyone knows how to use the proposed methodology, process and templates. It is important that this training is clear so team members do not revert to bringing old habits into new processes.

Step seven: Deploying your project management software and tools

There are many project management and project portfolio management tools available on the market so it is crucial to pick the right tool most suited for your PMOs needs. It is important to set out a clear criteria for the specific features you need for your PMOs context and to not get lost in the fray of features and tools.

There’s no point in having 20 different fancy tools if your PMO has set out to improve their customer relations management system but the software is incompatible with them. Though most software will improve your productivity to a certain degree, you don’t want a software that only lifts half the load. To make it easier for you, we’ve written an introductory guide to PPM software that helps you pick the right one for your organisation.

Step eight: Implementing organizational change management

Change isn’t always easy and oftentimes people can resist it. Establishing a PMO can mean some big changes within an organisation and it is important to make sure you have a clear strategy in place to reduce resistance and ease the change process.

Several key ways of doing this is by involving senior management from the beginning to have leadership spearheading the change, constantly communicating with teams during the change process to make sure their opinions are being heard and considered, and constantly reinforcing the collective and individual value of the PMO for the organisation. Making sure everyone knows there is something in it for them through every step of the process will make them more open to the PMO and its future activities.

5 factors contributing to the successful establishment of a PMO

Though the previous steps will help you have a framework for the PMO establishment process, there are a few other factors you have to consider to make sure your PMO is not only running but truly successful.

Success Factor 1: Support from senior management

We may sound like a broken record at this stage, but that’s just how important this is! In his book Leading Successful PMOs , Peter Taylor identifies that getting organisation-wide buy-in is one of the biggest challenges of the PMO. PMO teams need to make sure all stakeholders are invested in the PMO and one of the best ways of doing that is getting leaders from the top pioneering the change. 

Success Factor 2: Clear vision, roles and expectations

Having clearly defined vision, roles and expectations of the PMO and members of the organisation allows for everyone to be more onboard with the changes. A clear vision is needed to communicate the value of the PMO to all stakeholders. Clear roles ensure everyone understands their responsibilities to collectively achieve the intended results. Clear expectations also make sure stakeholders are not missing disappointed and worsen team morale towards the changes.

Success Factor 3: Building trust

Sadly, many people may think of the PMO as the ‘project police’, waiting to nit-pick on their performance and find ways to cut their budgets. Sometimes teams can believe the PMO is there to support a specific team and their initiatives over the others. A lack of trust in the PMO becomes very problematic as the PMO depends on the trust and transparency of all its teams and members to be truly effective. Building trust comes from continual effort to both communicate the PMOs goals and achieve results that gain value for each team and member. You can’t just say your are for everyone without actually getting results that benefit them. 

Success Factor 4: Promoting transparency 

Building on the last point, with trust comes transparency. For too long many departments within organisations function as individual silos, keeping their practices, tools and results within their own departments. This can often be due to some underlying competitiveness between departments or simply because different departments function differently. One of the key benefits of a PMO is their ability to gather the golden recipes for project processes from all teams so every team does not have to reinvent their process every single time. PMOs make sure a winning recipe is shared with everyone. To facilitate this function, it is crucial for PMOs to promote transparency within their organisation and have everyone working together.

Success Factor 5: Producing successful results quickly

We’ve eluded to this within the blog, but getting quick results is critical to building confidence in the PMO. Often, both management and employees can be sceptical of the PMOs value and can view them as simply an additional unnecessary step within the bureaucratic process that won’t bring much value to them. Quick success helps build trust that makes the PMOs future activities much easier and much more effective.

pmo365 is ready to help you establish a top-class PMO

At pmo365, we love everything PMO. So if you want to establish your PMO, you know we’ll be supporting you every step of the way! That’s why we’ve put together a free downloadable guide that helps you find your next PMO star player to build your PMO dream team. We can even help you find those talented PMO leaders with our free PMO job platform.

Whether you need help establishing your PMO from scratch or maybe you need a PMO upgrade, we’ve got a service for you! Make sure to book a free demo and chat with your PPM experts so we can directly help you and your PMO.

Bill Allars

Bill Allars

Bill is a Business Development Manager with 20+ of experience in Project and Portfolio Management, Project Administration, Risk Management and Process Redevelopment.

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