Building a PMO – Specific Techniques and Concepts

Most individuals within the realm of project management are intimately familiar with the concept of the Project Management Office (PMO). A centralized agency within an organization, the PMO serves the purpose of defining the process standards relating to project management. The PMO will be the one stop shop for all matters relating to project management and will strive to introduce standardization across projects within the organization. Depending on the structure of the organization (matrix, functional, projectized), the PMO could also be the primary reporting structure for the project and program managers that work within the organization.

PMOs are not always part of an organization. And if they do exist, they are often times segmented in specific lines of business rather than functioning across the entire organizational spectrum as a whole. The decision to utilize a PMO is one that has to be endorsed by the senior leaders of an organization who recognize the value add of a centralized agency responsible for project management and process standards.

With that being said, suppose you are an organization that recognizes the value of a PMO, but has not yet instituted it within your organization. How would you proceed and what steps should be taken to create a viable PMO that will serve the company well?

Receive Endorsement and Support from Senior Management

As alluded to earlier, senior sponsor support is absolutely imperative when beginning the process of establishing a PMO. There could be a requirement for an organizational change or a fundamental shift in the way the organization operates internally. With that being said, having the full endorsement and support of senior leaders is a must. Senior leaders will also have the clout and influence to be able to ensure adoption of any new processes or procedures that result from the new PMO.

Decide how the PMO will be Setup and Staffed

Depending on whether the PMO is part of a business unit or an over-arching entity that spans the entire portfolio of the organization, it is important that care is taken when setting up its initial structure. Setting up a PMO does not have any template per se, but how it operates will be heavily influenced by the general structure of the organization itself. (For more information on organizational structures, please read the post: The Power of the PMO) Whatever structure is eventually agreed upon will be dictated by the specific variables conducive to the business and its inherent culture. It is also extremely important to staff the PMO with project and program managers who have strong working knowledge of PM fundamentals, but also be cognizant of the end game business strategy of the organization. The PMO is after all, trying to achieve some endgame and it is important that the PMs assigned to it are fully aware of what the business goals are and what portfolio and process strategy the business is attempting to achieve. This will ensure alignment between project management, senior leadership and the remainder of the organization.

Standardize and Document

Tackling the standards, best practices and process methodologies right at the inception of the PMO will be a great way to begin effective brainstorming on what aspects of the organization’s current concepts require change or improvement. Discussing this information up front will also allow for all the newly assigned project/program managers that make up the PMO constituency to bring their ideas to the table and collaborate right out of the gate. Any new concepts, processes, methodologies or business organizational changes should all be documented thoroughly for future reference and sharing as needed.

Instantiate Training and Transfers of Information

Whenever a PMO is created, it is important that anyone who will be directly (or indirectly) involved in either maintaining it or utilizing its services, be brought up to speed as needed with adequate training. This can include specific training for the project managers who may be new to the idea of a PMO and need additional proficiency training. Additionally, any members of the organization who will be tasked with adhering to the new processes or methodologies that will become doctrine within the organization are given proper TOIs (Transfers of Information) to ensure they are aware of how to utilize any new concepts for their own specific areas.

Set Measurement and Success Criteria

Whatever they may be, some baseline success criteria should be set when instantiating a new PMO. This could involve specific milestones like defining the new internal process or certain monetary measures, like ‘X’ amount of cost savings over a given timeframe. Whatever the criteria, it is important to demonstrate the value add of adopting the PMO. Note that the measurement criteria should not be pie-in-the-sky values or completely ambiguous and generic goals, but something tangible that can be referenced.

Continue to Monitor and Evolve the PMO

Once created, the PMO should not remain static. It should grow and mature like any other aspect of the business. New ideas from the mainstream project management world or new technologies can be evaluated and adopted. Structural changes within the organization can also be considered. Like anything in life, the success of the PMO will be its adaptability and vigilance.


The establishment of a PMO is fantastic way for any organization to improve its internals. Whenever planning and developing the PMO, it is vitally important that it is performed in a way that aligns well with the existing structure of the organization. Although it could also be part in parcel with an organizational shift; the latter is fine provided it was performed and sanctioned by the senior leaders. Whatever the structure, the PMO should seek to optimize its capabilities against this structure to provide maximum benefit to the organization as a whole. There will likely be some adjustments to the PMO during its infancy in order to adequately adjust and align itself with the organization. These growing pains are normal and should be encouraged to ensure the PMO eventually reaches maximum potential.

Once created, the capability of the PMO will become self-evident as it streamlines processes and develops common standards. This will provide the organization with continuity, reduction in duplication of efforts, reduced costs and improved productivity.


About tomtsongas
Versatile Program/Development Manager with 20 years of diverse background and experience in managing, defining, designing, developing and evangelizing advanced software applications that exceed customer expectations Current responsibilities include: - Coordinating and monitoring the scheduling and technical performance of company programs - Preparation of proposals, plans, specifications, and finalized requirements of various projects - Researching new opportunities and technologies - Ensuring adherence to master plans and schedules - Developing solutions to program problems - Directing work of incumbents assigned to program from various departments while also ensuring projects are completed on time and within budget - Acting as adviser to program teams regarding projects, tasks, and operations.

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