Are You Ready for a Project Management Office? Part 1 – Where to Start

By Nancy Mather, Director of Professional Services Operations, PMP

As modern IT continues to transform, so must traditional project management approaches and methodologies. Conversations have shifted away from a sole focus on technology to more of an emphasis on business vision and outcomes creating an additional layer of complexity as new stakeholders become involved in the process.

A Project Management Office (PMO) is a centralized group set up for the purpose of implementing project management expertise across an organization. At its best, a PMO benefits an organization by providing accountability, visibility, a sense of discipline, and ensuring that projects are completed successfully, within budget, and on time. At its worst, a PMO is viewed as a police force, roadblock, and layer of red tape that slows down progress while not providing any value.

How do you know if you need a PMO? When GreenPages made the decision to implement a PMO, it was a natural progression based on the size that our project management team had reached and the number of projects that were coming in per year. We had reached a point where stratification of the team was necessary. The one size fits all role of “Project Manager” was no longer effectively representing the varying levels of experience across the team. In addition, we had collected a significant amount of collateral from templates to best practices, so for us the formation of a PMO was a natural progression in the evolution of the department.

One of the questions we often hear from our customers, is how do you create a PMO and where do you start? I’m a big believer that it is important to start with the basics. Define your mission, vision, and goals. Formally defining the role of the PMO can be a challenge, however defining where you want to go will help ensure you are on the right path to get there. Consider a value proposition for the PMO. It would be something as simple as projects delivered on-time, on-budget, with higher quality.

Define your timelines with phases. After changes are made, take time to breath to understand the effects of those changes. This will allow you to make refinements as needed. Define what effectiveness looks like and how it will be measured in the future. This is where the vision and goals come in to effect. Defining what you want to achieve will help you steer the course.

It’s also important to perform a gap analysis of where you are today and where you are trying to go. It is important to look at the staff that you already have and begin to think about the roles you envision them in under the PMO. It’s also important to think about who will manage the PMO, and if there will be layers of management within it. The formation of a PMO can be an opportunity to create a management career path for those on the team that want it and are ready for it.

Develop a training program for the PMO. Consider a program that is tiered and on-going. At the onset, a focused training on tools and process is necessary.

Determine the new project funnel flow. Where will the project that the PMO will be responsible for come from? Determine how many projects you believe each person can reasonable and effectively manage. Will you be able to control the flow of project to manage to that level? It’s critical to identify key metrics and watch trends closely that effect your staffing needs. Weekly one on ones with staff are valuable to understand what the team has on their plates and to understand current bandwidth.

Stay tuned for part 2: Are You Ready for a Project Management Office? Players and Pitfalls


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