Setting up a new organizational Project Management Office is a big undertaking. It’s also a big investment for most companies so it’s important to get it right. Those first few weeks and months when your PMO has just launched are critical for its on-going success. You want to show that you are making a difference and that the difference is positive!
Here are 4 steps to work through when you are introducing a new PMO to make sure that you get off to a great start.
Step 1: Start Slowly
It’s a wonderful thing to have big ambitions but it’s honestly better to start small. An under-the-radar launch can be more effective than a huge fanfare. Introduce a few key services first and then build up to more in the future.
This phased approach is exactly what you’d do on a multi-step project: start with the basic, core offerings and then add in greater functionality. With organizational change projects (which introducing a new PMO is) the need to take small steps is even more important. It helps you manage the activity in a way that is supported by everyone and that helps the new ways of working ‘stick’. It also gives you the chance to spot problems early and deal with them before they become too difficult to handle. If you can identify an issue, you can manage it and put it right, getting the whole PMO launch back on track easily.
Step 2: Gain Buy In
Talk to your key stakeholders. A lot. The idea here is to gain buy in for the PMO and what it can do, preferably almost behind the scenes! Low key interactions help build positive engagement over time. Much of that will be done in one-to-one meetings or chats outside of formal discussions, so the more you can network and spread the objectives and successes of the PMO, the easier you’ll find the transition to a PMO-based business.
If you think about who you need to target and come up with clear plans for communication you’ll probably see that there are a few key players – people with the influence to make or break your PMO initiative. These are the people you need to work on. Sell the benefits of the PMO, ask their advice, incorporate their suggestions and show them how it is working. When they start seeing the difference that the PMO is making you’ll have positive buy in.
Make a special effort to identify stakeholders that aren’t thinking positively about this change. Work with them to establish why they aren’t happy and see what you and the team can do to change their attitudes.
Step 3: Introduce Clear Processes
It’s tempting to introduce a process before it has really been fully fleshed out: you need something in place for change management, for example, so launch something (anything) and then tweak it later.
This approach has the advantage of getting some structure in place, but the disadvantage is that you’ll no doubt have to rework the process in the not-too-distant future. Constant updates and changes make it hard for your PMO team and project managers to work out exactly what they should be doing.
It’s normal to have to make process changes as your new PMO evolves but try to do it in a way that makes it easy for the users of those processes. For example, set a date every month (or less frequently) for the release of new changes. Package up the changes and do one communication about new or amended processes. Make sure that on the day the changes come into effect all intranet guides, help files and user manuals are also updated and that the core PMO staff are fully briefed to can support people with the changes.
Step 4: Show Benefits Quickly
Your new PMO was launched for a reason. It might have been greater transparency, better executive decision making, tighter project controls or something else, but you didn’t do it just for fun. You should make sure that you can evidence the improvements you have made – and quickly.
Not all PMO benefits are quick fixes. Some, like introducing Earned Value Management, might take several months and multiple projects before you start to have enough data to make accurate assessments at corporate level. But you should be able to show some benefits in the first months of operating.
When you are setting up your PMO launch plans, think about what you could introduce that would quickly show a return on investment. Even a suite of templates for standardizing project documentation, or project managers all using the same project management software instead of a range of products could be quick measures to show improvements and increased maturity.
Also make sure that your stakeholders are aware of some of the other, longer-term benefits of the PMO. Be transparent about how you are tracking these and report your progress regularly.
If you take these steps into account you should see that your new PMO very quickly stops being ‘new’ and starts being ‘the way we work around here’.