Setting up a PMO (Project Management Office) can be fraught with difficulty. There’s the challenge of gaining executive support for creating what could be seen as an extra level of administration and bureaucracy. There’s the issue of staffing: train internal resources, buy in expertise or mix the two? Then there’s the practical problem of not knowing what you don’t know: most people who haven’t set up a PMO before don’t know what’s involved in establishing a Project Management Office (understandably!). How do you make sure that you’ve covered all the bases?
Well, we can help you with that today.
If you’ve read this far, you’re probably interested in creating or relaunching your PMO and are wondering what you should be thinking about to give your team the best possible chance of success. Here are some of the key questions that will help you focus your efforts in the right place.
How will we measure success?
Have you set some success measures for your PMO? And do you know how senior management will judge whether or not the initiative has been a success? (And do you know what timeframe they are looking at you to deliver in before they start making the judgment that success is not happening fast enough?)
If you define success, you can track your progress against those measures and prove the value.
Are we clear on what we are trying to do? And the level we are trying to do it at?
What are the PMO objectives? Are you aiming to support only IT projects this year, and then branch out to taken on an enterprise role next year? Or something else?
There are no rights and wrongs when it comes to objectives for your PMO. You simply have to make sure that they are realistic, achievable and that you have management buy in for what you think you can achieve.
Is this a short term or long term endeavor?
Some PMOs are set up to support particular programs of work or large projects. That might be the case for yours, in which case you’re looking at a PMO with a duration of the length of the program or project.
If you are hoping for something more enterprise, more transformative, then you’ll be expecting something that has at least a 3-5 year timescale, preferably longer. Knowing what you are planning for in terms of time will help you staff accordingly and set the parameters for operation.
What’s the risk of not doing it?
All good business cases include the ‘do nothing’ option and your approach to establishing a PMO should be no different. What would happen if you didn’t create a PMO with the structure you have identified? Presenting the risks of not going ahead is a powerful way to gain support for the endeavour.
Alternatively, if the answer to that question is ‘nothing’ you might want to rethink whether the time is right for a PMO in your organization right now.
Do we have sufficient resources to run the PMO?
This particularly applies to staff. Who is going to be in the PMO team? Do you have people already or will they need to be recruited? And given the scope of the work you want to take on and deliver, how many people will you need?
However, it also applies to other resources – do you know what your PMO capital and opex budgets should be based on your plans for the upcoming year? If not, how are you going to work these out?
Where will the PMO report into?
The location of the PMO is a statement within the organizational politics of your business. A PMO that reports into the IT Director will not be seen as enterprise, even if the remit of the unit is enterprise-wide. For a project-driven, short term PMO, the team could report into the program manager and the decision is a lot easier.
Think about what your objectives are and where it makes sense for the PMO Director to report into.
What systems and tools will we need?
There might be project management tools already in use in the business that you wish to keep or integrate within the PMO. Or you might be starting from scratch. This is the time to ask yourself what tools and software you’ll need to support your PMO team today and in 3 years. Ideally, you should start with professional-grade tools that grow as you develop maturity. Tools like Primavera support the project management lifecycle at all stages and have the added benefit of building PMO maturity through helping teams use additional professional functionality.
Do we have the expertise internally to make this work?
Setting up a Project Management Office for the first time, or even relaunching an existing PMO, takes time and expertise. If you have one shot to gain senior buy in for the idea, then you better be sure that you are going to deliver value from day 1 and be able to track the benefit of the PMO.
There are several ways to upskill your team to be able to support the launch of a PMO. You can recruit an expert to lead your permanent staff through the initiative, train up your existing staff or hire in expert consultants on a short term basis to support you and transfer knowledge to your team. Whatever your plan, it will definitely help your PMO get off to a great start if you have identified how best to secure the expertise required to make your PMO launch a success.
These are just some of the questions you should be asking yourself before taking on the project of establishing a Project Management Office for your organization. If you have to focus on one thing right now, focus on securing the expertise to make sure that you are spending your time thinking about the questions that really matter.