Launching your PMO? Are you ready? Hang on a moment. We see and support hundreds of PMO implementations, and we’ve learned what will make your PMO launch a success.
Here are the top five challenges to consider when planning how to implement a PMO. And because we like to keep things practical, we’re also sharing some tips on how you can overcome those challenges to make the introduction of your PMO a resounding success.
1. Creating the optimal configuration
Challenge: People are likely to be uncertain about how best to set up the PMO. Senior leaders may have differing views about the best way to organize the PMO team, or where it should report to within the business.
Resolve by: You need to gain clarity on the optimal configuration for your PMO, including reporting lines.
It is worth taking some time to consider the different ways your PMO could be set up.
- Will it serve one department only, for example being embedded in the IT department?
- Will it serve one geographic location only, for example, your country but not other countries where your business operates?
- Will it serve one program only, such as a transformation initiative?
Also consider what services it will offer. A PMO with a priority of reporting and tracking may be better off sitting within a strategic department. A PMO with the main goal of coaching project managers and providing organizational training on processes could be best suited to work alongside other training departments within HR.
Ultimately, you have complete freedom to set up your PMO in the way you think best fits the needs of your organization. There is no one perfect way that suits every business.
And remember – if you run the PMO for a while and realize there would be a better organizational structure to implement, you can always change it later. Good PMOs evolve!
2. Implementing a variety of services
Challenge: You want the PMO to provide a variety of services and capabilities, but don’t know how to implement them.
Resolve by: Make a list of all the PMO services that you want to introduce. Prioritize the list. Review your top priority items, and start by introducing the one that seems the easiest to do, with the highest return.
When you get to services that you are less confident implementing, many PMO leaders call for support from experienced PMO consultants who can get them up and running with those services quickly and efficiently. It’s faster than trying to work it out yourself!
Read next: What does a PMO do?
3. Improve consistency for project management delivery
Challenge: Projects are being carried out using inconsistent approaches and processes. Moving to standardized ways of working will be a big change for the organization.
Resolve by: Introducing consistent practices and standards for all projects. Support project teams as they adopt working practices to use the new standards.
OK, this is easier said than done! Again, experienced PMO professionals can support your journey, and make the transition to standardization easier for everyone involved.
A quick tip if you are going it alone is to pick one process (or small group of related processes) to standardize at a time. Introduce the change slowly and make sure you’re using best practice change management techniques to ensure the new ways of working are maintained over time. There’s more on change management below.
4. Minimize risk to overall PMO success
Challenge: Not all stakeholders are bought into the idea of a PMO implementation and they are proving to be resistant. This introduces risk factors to the overall success of the PMO implementation, and onward PMO management.
Resolve by: Complete a stakeholder analysis exercise to understand the positions key stakeholders are taking. When you can see their perspective, it’s easier to plan a series of actions to engage them in the work of the PMO.
Consider the implications of resistance to change in terms of risk, and take action accordingly. The views of some stakeholders will have a bigger risk factor than others, so prioritize how you engage with individuals.
Resistance to change is something all leaders face at some point, so it’s worth arming yourself with some techniques to help address that. The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind, by Jonah Berger, is the best book on reducing resistance to change that we’ve read for a long time – it’s a good starting point!
5. Manage the organizational change
Challenge: You know that too many initiatives fail because organizational change management should have been considered before the implementation. You want to make sure that change management is actively addressed during the implementation planning to give the PMO the best possible chance of success.
Resolve by: Making the case for including organizational change management in your business case and implementation plans for the PMO.
The theory and logic are quite clear: without organizational change management principles, doing any kind of change in the business is going to fail. However, the reaction you get from senior leadership teams can be very different: we know of many teams where there was insufficient investment in the work required to make the best use of the change.
Whether that’s getting the most out of a project deliverable, implementing a new process, or a transformative change to the way the business works like launching a PMO, all your work is at risk of being wasted if you don’t make the change ‘stick’.
If you can, use examples from your own business to highlight the impact of under-investment in organizational change. That tends to be more convincing than theoretical examples of why the PMO launch needs support from the business and preferably a budget for change management.
Launching your PMO is a very rewarding initiative. You can see the impact the PMO has on project delivery and business results almost from day 1. It elevates project management maturity, provides better reporting capability and does all the other things you hope your PMO will do. In a few years, people will wonder how they ever managed to run the company without it.
But getting through the launch period is crucial! Hopefully these five challenges for consideration and the action steps will help you make the best decisions for your launching your PMO.