By Gareth Byatt, Gary Hamilton, and Jeff Hodgkinson

When we began our collaboration on this article, we wanted to ensure that our readers didn’t see it as another article on how to manage and/or define the benefits of a PMO (Program and/or Project Management Office).  There are many excellent articles on this subject published by respected professionals and organizations, many of which provide very valuable information that you can adopt or adapt to your specific needs.  The way in which we thought we could offer a ‘niche view’ was to focus on how one starts up a PMO from the perspective that it is a project in its own right.   

In our own experience and in feedback discussions we have had with many project management and PMO professionals, difficulties in establishing a PMO are frequently due to the fact that some of the key tenets of treating it like a project (e.g., really focusing on senior management commitment) did not, in hindsight, receive the level of attention they warranted. 

Let us first consider the two basic milestones in any project, ‘Start’ and ‘Finish’, and how they relate to establishing a PMO:   

  • The ‘Start’ occurs when the idea is in the early initiation or exploratory phase of the PMO.  We’ll assume that it’s the point at which either you have been approached by C level executives or you’re approaching them with the idea of a ‘PMO’, it has some merit and at least a verbal approval to continue obtaining information as to its viability. 
  • The ‘Finish’ milestone is reached when the PMO is considered to be ‘established’ and is now ongoing as a normal part of your business process or operations.  

That leaves a great deal of middle ground to consider. After the start, the next key milestone is met when you present the project for a ‘go/no go’ decision for funding approval.  To ensure success, your presentation should describe the ‘Establishment of a PMO’ as a project in itself, albeit a temporary endeavor until the PMO is established.  It will require a Project Manager who could, of course, be the designated PMO Manager once the project is complete.  Therefore, like any project, the ‘Establish a PMO project’ will have a project Charter with clear and measurable Purpose, Scope, Schedule, Quality, Budget, Risks, CSF’s (critical success factors) with suggested key points.  Guidelines for each of these are as follows:

Purpose:  As in any project, are you trying to solve a problem or act upon an opportunity?  If project execution has historically been a problem, then your presentation will approach the subject from the aspect of how the PMO would resolve this difficulty, broken down into specific points.  If an opportunity, then you are assuming a PMO will provide added benefits such as shorter project execution times, increased productivity, or lower administrative overhead.

Scope:  Pare to a summary all the work to be done to set up the PMO: hiring the manager and/or PM’s, centralized database, document standardization, common metrics, communications, scheduling software, etc.,  just as you would for a project.

Schedule:  As you may know, a PMO can take time to reach the maturity level you are seeking, and it can be either a slow or a fast transition proportional to the amount of ‘churn’ the organization can digest and from which it will benefit. Both approaches can be successful.  These days, the ‘fast’ track seems to be a more prudent choice; stakeholders want to see results quickly and a long transition can lose momentum.  We suggest putting your phase transition times in a date range vs. a hard date so that you can manage the quality of the change management at the pace required for your organization.

Quality:  Empirical data will come later; the initial establishment of the historic baseline and agreement to the PMO primary metrics should be done up front – remember that ‘you are what you measure’.  For the start of the project, focus on the intrinsic elements as to how your customers are viewing the change and your PM’s morale managing through the transition.  As the performance ranges of your metrics start to show some degree of consistency and fewer outliers, switch to more empirical focus.  If timed right, the ‘emotion’ of the change has subsided and focus on the expected benefits will be the primary task at hand.

Budget:  There is an overhead cost to initializing the PMO and a budget estimate should be established so an ROI can be provided.  The trick here is to emphasize the long term benefits of a PMO versus the expectation of early ones.  However, any positive results early on (even ‘off the cuff’ hearsay) is good backup to provide during PMO stakeholder updates.

Risks:  As in any project, there are risks.  We often hear that a primary risk is the initial stakeholder and customer expectations of results to be achieved versus the long term benefits of success. Continual communication with your stakeholders and customers is crucial.  So is the establishment of a PCG that includes senior management.  Keep in mind that no matter how well you manage the change transition to a PMO, there will most likely be an impact on your customers.  Address their concerns in a proactive way with positive communications.  Hold a Project Success Plan (PSP) meeting at the start.

CSF’s (Critical Success Factors):   We generally like to use an ‘AS IS’ and ‘TO BE’ format wherein you list the existing challenges and/or potential opportunities on the left side; on the right,  itemize the expected benefits once the PMO is fully established (which need to be tracked and monitored).  You could consider breaking these benefits into increments expected at the end of each phase or timeframe.  It is prudent not to oversell the results prematurely.  All success factors should be measureable, obtainable, and agreed upon upfront with your sponsor/decision makers.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, we hope that you feel these ideas for establishing a PMO by approaching it like any project, therefore giving it the same discipline and rigor, is a good strategy.  A PM needs to own it, work effectively with all key stakeholders, set milestones, determine CSI's, manage resources, purchase tools, and report results.  Such actions need to continually serve the needs of your stakeholders and the organization as a whole.  The benefits and success of establishing a PMO will come at regular intervals and, just like any other project, they will not be fully realized until after it is launched – plan the benefits out and report against progress in achieving them. 

 

                  Article Author Bios as of January 2012

 

 

 

About

The

Article

Authors,

Their Roles

Their Plans,

And Their Goals

 

 

 

Gareth Byatt, Gary Hamilton, and Jeff Hodgkinson are experienced PMO, program, and project managers who developed a mutual friendship by realising they shared a common passion to help others and share knowledge about PMO, portfolio, program and project management (collectively termed PM below). In February 2010 they decided to collaborate on a three (3) year goal to write 50 PM subject articles for publication in any/all PM subject websites, newsletters, and professional magazines / journals.  So far 35 have been written, published, and translated into Arabic, Czechoslovakian, French, German, Indonesia, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian and published on websites in 26 countries including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, India, Jamaica, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Trinidad, Turkey, UK, Ukraine and the USA.  Their mission is to help expand good program and project management practices by promoting the PM profession, to be a positive influence to the PM Community, be known as eminent influencers of best PM practices, and in earnest hope readers can gain benefit from the advice of their 60+ years of combined experience and expertise and include the expertise of co-authors who write with them on certain articles and subjects. Along with writing articles, each also champions a role in the overall writing program collaboration process:

      Gareth manages all requests for additional guest author collaborations

      Gary manages the article development tracking and readership metrics

      Jeff manages the article distribution and new readership demographics

Each can be contacted for advice, coaching, collaboration, and speaking individually as noted in their bios or as a team at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. has 15+ years of experience in project, program and PMO management in IT and construction for Lend Lease. Gareth has worked in several countries and lives in Sydney, Australia. He can be contacted through LinkedIn.  Gareth holds numerous degrees, certifications, and credentials in program and project management as follows: an MBA from one of the world’s leading education establishments, a 1st-class undergraduate management degree, and the PMP®, PgMP®, PMI-RMP®, PMI-SP® & PRINCE2 professional certifications. Gareth is a past Director of the PMI Sydney Chapter, he is currently the APAC Region Director for the PMI’s PMO Community of Practice and he chairs several peer networking groups.

He has presented on PMOs, portfolio and program and project management at international conferences in the UK, Australia, & Asia including PMI APAC in 2010. Email Gareth: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Gary Hamilton has 16+ years of project and program management experience in IT, finance, and human resources and volunteers as the VP of Professional Development for the PMI East Tennessee chapter. Gary is a 2009 & 2010 Presidents’ Volunteer Award recipient for his charitable work with local fire services and professional groups. He has won several internal awards for results achieved from projects and programs he managed as well as being named one of the Business Journal’s Top 40 Professionals in 2007.  Gary was the first person globally to obtain the five credentials PgMP®, PMP®, PMI-RMP®, PMI-SP® , CAPM® .  In addition to these, Gary holds numerous other degrees and certifications in IT, management, and project management and they include: an advanced MBA degree in finance, Project+,  PRINCE2, MSP, ITIL-F, MCTS (SharePoint), MCITP (Project), and Six Sigma GB professional certifications.   Email Gary: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or contact him through LinkedIn.

 

Jeff Hodgkinson is a 32 year veteran of Intel Corporation, where he continues on a progressive career as a program/project manager.  Jeff is an IT@Intel Expert and blogs on Intel’s Community for IT Professionals for Program/Project Management subjects and interests.  He is also the Intel IT PMO PMI Credential Mentor supporting colleagues in pursuit of a new credential. Jeff received the 2010 PMI (Project Management Institute) Distinguished Contribution Award for his support of the Project Management profession from the Project Management Institute. Jeff was the 2nd place finalist for the 2011 Kerzner Award and was also the 2nd place finalist for the 2009 Kerzner International Project Manager of the Year Award TM.   He lives in Mesa, Arizona, USA and is a member of Phoenix PMI Chapter. Because of his contributions to helping people achieve their goals, he is the third (3rd) most recommended person on LinkedIn with 575+ recommendations, and is ranked 55th most networked LinkedIn person. He gladly accepts all connection invite requests from PM practitioners at: www.linkedin.com/in/jeffhodgkinson. Jeff holds numerous certifications and credentials in program and project management, which are as follows: CAPM®, CCS, CDT, CPC™, CIPM™, CPPM–Level 10, CDRP, CSM™, CSQE, GPM™, IPMA-B®, ITIL-F, MPM™, PME™, PMOC, PMP®, PgMP®, PMI-RMP®, PMI-SP®, PMW, and SSGB.   Jeff is an expert at program and project management principles and best practices.  He enjoys sharing his experiences with audiences around the globe as a keynote speaker at various PM events.  Email Jeff: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.