Practical steps to setting up an effective PMO

Ninety percent of organisations are unable to translate their strategies into action largely due to a lack of implementation capabilities. Realising this gap, many organisations now resort to Project Management Offices (PMOs) to help them create value through the successful implementation of their initiatives, projects, and programmes.

Setting up a PMO can be both a simple and complex task. Having successfully set up a few PMOs, I have put together this article to serve as a guide for whoever intends to embark on the journey to set up a PMO, with the belief that the approach explained in the steps below can help a PMO delivery team minimise their odds of having a successful implementation.

The success or failure of the endeavour is dependent on visible support from top management without which the endeavour is good as dead on arrival

Get executive buy-in

One of the major requirements needed for setting up a Project Management Office (PMO) is strong executive buy-in. The success or failure of the endeavour is dependent on visible support from top management without which the endeavour is good as dead on arrival. However, the specific supportive activities may vary from company to company based on organizational culture, but the executives’ role in this process is crucial to determining Go or No-Go.

Perform current state assessment

In the process of delivering a PMO, it is imperative to understand the current state of the organisation as it relates to project management maturity. This organisational project management maturity assessment will reveal among other things:

The culture of project management the organisation has; How projects are currently managed; How many projects does the organisation currently run; How satisfactory are the project management results; If the organisation really needs a PMO; The organisational change readiness, and what type of PMO the organisation may accept.

Perform gap analysis

In trying to establish a PMO it is advisable that a proper Gap Analysis be conducted. Depending on the resources available, some PMO experts recommend performing a Gap Analysis alongside the Current State Assessment. Differently, from the Current State Assessment, the Gap Analysis will reveal the following:

What the organisation has in terms of project governance, methodology, infrastructure, human resources, and tools; What the implementation of a value-driven PMO will require; What approach to managing change and stakeholder, and expectations would be effective,

Create a PMO vision

It is very important to define the Future State Vision in order to successfully implement the PMO. Some PMO schools of thought have argued that a Business Plan should be created against a PMO Charter believing that a PMO is more than a project but a strategic business unit. Whatever you choose to do, your plan must address the following:

The vision and mission statements; List of the goals to be achieved by the PMO (limit to 3); Objectives for each goal (used to measure the success of the PMO), and the functions the PMO will perform.

The type of PMO and the organisational structure; The results are expected from the implementation; The success measures and the strategy for achieving success, and metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs).

Create a PMO implementation strategy/plan

Before proceeding with the establishment of the PMO, it is essential to develop a strategic plan for its implementation. Depending on where you sit as a consultant, if you are an external consultant deploying a PMO for a client, this activity would have been performed at a high level for the client to approve the project while a more detailed and actual plan will be developed prior to the actual implementation. The strategic plan will reflect the following:

The scope of the implementation; The barriers, enablers, and risks of the implementation; The critical success factors for the implementation; The implementation roadmap; Implementation’s phases and key milestones; The number of resources needed; The cost of implementation; The PMO sustainability plan, and performance measurement and improvement plan

Perform change management

The process of implementing a PMO may result in a change in organizational culture, and structure, and this may disrupt the balance of power in the organisation. Because the acceptance or resistance of this change process may lead to the failure or success of the PMO endeavour, It is recommended that the organization invests a lot of time and energy (from day one) to ensure the adoption of the change initiatives. The change management activities should include:

Conducting a change readiness assessment; Developing a strategic change management plan; Implementing the changes, and delivering change management workshops

Implement PMO

Having performed all the above, it is important to tailor the implementation of the PMO to suit the exact need of the organisation. Keep it simple, lean, and fit for purpose. Depending on the type of PMO that is to be deployed, the deliverables may include but are not limited to:

PMO framework; Detailed processes; Detailed job descriptions and person specification/manning; Reporting templates; Operating model – Governance & Structure; Project management metrics and KPIs, and capacity development.

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