How to Build the Perfect PMO for Your Organization’s Needs

First, let’s examine the question that needs to be asked. Does your organization actually need a project management office (PMO)? Not all companies delivering on projects need a formal PMO. If you are a startup with 3 projects and 15 employees the answer is probably no. 

PMOs aren’t free and could take more hours to set up and administer than are needed just to run the few projects you are involved with starting out. And startups or smaller organizations are really spending more time still developing their offering – perfecting it for the market. That in itself is a big undertaking and it needs to be done right. For example, implement a solid project management (PM) best practice for planning, designing, and launching every product release. But do you need a formal project office? No, it will just get in the way.

If your organization is larger, has several projects being initiated, and you have the proper funding in place, then yes…you probably need a project office. A formal PMO can help your organization prioritize and staff each project best. It can ensure that best practices – and the right, consistent practices – are being followed for the best possible project outcomes. It can help ensure that each project is properly funded and that financials are monitored on all projects throughout the life of each project. And it can support each PM and their careers to stay on a successful journey and to ensure projects that are being executed upon match up well with the organization’s goals and mission.

Ultimately, it’s up to senior management, but if your project load is increasing, then likely your project delivery can best benefit from a formal project management office. 

After considering those parameters, let’s now consider how to create the best PMO for your organization – assuming you have one in place or you are planning one in the near future.

Assign a formal, full-time PMO Director

Behind every good PMO is a very good and experienced PMO Director. The PMO Director should have some very good experience as a project manager. Some PMOs have been known to appoint a director who was merely an idle middle manager and place them in that role. It was always a huge fail. The successful PMO has a dedicated PMO Director – not a part-time project manager and part-time PMO Director. That scenario is problematic as well because not enough time is allowed to really run the PMO correctly.

Use the right tool for the need

No matter whether you are running projects through your PM infrastructure sans a PMO or you have developed a formal project management office, the organization will need a solid project portfolio management (PPM) software tool that enables the planning and reporting consistently for each of the projects they are managing. With a PPM solution, the organization gets more than just a one-off project scheduling and reporting tool for tasks planned for each project management engagement. A proper PPM software is built for project portfolio management executed with an operational focus and is simple for all stakeholders to use. It provides a clear bird’s-eye view of the portfolio and projects instantly and allows for all processes and methods required by project managers and project management offices to do so all in one solution, like Proggio.

Go with PM experience

While formal PMI experience and knowledge are important and formal certification as a PMP can be helpful, the first thing you want to look for in a project manager is not a certification – it is successful project management experience. In the end, the best scenario is likely a mix of both but try always to go with experience first for proper project execution and oversight.

Ensure senior management buy-in 

For your PMO to start out right and remain viable, it needs to be championed by senior management. It’s too easy for experienced managers to get their projects staffed and executed upon completely separate from the PMO. If that is happening, then the PMO will be devalued over time. Avoid that by presenting the importance of the PMO to the enterprise and especially all senior management and involving them periodically in projects and status meetings with the project customers.

Kickoff is everything

Educating the enterprise as to what a project actually is can be an important step one. Word needs to get out that there is or will soon be a formal office and process in place with the knowledge and skills to help them roll out a successful project keeping costs and timelines on track. If the company is large, they are probably aware of the next continuous improvement program rollout that ends up falling by the wayside. So this needs to be different and should come from a C-level and well versed so everyone understands that this is the how, when, and where projects originate, are resourced and funded, and get prioritized and executed going forward.

Conclusion

Perfection is never really possible and every PMO is going to stumble on the way to approval and full effectiveness and efficiency. But if an organization follows these key ingredients for PMO assembly and execution, then the project office should be serving the organization well as they juggle projects and resources and customer needs and preferences.