A Great PMO Doesn't Just Happen - Here's How You Can Establish the Right PMO
Bill Hoberecht - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Starting up a new PMO?  You're in for an exciting ride.  One thing is certain: your new PMO must address a problem that is important to your company.  Here's an approach for defining your new PMO, engaging with those whose support you will need, and getting your PMO off to a great start.  
I've created and watched others create PMOs that have been hugely successful.  Interestingly, the value provided by these PMOs was not always the same.  Quite frequently it involved improving delivery performance.  Other times the PMO was focused on getting project budgets under control, improving client communications or implementing a rigorous intake process.  One common element I've observed is that effective PMOs provide a clear value to the company and enjoy support from leaders and the broader organization.  When starting a new PMO, these are two success criteria to keep in mind.
PMOs launched with a clear mission that addresses a significant pain point and are in support of the company's strategic direction will be viewed as valuable.  Over time, this PMO continues to be valuable by optimizing its performance and evolving as it addresses new needs that emerge.
If you are charged with establishing a new PMO or breathing new life into an existing PMO, make it a priority to probe and discover.  You are digging for the answers to questions about the problem(s) your PMO must address, the type of PMO you will create, the organization's anticipated acceptance of having an authoritative PMO in place, and many more questions.  Skipping past these discussions and immediately implementing a "perfect PMO" based on your experiences elsewhere might not get you the results you seek.

A Roadmap for Setting up a PMO

Here's an approach that can help ensure that you are having the right discussions with the right leaders & team members, and increase your chances of successfully implementing the PMO needed by the organization:
  1. Identify a Stakeholder Group.  Think of this as your advisory and sponsor board.  These are individuals that have a vested interest in project management execution performance and are willing to contribute their time and counsel in guiding the launch of a PMO.  You'll want people that will be helpful.  You'll need the leaders who, if they don't participate, can derail your PMO launch.  Depending on the company culture, this group might be a formally chartered group, or you might have an informal group of stakeholders that you'll contact individually as needed.
  2. Agree on the Urgency and Need for a PMO.  Engage with your stakeholder group in getting a consensus view of "What is the problem we are looking to address?" and "What is the urgency in addressing this problem?"  You likely will have to push a bit to get to a solid understanding of the problem because frequently stakeholders describe a solution rather than a problem (the 5 Whys technique, gently applied, might be useful).  The consensus business problem to solve is key and becomes the foundation for setting up a PMO.  If a business case isn't required, a rudimentary cost/benefit analysis might be useful in determining the level of investment for this new PMO.
  3. Understand the Current State.  You'll collect and analyze a mix of quantitative and qualitative information that directly and indirectly is related to the business problem to solve.  This is where you'll define metrics and collect measures on current performance - this baseline becomes your point of comparison later, showing the tremendous improvement enabled by your new PMO.
  4. Define the PMO Target State.  It is good practice to have a vision of where you and the team are going.  Engage with a "PMO Action Team" composed of current project managers and others who will become part of the new PMO.  Craft your consensus description of the new PMO, ensuring that it is designed to address the business problem to solve identified by stakeholders; this might be rather involved because there are so many options to consider when selecting PMO capabilities that you'll be implementing.  Run this Target State definition past your Stakeholder Group, getting their suggestions and endorsement.  You also will put together an implementation plan for your PMO.
  5. PMO Pilot.  Go/No Go Launch Decision.  Some, but not all, PMO launches can benefit by having a smaller scale PMO Pilot.  Set up a short duration (a few weeks, perhaps) to try out the PMO operation and fine tune the details.  Determine if the Pilot PMO provides the expected value and use the results to inform a Go/No Go decision on rolling out the PMO more broadly.  Remind the Stakeholder Group of the PMO Target State definition, the impact on them, and the schedule for various launch activities; secure their concurrence to launch.
  6. PMO Implementation (Staged or Big Bang).  This is it!  Time to flip the switch and get your PMO running.  Ensure ample communications have gone out in advance and that support for impacted teams is in place.  Publish information about quick wins delivered with this implementation.  Adjust if you are not seeing the expected results.
  7. PMO Continuous Improvement.  Keep your Stakeholder Group in place and engaged.  Report to them on the successful outcomes resulting from the initial PMO launch and work with them to identify new important business problems to solve.  Your PMO team will need to develop an awareness of their effectiveness and efficiency - ensure you have regular reporting and analysis of relevant metrics and use this information within the team to identify improvement opportunities.

Parting Thoughts - Next Steps

A new PMO, by its very nature, will introduce changes.  Employing Organization Change Management techniques (Who Needs Organizational Change Management Methods? Can't We Just Tell Them What to Do?) in your efforts will smooth the journey.  I'm a proponent of Kotter's 8-Step Leading Change Process - see if you can spot 6 of those steps in the roadmap above.

Before embarking on a PMO implementation journey, consider reading a few books on the topic and looking at some online resources.  Even if you are very experienced in setting up a PMO, it can't hurt to refresh your thinking on the many complex topics related to creating a PMO.

I'm always looking for great information and new thinking about PMOs.  Here are two that I've found to be worthwhile:

If you have a recommended resource, please let me know!  Thank you.

I wish you success in setting up the right PMO for your company's needs.