Updated: Mar 24, 2022
So you’ve been tasked with building a Project Management Office (PMO) from the ground up – this is a great opportunity but also can be a rather scary proposition to take on. Where do you start? What do you do? Have no fear – we will give you some great tips for getting your PMO off the ground.
Information is Power
One of the primary responsibilities of a PMO is for project oversight and guidance. This is nearly impossible to do without a reliable source of information about your projects. One of the first things you need to focus on is building a consistent data store where vital project details are maintained. Schedule, budget, actuals, current project status, risks and issues to just name a few key details. Offline documents are the enemy here and you will need to ensure that once you have a data store provisioned (likely a PSA solution), you will need to educate your project managers to ensure that this becomes the sole source of truth for your project details. Once you have this information stored in one place, you are then able to view your portfolio at a glance to view the key project metrics that your organization is going to care about.
Methodology Drives Everything
Without a consistent method to project delivery, your project managers are going to feel left out on an island. Another key responsibility of the PMO is to develop and drive methodology in your organization’s projects. If your organization doesn’t have a methodology defined yet, don’t worry – you can do it! This post won’t tell you all the key steps in building a methodology (we only have so many pages here!) but your key focus should be collaboration from key players from previous or ongoing projects to understand what’s working and what’s not. If you are a COTS organization – look at the product and the market you are serving to see what would work best for your customers. Talk to the development team to understand how new features and bug fixes are developed and deployed. But most importantly – make sure that your key project management tasks are never optional and that your project managers fully understand how and when to execute them.
While this is not always a function of the PMO, I have found in my experience that the more involved the PMO is in structuring your services contracts, the easier it is for the project managers to deliver on the scope. A lot of organizations will have the sales department write up the statements of work (which effectively tell the customer what and how their products and services will be delivered). This is not always the best approach unless the authors of the documents fully understand the approach to be used and the boundaries that need to be set (i.e. what are you NOT going to do). Ensuring very clear and unambiguous language is key to a good contract and having the PMO participate in the development of your contracts is a key step. This allows for the organization’s methodology and best practices to naturally make their way into the document so that both parties understand fully how the project is to be executed. A strong contract sets the stage for a successful project.
Building a PMO is an enormous task. But following these streams of activity will start you off on the right path. Your PMO will not be built overnight and it will take some trials and errors to get it right however by keeping these in mind with your first steps in building your PMO will help you get it right sooner.