PMO Implementation Process
The PMO (Project Management Office) implementation process refers to the strategic series of steps undertaken to establish, enhance, or restructure a centralized unit within an organization responsible for overseeing, standardizing, and improving project management practices.
PMO Implementation Plan
While 85% of organizations have a PMO in place (The State of Project Management 2016), most PMOs close within the first 3 years (APM). This is a shocking statistic, so no wonder most companies implementing a new PMO find it daunting and tough.
Whether you are new to the topic of PMOs and are considering implementing one in your organization or are revisiting the current catalog of services of an existing office (or simply because you have a random interest in PMO stuff!), the continuous debate about a PMO’s responsibilities may intrigue you.
What is a PMO Implementation Plan?
A PMO (Project Management Office) Implementation Plan is a comprehensive document outlining the strategy, steps, and actions required to establish, enhance, or restructure a PMO within an organization. It serves as a roadmap guiding the process from inception to full operation.
PMO Implementation Plan
What are the Phases in a PMO Implementation Plan?
Before you can actually start, you must understand the organizational context that led to the need of establishing a PMO since this will help you to better define what expectations will the PMO aim to meet, who are the PMO stakeholders, what objectives should the PMO aim for, and what functions and services will better respond to the achievement of those objectives. During this phase, two key deliverables should be produced and signed-off.
Firstly, the PMO Business Case should provide a robust case (financial, strategic, etc.) for a PMO to be established. Secondly, the PMO Charter, a sort of a “contract” between the organization and the project to establish the PMO. The Charter should identify the mission, vision, and objectives of the PMO, what departments will be covered, and, at a high level, the approach for implementation.
In this phase, we start detailing which functions and services the PMO should deliver to meet expectations, which are usually captured in what is called the “PMO Services Catalog.” To better perform those services, it’s also important to identify what configuration the PMO should take, in terms of type and model, and who it should report to, aspects that are captured in the “PMO Governance and Operating Model.” This is also when the PMO will plan its roadmap, identifying what needs to be achieved in the short, medium, and long-term and what criteria will be used to assess success in the implementation.
Once the roadmap has been agreed upon, it’s time to implement it, one bite at a time. Start by gathering the right team around you and defining their roles and responsibilities. People are at the core of what projects are about; thus, having a skilled and committed team in place can be the secret ingredient for your PMO success! Then…there’s plenty to do!
Defining how projects are going to be run in the organization (a methodology), creating project templates, establishing mechanisms and governance for reporting on the portfolio, delivering training and educating staff in the methodology and in the new working practices, and even considering the use of a PPM tool to support your work (although this may be more useful at a later stage) are activities that should be in the radar of the PMO for the first months of implementation. Once all is in good shape, try to pilot the approach with a couple of minimal-risk-projects (should there be such a thing!), capture feedback, learn and apply refinements and start thinking about how you will roll it out by creating a Roll-out Plan.
While the “Implement” phase is the most effort and time-consuming, it is actually in the PMO's day-to-day that you will understand how successful the implementation has been. It’s in the trenches that the value of the PMO is going to be tested, so prepare, be brave, and keep up the good work! This is an opportunity to measure what you have achieved so far, learn from failures, refine your work, communicate your achievements, and prepare for the next wave of work, to improve the PMO and the organizational project management maturity. Following, a PMO maturity assessment will enable you to identify gaps and gather the support you need to plan for the journey.
Do not despair yet! “Close” is here just because your PMO may have been created to support a specific project or program now ending. Should this be the case, please do not underestimate this phase's importance, as so often happens with projects. The closure is important (you can ask my therapist!). It involves not just housekeeping, like closing administrative contracts, risk logs, etc., but also ensuring that the organizational memory is alive by gathering lessons learned (Lessons learned template to analyze process/task done in an organization.)from the PMO implementation and management and by transferring that knowledge back to the organization. However, if you are a permanent PMO, please disregard this text and just continue being awesome.
What are the Responsibilities or Functions of a PMO?
Different PMOs will be assigned different responsibilities, depending on the needs of the business at the time. In fact, with so many meanings assigned to PMOs (Project Management Office, Programme Management Organization, Portfolio Office, Centre of Excellence, or the trendy Transformation Office, you name it), it’s no wonder that you may be confused about the responsibilities of a PMO. In practice, what does a PMO do?
You may call your PMO whatever you want – in the end, it’s what they do that makes the real difference. The simple answer is…it depends. As with most aspects regarding PMOs, there is no one-size-fits-all. However, typical responsibilities of a PMO tend to fit in one of three categories:
Delivery-enabling responsibilities refer exactly to what it says on the tin; they aim to directly facilitate the delivery of projects and programs. Working in the field, the main stakeholder group for the activities included in this category is the Project Managers. Responsibilities include assisting projects getting approved through the different stage gates, assuring the quality and delivery of work packages, providing basic support such as booking meetings or managing the different logs and documentation from projects, and providing advanced expertise such as project scheduling, project recovery techniques or coordinating dependencies across projects.
Project Governance, Project Scheduling, Project Recovery, Quality Assurance, Administrative Support, Documentation Management, and Dependencies coordination.
Centre of Excellence
Responsibilities related to the PMO as a Center of Excellence (CoE) are all about embedding a project management culture and building project management capabilities. This group of responsibilities is aimed to support all project staff, thus, includes aspects such as the development of processes, templates, and guidelines, the ownership over a project portfolio management (PPM) tool, the provision and clarification of best practices, converted into a scalable and tailored project management methodology, or the facilitation of project learning and collaboration, through the establishment of a community of practice where project teams can discuss challenges and transfer knowledge. From a capability-building perspective, training, coaching, and mentoring or competency assessments are examples of responsibilities that a PMO can take.
Processes, templates, guidelines, PM Methodology, Best Practices, Tools and Technology, Training, coaching and mentoring, Community of Practice, and Knowledge Transfer.
While most PMOs start their mandate focusing on enabling successful delivery and acting as a hub for excellence in project management practices, as they mature, their scope will likely expand to also include portfolio responsibilities. Activities included in this group of responsibilities will be particularly useful for senior management by facilitating informed decision-making and providing oversight over the portfolio's health and value.
PMOs operating in this sphere will be responsible for assisting in selecting and prioritizing the portfolio and reporting the status and progress of projects and programs. Additional responsibilities related to managing a resource plan and solving allocation bottlenecks, and demonstrating that value is being delivered by facilitating the benefits realization process.
Portfolio Prioritization, Portfolio Optimization, Portfolio Reporting, Resource Allocation, and Benefits Realization.
PMO Setup Checklist
- Mission and Vision - Why is the organization creating a PMO? What will the PMO aim to achieve? Is there a strong justification for the PMO? Does the organization have the resources (people, budget, readiness) to implement a PMO?
- Function and Scope - What areas/departments will be covered in the PMO implementation? What will the PMO deliver and not deliver? What functions and services will be provided by the PMO?
- Success Criteria - Where will the PMO fit in the organization? Who will the PMO report to? How will the PMO be configured? How will the PMO know if it has been successful in its implementation?
- Roadmap - What is the time frame for the implementation? What are the key achievements in the roadmap? What does the PMO want to achieve in the short, medium, and long-term? When and how will the methodology and new working practices be piloted? When and how will the methodology and new working practices be rolled-out?
- Stakeholders - Who is going to be impacted by and/or can impact the PMO implementation? Who are the PMO’s customers? What are their expectations? What do they want from the PMO? Who will form the PMO team? Does the PMO have the right competencies in the house? Is there a strong PMO sponsor and a strong PMO Manager?
PMO Setup Checklist
Best Practices for Successful PMO
A plan is always a good start, but there are a couple of considerations that you should keep in mind if you are aiming for success:
- Don’t try to boil the ocean: it’s tempting to try to do everything at once, but it’s preferable to do a few things right than to do everything poorly. Learn how to crawl before you attempt to run.
- Clear vision: establishing a clear and compelling vision is key. What is it you are trying to achieve with the PMO? Where do you want to be?
- Clear Expectations: ultimately, your stakeholders are the ones who will determine if the PMO is to exist and continue or not, so you should do your best to keep them on your side and understand their views and concerns. What is of value for them? What is in the PMO for them?
- Communicate, communicate, communicate: pic or didn’t happen. We live in a social world now, so use it to spread the word about your achievements and engage with the PMO community!
- Right Team: having the right team can be what makes or breaks your PMO. As the saying goes, hire passion, train skills!
- Quick-wins: it can take a long time until you reach your desired level of maturity, but if you focus your implementation on quick-wins, the value can be delivered sooner (I’m sure people will be happy about it!)
- Strong Sponsorship: Like with the PMO team, having a committed, supportive, and available sponsor is essential to set the PMO direction, so invest time in getting the right sponsor for this project.