Building the PMOProject Management Office

Wow the Business with Your New PMO in Just 100 Days!

This article is a continuation of “How to Set Up a PMO When You Have No Project Management Experience!

To quickly recap, in Part 1 we talked about these things:

  • The conventional and unconventional ways that it takes for someone to get the top job at the PMO
  • Irrespective of the path one takes to the PMO Leader role, the skills required to lead their PMO are extremely specific to the nature of the company and the needs of the PMO.
  • While the PMO Leader may not have prior project management experience, having sufficient knowledge in this area along with impeccable people skills is a must to succeed in this role.
  • It is not uncommon in rapidly growing small-to-mid-sized firms to have someone from within (with no or limited project management experience) take the helm of a PMO because of their deep understanding of the organization, its culture, and key relationships.
  • Even if a PMO Leader is setting up a PMO for the first time, they will be instantaneously considered an expert in this area by everyone at their organization, so they have to show the awareness, attitude, and urgency to get things going.

In this part, as promised, here’s what you can expect:

  • Step-by-Step Breakdown of Setting Up a PMO in 100 Days
  • Boosting Your Chances of PMO Success

Step-by-Step Breakdown of Setting Up a PMO in 100 Days

The first 100 days for any leader entering office marks a major milestone. They are judged on the performance during that period, and the opinion set during that time persists throughout their tenure.

As a PMO Leader, you should take this standard upon yourself. This will most likely not be set as an expectation by your stakeholders, but this plan of action will be largely appreciated by them.

Here’s how to go about it: Use the Key Steps and Top 3 Checklist Items from each phase to build and execute your robust 100-day plan. Expect to have some phase overlap.

Days 0 – 28: Phase I: Assess Maturity

Key Steps

  • Understand the current state of the PMO and the organization within which it resides.
    • If there is no PMO currently in place, then skip this step.
  • Put the organization under the lens and assess its focus on processes, cross-department synergies, decision-making maturity, and technology orientation.
    • Helps you assess the conditions of the readiness of having a PMO
  • Determine strengths, weaknesses, and gaps, and consequently place the PMO within the appropriate maturity level.
    • Can you set up a mature PMO right off the bat? Do you need to set up a nascent-level PMO and plan its maturity over time?

Top 3 Checklist Items

  • Identify key stakeholders and interview them.
    • Understand pain points and desires. Do a gut check on whom you can count on to support you, who might pose roadblocks for you, and whom you need to educate on PMOs. Then start building relationships.
  • Assess PMO staff and resources and determine any immediate hiring needs.
    • Similar suggestions as with stakeholders—your staff are your stakeholders too!
  • Identify quick wins to be achieved in 100 days.
    • g., these could be (1) useful, instructional templates, or (2) project management standards in non-project management language so others can understand them. The quick wins really depend on the challenges that you’ve identified during your interviews.

ALERT: The most common reason why PMOs fail is due to (lack of) executive buy-in. Pay special attention to (1) educating your executives on PMOs, (2) aligning with them on the influence and responsibilities of your PMO, and most importantly (3) building relationships with them so that they buy into you, your ideas, and ultimately your PMO.

Days 21 – 49: Phase II: Establish Target State & Define Roadmap

Key Steps

  • Define the target state for the PMO based on executive sponsorship and organization adaptability—the PMO evolution is directly proportional to that of its organization.
    • If you try to be more mature than your organization can accept you to be, you will not succeed.
  • Carve out the scope of the PMO in terms of its role, target business areas and geographic locations, and the nature of projects it must address.
    • This is crucial. You must get absolute and resolute agreement with your sponsors. Use your negotiation chops to get this as close to possible to the grand vision you have for your PMO, even if the evolution is expected to be in phases.
  • Specify metrics and qualitative indicators to gauge the performance of the PMO.
    • You have to drive this conversation and come up with the metrics and indicators that make sense for your PMO in your organization. Seek agreement from your stakeholders on them.

Top 3 Checklist Items

  • Review and finalize the PMO business case.
    • This is the tool to use to achieve all the key steps mentioned above for Phase 2. Don’t have a business case template in your organization? Create one. If you do, then use it and don’t waste time creating something else—executives get used to how they view and translate information. If one way is working well, then use that to your advantage to get your PMO vision across to them.
  • Start hiring for resources to help set up the PMO.
    • Start now so that you have help in time to start executing the PMO setup.
  • Identify 1-2 milestones to be achieved in 100 days.
    • In Phase 1, you identified a few quick wins that you can achieve in the first 100 days. In Phase 2 you add on to that by adding 1-2 major milestone achievements that you can realistically achieve.

Days 35 – 84: Phase III: Prioritize & Implement

Key Steps

  • Implement PMO pilot(s).
    • This is where the real action happens—roll out the plan and make it a reality. Usually one (1) pilot suffices, and there typically is a threshold of doing just one before the full, phased roll-out. But you should not hesitate to take away any lessons from your pilot and early roll-out phases to incorporate in the execution of later phases.
  • Prioritize sections/phases of PMO roll-out.
    • This depends on the scope and area of influence of the PMO. Will you be rolling out various PMO services first, or focusing on a certain set of stakeholders before others, or perhaps limiting your roll-out to a specific geography?
  • Implement full roll-out.
    • Not much more to say here!

Top 3 Checklist Items

  • Incorporate lessons learned from pilot(s) and update the PMO business case.
    • Updating the business case is important because this is what will be used to judge the performance of the PMO. If something was found during the pilot that is worth writing down, then don’t ignore this important step.
  • Conduct roadshows across the organization.
    • Let your stakeholders know that the PMO is coming their way. Make it an eventful and exciting experience for them—and by that, I am not suggesting that you spend a lot of funds to have a “grand entrance” party. What I am saying, however, is that you should customize your message for every stakeholder group that relates to why the PMO is going to benefit them. Tie this to the conversations that you had with them in Phase 1 and make them feel that they are the reason you’re setting up the PMO.
  • Achieve one major milestone.
    • This is one of the major milestones you identified in Phase 2.

ALERT: Introduction of processes and governance is often met with perception of red tape and ultra-policing. In the early days, bend over backwards to ensure that processes fit organizational culture, and focus on getting things done versus completing documentation.

Days 77—100: Phase IV: Optimize

Key Steps

  • Evaluate the PMO’s performance metrics and solicit qualitative feedback from key stakeholders periodically.
    • You need data to know how you’re really doing; make this a habit and you can always have supporting material to back up the reason why you and your PMO should be around. Plus, you will also get brownie points for showing your stakeholders that you care.
  • Generate and share a PMO progress report to key stakeholders.
    • Be proud to share what others think of you.
  • Make a business case to motivate the organization to achieve the next level of PMO maturity, focus, or area of impact.
    • Grow your PMO based on what you hear and see; this way you are growing based on the capacity of your organization to accept your PMO.

Top 3 Checklist Items

  • Create a standard PMO progress metrics dashboard.
    • This will take a couple of iterations to get to a point of acceptability from your key stakeholders, but have this in place for reporting on the strides you make.
  • Publicize early success across the organization.
    • First project completed on time? New, easy-to-understand templates available? Refined work intake process? Let everyone in your company know about it. Put up posters next to the elevators. Send it through the company monthly newsletter. Create your own special emailing list. Get someone else to sing your praises. You get the point.
  • Create a plan to increase competence/skill/usability maturity of PMO staff and resources.
    • Over time, expectations for your PMO will increase. Invest in the personal and professional development of your resources so they can support you in your PMO growth execution.

Boosting Your Chances of PMO Success

Did you know that 50% of PMOs fail within three years? That’s the reality according to the Association for Project Management (APM)! This is true whether you have prior PMO experience or not.

A scary thought, isn’t it?

Pay special attention to the ALERTs called out earlier in the article. Additionally, use these tips to tilt the balance your way:

  • Maintain a mindset of adding value to your leadership while helping project managers at the same time.
    • Be transparent with your project managers as much as you can; they are your front line and can make or break you.
  • Don’t forget about learning on the job.
    • The role of a PMO Leader is fast-paced with a lot of expectations early on. You need to quickly identify your plan and move full-steam ahead. Even though you may have the skills required, nothing trumps experience for getting a lot of “on-the-job” learning. Stand on the shoulders of those who have been there and who can help you think big, see further ahead, or just be a sounding board. Look for mentors within your organization if it has other PMOs. Outside mentors and coaches can be a fantastic asset too, as they can give you on-demand, personalized advice that you can apply in a timely manner.
  • Assemble the right staff to help you deliver.
    • Surround yourself with the right resources of portfolio/program/project managers and business analysts whom you can trust to deliver. They can deliver the pilot and be champions for it. You need folks who understand the (1) company and systems well, (2) metrics involved and how to translate data into information, and (3) vision of the PMO.

That’s all folks!

I’d love to hear from you if you enjoyed reading this as much I enjoyed writing it. What resonated with you the most? How quickly can you put it into action? Anything else that you may need to help you get started off with your PMO?

Let me know!

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