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How to Build a Project Management Office(PMO) Checklist in 12 Steps!

Hey there, before you dive into the article, I also created a YouTube video I wanted to share. Check it out here:

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Over the last several months, I have been asked several times to give my presentation “How to Build a Project Management Office (PMO)” based on my 2012 book “The Tactical Guide for Building a PMO”. In that book, I cover a topic that is very near and dear to my heart called “The PMO Cycle” The PMO cycle states that the average PMO lasts 3-5 years and with the amount of requests I am getting for this presentation, it is clear that the cycle holds true. One company might be shutting down a PMO whereas another company could be starting one up. Often times the catalyst for change is the arrival or departure of a major executive. Oh, and just so you are aware, I did update my with much newer and updated book called “The PMO Lifecycle: Building, Running, and Shutting Down”. It is a top seller on Amazon, you can check it out here. 

What I wanted to do is spend a little time on the core components that would be immediately useful to you if you are going to start building your PMO.

There are twelve steps to starting or building a PMO. These steps include:

  1. Start with a Plan
  2. Obtain Executive Support
  3. Create PMO Staples
  4. Select 4 P’s of PMO (including Methodologies)
  5. Select PMO Model
  6. Create PMO Maturity Model (Categories and Measurement)
  7. Obtain PMO Resources
  8. Select PMO Training
  9. Implement PMO Methodologies
  10. Select PMO Reporting
  11. Select PMO Tools and Processes
  12. PMO Complete
How to build a PMO

Wow, that’s a lot of steps and I want to tell you right now that building a PMO is no easy task. You have a huge project in front of you and you need to treat it like a project. You will hear quite often from your sponsors that they want you to go go faster and get your PMO up and running, but you have to stress to them that this takes time and that this is not something that can happen overnight.

What I want to do now is spend a little time and look at each of these 12 steps and if you just so happen to be building a PMO now, this extra information is going to be extremely helpful to you. I would look at this as your PMO setup checklist that you can use on any PMO. 

Here are these steps again, let’s spend time and go a bit deeper on each of them.

Start with a Plan Creating a PMO is a huge project and so it is important to spend the time and create a WBS and get the tasks for this huge project into a scheduling tool. It does not have to be perfect, but it does need to be in a place where you can track and report progress.

Obtain Executive Support – This is probability the most important task in building a PMO. Without it you are dead in the water.  Lack of executive support is something that will hurt your PMO in the long run. One best practice I like to do is get 1 -2 executives to support my PMO in case one moves on and you lose their support. Having a backup executive is a smart thing for any project manager to do.

Create PMO Staples – PMO staples are the four main components of any organization. They include Mission Statement, Vision Statement, PMO Value and KPI’s and PMO Budget. Locking these for any organization is important, locking them for your PMO is critical.

Select 4 P’s of PMO (including Methodologies) – Selecting what type of methodology you will have in your PMO is critical. Will you be a Portfolio only PMO, a Program/Project PMO, a Project only PMO. Regardless, of the methodology you select, don’t forget the 4th P, the People in the PMO.

Select PMO Model –  Selecting your PMO Model consists of determining your PMO type. The industry defines ten main models including Support, Controlling, Directive, Enterprise…etc. The 5th step in this process is determine with your sponsors and executives what type of PMO model will you be. You executives will have an opinion on which model they want you to perform.

Create PMO Maturity Model (Categories and Measurement) – Every PMO needs a maturity model in order to determine how and were to mature. You won’t know if you are running an effective PMO if you are measuring how well you are doing.

Obtain PMO Resources – This step of the process consists of hiring the people you need in your organization. I strongly suggest that you use a PMO Roles and Responsibilities Staffing model. Based on a RACI, this staffing model will determine the PMO Service Offerings and determine what roles you need to fill those offerings. Without this PMO Service Offerings chart, you will have no real mechanism to justify the staff you need for your PMO.

Select PMO Training – Now you have your staff, this is the time you spend to begin training them. Focus your training priorities on PMO Mentoring Programs, PMO Buddy Systems and hard and soft skills. Every member of your PMO team is going to need all of these areas of training to really be effective in their roles.

Implement PMO Methodologies – Now that you have your PMO Model and your 4 P’s of your PMO, now is time to merge the two worlds together and make it real. This consists of creating playbooks, guides, training, operating manuals, essentially everything to execute the tasks in your organization. You can say you are going to be a Directive PMO, but if you don’t give your PMO staff guides and operating procedures, you are not really directing them now are you?

Select PMO Reporting – In this stage of the project, this is where you lock your PMO reporting and dashboards. Don’t rush into creating dashboards, get some manual reports setup and working first and then spend the time and automate those manual reports. Dashboards are awesome, and they can be amazing to see all the data in your PMO in one spot, but they come at a cost and at the stage of building a PMO, you don’t need a dashboard. Save your money, get manual reports up and running first and look at dashboards later.

Select PMO Tools and Processes – In this final stage of building your PMO, you are going to spend time and select specific tools and processes for your PMO. Tools will be based on Portfolio, Program and Project Management and processes will consist of the ones that are directly related to the automated tool you bought for Portfolio and Project Management. Don’t be fooled, these tools come with a lot of processes and that will be something you need to incorporate if you decide to purchase these tools.

PMO Complete  – That’s it you did it. You need to spend some time and celebrate and congratulate your team on doing this huge project. Now the work of running the PMO begins and that’s where all the fun happens. Stay tuned, more information on running a PMO soon.

Well that’s it, that’s the twelve steps in building a PMO broken down in  consumable chunks for anyone to start using immediately.

Like what you read? Want to see the full guide with much more information? Click here to download the full guide!

If you are really serious and want to buckle down and learn how to build a world class PMO, then check out my online course today. How to Build, Run and Shutdown as PMO Online course. 

Ok, now you have built the PMO, now you have to run it! Check out my article on how to run a PMO here. 

One of the articles you want to check out before even starting a PMO is to do an assessment, so check that article here How to Perform a PMO Assessment/Inventory – The 10-Step Process.

I think I know a thing or two about PMOs, check out this article here. PMO Global Awards

If you are applying for a PMO Director/Manager role anytime soon, you are going to love this article here on the Top 20 Best Project Management Office Director / Manager Interview Questions for 2021. 

Bill Dow, PMP

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2 thoughts on “How to Build a Project Management Office(PMO) Checklist in 12 Steps!”

  1. @Bill, do you have any case studies showing that what you advocate actually works?

    How is it that you reconcile the words of Field Marshall Helmuth von Moltke (the elder) who told us in 1865 that “no plan survives 1st contact with the enemy” a theory that was updated in 1951 by General Eisenhower who told us “plans are useless but planning is essential”?

    We publish two case studies, one which followed your “top-down” advice that failed dismally and another one that we grew organically “bottom-up” that documented savings of 65 million USD over a 4-year period.

    Here is the link to the presentation we made for PM Expo showing both case studies https://www.academia.edu/63094162/_Successful_vs_Failed_PMO_Case_Studies_including_a_Root_Cause_Analysis_sharing_Lessons_Learned_How_to_Do_It_PT_Expo_Presentation_All_Locations_Dates_06_16_2021 and here is a link to an AACE Certification Paper written by one of the key architects of this outstanding “success” story https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/PMWJ2-Sep2012-WIBIKSANA-EVM-Adapted-for-UndergroundMining-StudentPaper.pdf

    Another point that I don’t see you’ve made and that is for those of us who are CONTRACTORS, where projects are PROFIT CENTERS, for hundreds if not thousands of years we have built our business models around what we in construction call “project controls” and IT people call Project Management Offices (PMO) Here is the 1909 resource we recommend to support the origins of “project controls”. “Cost Keeping and Management Engineering: A Treatise for Engineers, Contractors and Superintendents Engaged in the Management of Engineering Construction” by Gillette and Dana (1909) https://books.google.co.id/books?redir_esc=y&id=zO-ADudj-R8C&focus

    I hope this helps you for future articles and I’d love to see case studies showing how your approach actually worked?

    1. Thanks Paul, appreciate the comment and love the details you sent, but yes, I have ran ten PMOs across my career across four different companies so my case studies are created every day. I teach and write about what I do on a day-to-day basis, so this is not theory, it is also not construction, so I understand the differences. Thanks again for reading, I love it, appreciate the engagement.

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