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How to Run a Successful Project Management Office (PMO)

Hey there, before you dive into the article, I also wanted to let you know I created a YouTube video on the topic as well. You can check that out here:

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Despite what you might read in the news, or hear at the water cooler, there’s a growing demand for information on building a Project Management Office.  Over the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to share my perspectives on this topic” based on my book “The PMO Lifecycle: Building, Running, and Shutting Down”. It has been a wonderful opportunity, people have really enjoyed the presentation and have told me they now have some “amazing takeaways” that they can implement when they go back to work.  Giving back to the PM Community is a great feeling.  I love those moments of feedback, when they come back to me and say that they implemented this or that, I know they’re setting themselves up for running a great PMO.  And honestly, setting them up for a great career.

How to Run a Successful Project Management Office (PMO)

However, Setting up a project management office (PMO) is really just the beginning. Running the PMO is actually the hard part.When you’re building your PMO, you’re in the “honeymoon phase” of the PMO lifecycle.You have everything going for you. You have everything going for you. Management is excited; you have budget; you can hire as many people as you want; you can buy portfolio and project management tools; and basically everyone is rooting for you to be successful.

Trust me. That fanfare dies quickly, leaving you in the position of running one of the most challenging organizations in the company. Let’s look at what it takes to run a PMO.

Steps for Building a Project Management Office

Before we do that, we need a brief reminder of the Inputs to running a PMO, covered in my earlier article “The PMO Lifecycle: Building, Running, and Shutting Down – How to Build a PMO”, I cover these twelve critical steps.

  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

You went back and implemented these, right? If not, then spend the time and go back now because those twelve steps are the core to building a solid and long lasting PMO.

Steps for Running a Project Management Office

Running a PMO is about leadership and tactical management.  Today we’ll cover reporting, troubleshooting, day-to-day operating and staffing issues. Here are the four  main tactical areas that you will be involved in when running your day-to-day PMO.

  1. Develop Executive Reports
  2. Develop PMO Reports
  3. PMO Day to Day Operations
  4. PMO Resources (Mentor & Buddy System)

Don’t let the small list fool you, there is a ton of work here and not only is it a lot of work, it is going to be your full time job. Most PMO Managers have to focus 100% of their time to these four areas.

I am seeing some companies that want PMO Managers to be Portfolio Managers, Program Managers, Project Managers and run the PMO. That’s crazy and something that is not sustainable in the long run for anybody so if you are in this position have a talk with your manager and set some realistic expectations. Take if from me, I have managed several PMO’s and it is not sustainable.

Anyway, let’s jump in and provide more details on each of these 4 steps.

Develop Executive Reports –Those same executives that approved your PMO and gave you the world when building the PMO are going to want reports. Lots of reports and will want them to be updated and accurate  all the time. Some of the reports you will run will be PMO Dashboards, Milestone reports, PMO Resource reports…etc. This list goes on and on. Working with your executive to determine the reports they need will be critical.

Develop PMO Reports – Some of the same reports that the executives want to see, you the PMO Manager will want to see as well. An great example of that would be tracking progress on your efforts. There will be some specific Portfolio, Program and Project reports that you will need to create depending on the methodologies you use in your organization. Embrace reporting in your PMO it will be the only way to keep on top of your organization and the value it’s been created to deliver

PMO Day-to-Day Operations – The day-to-day operations of your PMO will consist of PMO Cadence calendars, PMO Vacation calendars, PMO OOF calendars and generally the main components of running a PMO. These components include:

  • Define Color Definitions
  • Setup CR Process
  • Develop Program/Project Playbooks
  • Define PMO Priority List
  • Define PMO Weekly Checklist
  • Setup Project Transition Plans
  • Develop PMO Templates
  • Execute PMO Reports
  • Review and Select PMO Tools
  • Continue to support Management and Value Discussions

PMO Resources (Mentor & Buddy System) –One of the key components of running a PMO that I always talk about is the people. If you don’t take care of your people you are going to have huge problems in your PMO. One of the easiest ways of taking care of your people is setting up PMO Mentoring or more informal PMO Buddy systems. Each of these systems give your PMO staff members an opportunity to turn to each other for help, share best practices and learn from each other. I have setup several of these programs in the past and they have been very successful.

As we summarize, running a PMO is a huge undertaking and most PMO managers struggle in being successful for a number of reasons. I encourage you to step back, look at some of these best practices and take some time to implement them in your organization.

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

Here are some articles that you may be interested in:

Check out this article I wrote on this subject for www.projectmanagement.com on PMO’s. https://www.projectmanagement.com/articles/280385/Implementing-a-PMO–Does-it-Have-to-be-So-Hard-

Check out the How to Shutdown a PMO article I wrote if you missed it above:

Good luck, it’s a tough job running a PMO but you are going to be great! If you are interested in learning more about how to build and run PMOs, check out my course page here.

Want to try my “How to Run a PMO” chatbot?

Click the image below to get started! If you don’t have one, you will be prompted to sign-up for a FREE account on Poe.com. It is no different than signing up for a free account on ChatGPT. Grab your free account and start playing with this new chatbot today!


Bill Dow, PMP

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Bill Dow, a PMP-certified expert in Project Management Offices (PMOs), has co-authored books on the subject. With over 20 years of teaching experience and having built 10 PMOs across 4 companies.

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