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7 Steps to Setting Up a PMO

90% of organisations are unable to translate their strategies into action largely due to lack of implementation capabilities. Realising this gap, many organisations now resort to Project Management Offices (PMOs) to help them create value through the successful implementation of their initiatives, projects and programmes.

Setting up a PMO can be both a simple and complex task. Having successfully set up few PMOs, I have put together this article to serve as a guide for whoever intends to embark on the journey to set up a PMO, with the belief that the approach explained in the steps below can help a PMO delivery team minimize their odds of having a successful implementation.

  1.  Get Executive Buy-in

One of the major requirements needed for setting up a Project Management Office (PMO) is a strong executive buy-in. The success or failure of the endeavour is dependent on a visible support from top management without which the endeavour is good as dead on arrival. However, the specific supportive activities may vary from company to company based on organisational culture, but the executives’ role in this process is crucial to determining Go or No-Go.


  1. Perform Current State Assessment

In the process of delivering a PMO, it is imperative to understand the current state of the organization as it relates to project management maturity. This organisationalproject management maturity assessment will reveal amongst other things:

  • The culture of project management the organization has
  • How projects are currently managed
  • How many projects the organisation currently run
  • How satisfactory the project management results are
  • If the organisation really needs a PMO
  • The organizational change readiness
  • What type of PMO the organisation may accept
  1. Perform Gap Analysis

In trying to establish a PMO it is advisable that a proper Gap Analysis be conducted. Depending on the resources available, some PMO experts recommend performing a Gap Analysis alongside the Current State Assessment. Differently, from the Current State Assessment, the Gap Analysis will reveal the following:

  • What the organization has in terms of project governance, methodology, infrastructure, human resources and tools
  • What the implementation of a value-driven PMO will require
  • What approach to managing change and stakeholder expectations would be effective
  1. Create a PMO Vision

It is very important to define the Future State Vision in order to successfully implement the PMO. Some PMO school of thoughts have argued that a Business Plan should be created as against a PMO Charter believing that a PMO is more than a project but a strategic business unit. Whatever you choose to do, your plan must address the following;

  • The vision and mission statements
  • List of the goals to be achieved by the PMO (limit to 3)
  • Objectives for each goal (used to measure the success of the PMO)
  • The functions the PMO will perform.
  • The type of PMO and the organizational structure.
  • The results expected from the implementation.
  • The success measures and the strategy for achieving success.
  • Metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs).
  1. Create a PMO Implementation Strategy & Plan 

Before proceeding with the establishment of the PMO, it is very important to develop a strategic plan for the implementation. Depending on where you sit as a consultant, if you are an external consultant deploying a PMO for a client, this activity would have been performed at a high-level for the client to approve the project while a more detailed and actual plan will be developed prior to the actual implementation. The strategic plan will reflect the following.

  • The scope of the implementation.
  • The barriers, enablers and risks of the implementation
  • The critical success factors for the implementation.
  • The implementation roadmap.
  • Implementation’s phases and key milestones.
  • The number of resources needed.
  • The cost of implementation.
  • The PMO sustainability plan
  • Performance measurement and improvement plan
  1. Perform Change Management

The process of implementing a PMO may result in a change in organisational culture, structure, and this may disrupt the balance of power in the organisation. Because the acceptance or resistance of this change process may lead to the failure or success of the PMO endeavour, It is recommended that the organisation invests a lot of time and energy (from day one) to ensure the adoption of the change initiatives. The change management activities should include:

  • Conducting a change readiness assessment
  • Developing a strategic change management plan
  • Implementing the changes
  • Delivering change management workshops
  1. Implement PMO

Having performed all the above, it is important to tailor the implementation of the PMO to suit the exact need of the organization. Keep it simple, lean and fit for purpose. Depending on the type of PMO that is to be deployed (see below 3 types of PMO by John Reiling), the deliverables may include but not limited to:

  • PMO framework
  • Detailed processes
  • Detailed job descriptions and person specification/manning
  • Reporting templates
  • Operating model – Governance & Structure
  • Project management metrics and KPIs
  • Capacity development.


By John Reiling

There are three basic types of Project Management Office (PMO) organisations, varying in the degree of control and influence they have on projects within the organisation. You will need to determine which type you need to establish in order to have an effective project office. The three types of PMOs include:

  1. Supportive PMO

The Supportive PMO generally provides support in the form of on-demand expertise, templates, best practices, access to information and expertise on other projects, and the like. This can work in an organisation where projects are done successfully in a loosely controlled manner and where additional control is deemed unnecessary. Also, if the objective is to have a sort of “clearing-house” of project management information across the enterprise to be used freely by project managers, then the Supportive PMO is the right type.

  1. Controlling PMO

In organisations where there is a desire to “rein in” the activities, processes, procedures, documentation, and more – a controlling PMO can accomplish that. Not only does the organisation provide support, but it also requires that the support is used. Requirements might include the adoption of specific methodologies, templates, forms, conformance to governance, and application of other PMO controlled sets of rules. In addition, project offices might need to pass regular reviews by the controlling PMO, and this may represent a risk factor for the project. This works if a) there is a clear case that compliance with project management organisation offerings will bring improvements in the organisation and how it executes on projects, and b) the PMO has sufficient executive support to stand behind the controls the PMO puts in place.

  1. Directive PMO

This type goes beyond control and actually “takes over” the projects by providing the project management experience and resources to manage the project. As organisations undertake projects, professional project managers from the PMO are assigned to the projects. This injects a great deal of professionalism into the projects, and, since each of the project managers originates and reports back to the directive PMO, it guarantees a high level of consistency of practice across all projects. This is effective in larger organisations that often matrix out support in various areas, and where this setup would fit the culture.

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