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During a recent conversation with a senior level executive of a company I was interviewing with, I was asked to review and comment on the initial roadmap for the establishment of a new PMO within the company.  It was a great exchange, and was obvious that there was an investment of time and thought into the roadmap.  During the discussion, we talked through different ideas on when specific PMO functions should be initiated to help build on the success of each function.

Based on that conversation, I decided it would be good to write an article on my personal structure for a PMO Development Roadmap, with some insight into why I believe certain functions need to happen in a specific order to achieve maximum success within your PMO.  Please realize that many steps can be developed concurrently, while some really should be developed into a functional state before you begin developing the next function or service offering of the PMO. 

Here is how I would normally propose the development of a PMO from scratch.  This roadmap assumes that there are already projects in flight, and a degree of project management process and staff is in place.  If this is not the case, then there are variations to this roadmap that need to be contextualized for the individual situation.  Contextualization is always a key to success either way, as there is no rubber stamp or exact process you can follow and be successful every time.

Another point to consider, is that the development of a PMO roadmap is not a single instance and then never reconsider your path.  The development of a your PMO roadmap can take several years, and should be a living effort.  It is something you should revisit on a regular basis (6-12 months), and continue to groom and update.  As your PMO begins to grow and take shape, you will need to make intentional efforts to properly contextualize your roadmap to fit your organization’s needs.  You will need to take the feedback that you receive and adjust your vision and goals to align to the needs of the business.  While your long-term vision may never change, how you arrive on that vision will rarely ever be a straight line, and will require minor shifts in strategy along the way.  Don’t be afraid to try new ways and challenge the conventional wisdom, as well as your own perspectives along the way. 

  1. Establishment of your PMO Governance Body(s)
    1. This is the most critical activity in the establishment of your organization’s PMO. It is the cornerstone on which the rest of your organization is built.  The key to success of your PMO is for the organization to maintain two key values.  Those values are “Neutrality” and to be “The Trusted Source of Truth on Projects” within your organization.  Establishing and partnering with the PMO Governance body is the key to both.  The role of the PMO is to be the Functional and Operational Delivery arm of the Governance Body.  The PMO should not be making the decisions on what projects to approve or what the projects’ priorities are.  They should be providing the PMO Governance Body with the information for them to make Data-Driven Decisions for the PMO, and then the PMO delivers on the functional and operational aspects of those decisions.
    2. Articles to expand on this theme:
      1. PMO Neutrality – CLICK HERE
      2. Trusted Source of Truth – CLICK HERE
  2. Establishment of a basic Intake Process
    1. This is the second step in the development of a successful PMO. If you don’t know what you are working on currently, and what you will be expected to work on in the future, how will you have the necessary information on which to build other areas of your PMO, like resource capacity planning, portfolio management, reporting, etc?  The development of a structured, repeatable and transparent Intake process is a key process in allowing the greater organizational leaders to understand where the majority of time, budget, and resources are invested within the project portfolio. 
    2. I have written articles, recorded a webinar, and created a foundational template pack that are great starting points in the creation of a structured Project Intake Process.
    3. Articles to expand on this theme:
      1. Intake Processes – CLICK HERE
      2. Recorded Webinar – CLICK HERE
      3. Foundational Template Pack – CLICK HERE
  3. Establishment of your initial PMO Managed Project Portfolio
    1. This exercise is the first step in documenting all known active projects that your PMO will be accountable for managing. You will need to take an inventory of everything that will impact your organizations Resource Capacity.  Some of the categories that I like to use within this inventory are as follows:
      1. Operational Activities
        1. These are the activities that are happening within your organization, that do not require PMO / Project Management to be successful. Many people refer to these as the “keep the lights on” activities.  You want to know what they are and what percentage of resource capacity they consume, as this is a key factor later on when you are developing Resource Capacity Planning for your organization.
      2. PMO Managed Projects
        1. This is the portfolio of projects that are managed by the PMO, with Project Managers and other PMO resources to bring to a successful project delivery.
      3. Non-PMO Managed Projects
        1. This is the group of projects that are being managed outside the PMO oversight, but still impact your organization’s resource capacity and budget. Just like Operational Activities, it is important to be aware and monitor these activities for their impact on your budget and resource capacity.
    2. Articles to expand on this theme:
      1. Recorded Webinars on Building a Portfolio Data Repository (4) – CLICK HERE
  4. Establishment of your PMO Core Team Staffing Levels
    1. Based on the knowledge of the PMO Managed Project Portfolio, you now can determine what would be defined as your Core Team Staffing Levels. These are the Roles and number of people in each role that is necessary to provide the standard level of services planned for your current budget year.  The knowledge that a PMO is a Cost Center, and should be budgeted at a level of approximately 10% of your PMO Managed Portfolio Value, should help with your core staffing levels.  Be careful not to overstaff initially, and use contract labor when appropriate, allowing your team to expand and contract within the contract labor pool, thus protecting your core team and core company knowledge.
    2. If your need for staff exceeds your “Core Team”, then you would plan for contract resources to be used, and paid for by the specific projects that utilize these resources.
    3. One key decision that must be made as part of your Core Staffing levels is the decision regarding resource assignment. Is your PMO going to be developed as a “Centralized” or ”Decentralized” organization?
      1. Centralized PMO – All resources report into the PMO’s Leadership structure. This model allows for a greater opportunity to maintain your organization’s perception of being “neutral”, as well as to be engaged in the hiring, training, and career growth of the PMO team.
      2. Decentralized PMO – Project Leadership roles report into various leaders throughout the organization. Project leaders tend to specialize in a specific area, and do not have the ability to work across organizational lines.  This model lends to a greater perception of the organization not being “neutral” in its reporting of project status.
    4. Roles to consider based on your PMO Managed Portfolio size, and the level of PMO Operational Support you plan to provide would be:
      1. PMO Operations Team Members
      2. Program / Project Managers
      3. Project Coordinators
      4. Business Analysts
      5. Change Managers
    5. Articles to expand on this theme:
      1. PMforTODAY’s Job Board – CLICK HERE
  5. Establishment of your initial Project Delivery Lifecycle Methodology
    1. You need to get your minimum Project Management processes defined and in place so that you can begin the educational process within your core team, but also to the greater organization that you support. This is a key requirement, and is one of those areas of your roadmap that should be worked in parallel with other areas.  While I list this intentionally in this order, so that your staff can be a part of the development of your PDLC, don’t minimize the importance of your initial processes and templates. 
    2. Remember, while the PMI PMBOK is a fantastic standard, it should be used as the boundaries that you operate within. Your PMO’s Project Delivery Lifecycle needs to be contextualized and aligned to your companies’ culture and size.  Many PMO’s tend to try and have a process and template for everything, and they don’t allow for the use of the skills, talent, and personal knowledge and experiences of the Project Leadership Team.  Be sure to design your PDLC to include the personal discretion and skill of your project team to be utilized within the processes to have a greater level of success.
    3. Some of the minimum core processes you should provide as you initiate your PMO would be:
      1. Project Charter
      2. Status Reporting
      3. Project Change Control Process
      4. Risk Management
      5. Project Plan / Schedule
    4. Articles to expand on this theme:
      1. Status Reporting Guidelines – CLICK HERE
      2. PDLC Contextualizaton to Organizational Maturity – CLICK HERE
      3. Aligning to your Company Culture – CLICK HERE
      4. Templates available for download – CLICK HERE
  6. Creation of your PMO Operational Service Offerings
    1. A PMO is so much more than just a project delivery organization. Successful project delivery is just the basic price of admission to sit at the table.  There are a large number of functions that your PMO can and should offer to the greater organization that will increase the PMO’s value to the organization and help you to deliver benefits for the investment made in the organization.
    2. Some of the key PMO Operational Service Offerings that should be included and developed in your PMO Roadmap are the following:
      1. Reporting Services
      2. Resource Capacity Planning
      3. Time Tracking
      4. Organizational Metrics and Analytics
    3. Articles to expand on this theme
      1. Value of a PMO – CLICK HERE
      2. Recorded Webinars on Building a Portfolio Data Repository (4) – CLICK HERE
      3. PMO Analytics – CLICK HERE

Below are a few key things to remember when developing and establishing your PMO. 

  1. Successful Project Delivery is just the basic price of admission. If you are not delivering your projects successfully, that is your first key obligation, and should be your primary focus before you engage on the development of more value-added functions of a PMO.
  2. PLAN, PLAN AGAIN, and Run this like a Project. Like any other project, a failure to plan will lead to a failure in delivery.  Take the time to really understand the expectations of your PMO Governance Body as you develop the plan for your organization, and be realistic in your expectations on what you can deliver and how fast you can implement you PMO Service Offerings. 
  3. There are many ways to implement your roadmap during the execution of your plan. This is one effort that I believe benefits an Agile approach to delivery, taking the time to structure and evaluation your backlog on a regular basis, working from a sprint cadence and being accountable to your PMO Governance body for regular check-ins will help keep your roadmap aligned to your overall organizational vision.


Tell me your thoughts in the comments and let’s open a dialog. I would be excited to hear other opinions on this topic.

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Don Clarke

Don Clarke

Co-Founder: Project Management for Today

As a Co-Founder of the website, Don Clarke has over 20  years of experience in the Project Management / Program Management space.  Having worked for a variety of companies over the last 20 years, he brings a strong base of knowledge in the industry.  Establishing or helping redefine multiple PMO's during this time, there is a unique perspective to his approach to developing the value of a Project Management Office (PMO), as well as his approach to leadership development within the organization.  Having been privileged to have multiple career defining mentoring experiences, Don realizes the importance of sharing that experience and giving back to the organizations where he is engaged.


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