What makes a PMO successful? (Part Two)

Posted on: September 1st, 2020 by admin


    • Metrics What can you measure to demonstrate the value of the PMO to the organization? Don’t leave this for others to decide – take the lead and propose metrics that will allow you to show how the PMO is contributing to organizational success. For example: a reduced number of or less severe cost and schedule over-runs, higher customer satisfaction, reduced attrition, finishing more projects per year, better alignment of projects with organizational strategy, increased business satisfaction.


  • Services The services you offer and how the rest of the organization can engage you for those services needs to be defined. The project office concept covers a continuum of services from providing support to project managers to managing the company portfolio of projects and being responsible for project results. There is no standard set of services provided by PMOs, services vary widely based on:
  • Organizational Placement
  • The PMO mandate
  • The size of the PMO staff and their skill levels
  • The project management maturity of the parent organization

That said, here is a list of “typical” PMO Services

  • Assist projects at start up with charter development, scope definition, estimating, scheduling, risk management, etc
  • Provide project/program management consultative expertise, coaching, mentoring and support
  • Provide a neutral, centralized office for monitoring, analyzing, and reporting on selected projects and programs
  • Maintain a repository of project management lessons learned and best practices
  • Provide project management expertise to troubled projects
  • Contract for, or develop and deliver project management training
  • Supply skilled project managers for critical projects
  • Perform – or facilitate –  enterprise project portfolio management
  • Provide standardized tools, techniques, and methodology
  • Promote project management as a core competency

Another good list of “typical” PMO services comes from the Project Management Institute. In 2007 The PMI conducted a survey of 500 PMOs. Among other things, they identified 27 staff functions that were frequently part of PMO mandates. PMI organized these 27 functions into five independent groups which are listed from left to right in decreasing order of the average importance in the table below.[3]


Organizational learning

    • Report project status to upper management
    • Develop and implement a standard methodology
    • Coordinate between projects
    • Provide advice to upper management
    • Monitor and control the performance of the PMO
    • Monitor and control project performance
    • Promote project management within the organization
    • Identify, select, and prioritize new projects
    • Participate in strategic planning
    • Manage archives of project documentation
    • Implement and operate a project information system
    • Develop competency of personnel, including organizing through training


  • Manage one or more portfolios
  • Manage benefits
  • Conduct post-project reviews
  • Develop and maintain a project scoreboard
  • Provide mentoring for project managers
  • Manage one or more programs
  • Conduct networking and environmental scanning
  • Conduct project audits
  • Provide a set of tools without an effort to standardize
  • Allocate resources between projects
  • Implement and manage database of lessons learned
  • Implement and manage risk database

Results in the first one hundred days:

The first one hundred days are where the foundation for success is built. During this timeframe you must reach out to the potential users of your services letting them know who you are, what your roles/responsibilities are and how they can work with you. The primary focus in this period is to understand the organization, market your value and services, and get a few quick wins. Here is a suggested list of things to accomplish in the first one hundred days that will help build a strong foundation.  Not all of the activities listed below will apply to all PMOs and, depending on the number of staff and their experience, some may require more time.

  • Understand existing staff capabilities
  • Understand organizational politics
  • Define and document scope/expectations and develop a PMO charter (if there isn’t one already)
  • Develop a staffing plan linked to the scope/expectations
  • Develop a marketing plan for the PMO and begin execution
  • Establish a list of all “key” projects in the area(s) of the business you are responsible for
  • Resources
  • Major milestones
  • Start/end dates
  • Focus on business value, not compliance. Some low cost/high value activities are:
  • Lead lessons learned facilitations
  • Help with project initiation
  • Help with project status reporting
  • Lead project risk assessments
  • Help with estimation and schedule development
  • Provide training/consulting/mentoring
  • Provide assistance to “troubled” projects

Results in the first six months:

The first six months are crucial to survival of the PMO. Businesses that do not see benefits within that timeframe often lose interest and disband the PMO.  Here is a suggested list of things to accomplish in the first six months that will continue to add value to the foundation established in the first 100 days. Here again, not all of the activities listed below will apply to all PMOs and, depending on the number of staff and their experience, some may require more time.

  • Open PMO positions filled
  • Guidelines for project planning and estimating developed and in use
  • “Startup Services” being used for key projects
  • Project classification system defined, agreed to, and in use
  • “Commitments Committee” formed to manage the project portfolio
  • Process to review and prioritize projects defined, agreed to, and in use
  • Project metrics and format for reporting on key projects defined, agreed to, and in use
  • Project review process defined and in use on key projects
  • Cross organizational working group to review, improve and simplify the product development process defined and launched


It isn’t the size of the PMO or how high they report into the organization that determines whether or not they will survive; rather it is the alignment of their services, skills and reporting level with the organizations expectations and their ability to deliver in that framework that determines survival.  If the PMO can demonstrate value for the organization in the first 100 days and first 6 months, it will be on the road to long-term success


[1]Richard Murphy, The Role of the Project Support Office, PM Network, May 97.

[2] From a presentation, Creating a PMO Charter, Dr. Gary Evans, CVR/IT Consulting

[3]The Multi-Project PMO: A Global Analysis of the Current State of the Practice. A white paper prepared for the Project Management Institute by Dr. Brian Hobbs, University of Quebec at Montreal, Quebec, Canada

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