PMO setup

PMO word cloudYou have been asked by senior management to set up a Project Management Office (PMO) to manage one or more projects or programmes.  So what do you do first?

The whole process of designing and establishing a PMO (especially where a PMO does not exist and is a new concept or where you have not had experience of setting up or working in a PMO ) can appear to be a very big, even unachievable, task.

Now for some good news.  It does not have to be hard or complex and  this article helps by breaking the process down into simple steps.

Below are 7 steps that will help you to define and implement a PMO into your organisation.

Step 1 – Define the objective(s) of the PMO

Be clear on the objectives for the PMO

There are 3 different types of PMO (Administrative, Pro-active and Hybrid).  It is important to have a clear understanding of the scope and objectives of the PMO as what needs to be established for a reporting PMO is a lot less than for a pro-active PMO.  It is important that you are clear on the objectives so that the PMO you implement is aligned to the expectations of the sponsor.  If not you may invest a lot of time and effort and the end result does not meet the objectives.  This will result in an unhappy sponsor (and probably not good for career progression)

Aim to capture the objective’s of the PMO in a number of small bullets that make it easy to articulate and agree with sponsors and stakeholders.  You may want to think about capturing these in a clear vision and mission statement.  The statement should clearly articulate what the PMO aims to achieve so that it is easy for everyone to understand.  As this is reviewed with stakeholders, make adjustments until you reach the desired level on consensus.

This is a good exercise as it also helps to clearly define what needs to be achieved.

Step 2 – Sponsorship

PMO sponsor is vital for success

This step is an absolute ‘must have’.  Without senior / executive sponsorship mandating the requirement of a PMO, you will find it very difficult, even impossible, to implement.  Without this mandate, you will find that project managers and teams will resist.  The reason being that a PMO will provide transparency of project progress, including where projects are not going well.  Some project managers will be uncomfortable with this as they lose some control over controlling the message flow on project status.

You should capture the objectives of the PMO as defined in step 1 and then agree them with the PMO sponsor.  You should then get the PMO sponsor to communicate that a PMO is going to be formed, the objectives of the PMO and to confirm that you have the mandate to set up the PMO.  This communication should at a minimum be in the form of a clear and concise e-mail to all relevant resources.  Even better is if the sponsor provides the mandate in appropriate meetings, town halls, etc.

This step will help remove a lot of barriers and push back, which in turn will save time.

Step 3 – Define PMO tools and processes

Based on the agreed objectives, list the functions that the PMO will need to support.  Again to make it easy, consider what high level functions are required, and then go into more detail at lower levels within function, where necessary.

The Project Management Institute Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) provides a very good basis for the required functions.  These are generic and should be part of every PMO.

All of these are part of project methodology and tools / processes (including supporting software).

Step 4 – PMO organisation

After you have worked out what tools and processes need to be established, you can then think about how many and what type (skills) of resources you need for the PMO.

Again it is important that you build a PMO that will be able to deliver the objectives of the PMO.  This step can be very tricky as, until the value has been demonstrated, senior management are reluctant to invest in resources.

It is a good exercise to map out the PMO organisation in an organisation diagram.  This will help you to think through the structure and how it will support engage with stakeholders.  It also will provide a very useful document that you can share with project teams, etc when they ask how the PMO supports and engages within the organisation.

To overcome this barrier, it is worth reminding the sponsor that the purpose of the PMO is to provide transparency through accurate reporting allowing the early identification of issues / risks that will impact successful delivery.  The upfront cost saves a higher long term cost when dates are missed, benefits fail to materialise, etc.

Step 5 – Engage and communicate

This is a very important step.  You need to identify the key stakeholders to the PMO, especially those responsible for managing the projects and programmes.  Make sure they understand what you are aiming to do, what is expected from them and most important, how you are going to help them.  Remember, communication is 2 way, just because you have delivered a message it does not mean it has been received, understood or accepted.  Make sure you gain positive confirmation.

A good way to do this is by following up with stakeholders by asking if they have any questions and if they would like any further information.  This has the added benefit that it allows you to engage and build working relationships.

Tip: If the information flow is one way with the PMO demanding information (usually by threat of naming and shaming), you will not get the required level of engagement and you will fail.

The most successful PMO’s that I have built is where a PMO provides support to the project managers, becomes a partner fostering an environment of trust.  In this situation the project managers will be honest, tell you about the problems and then you can work with them to help them solve them.  This means more projects stay on track and everyone is happy (especially you as leader of the PMO as you can demonstrate the value of the service).

Step 6 – Monthly PMO routines

Quickly implement the PMO routines

Each month or more frequently, the PMO will be expected to provide a status of the projects and programmes.  Therefore, it is important to get these routines up and running as quickly as possible.  Even if you have not built out all the tools and processes, you should aim to get the reporting routine up and running as quickly as possible.  This is a quick win and will give senior management confidence that you have everything under control.

Make sure that the routines are documented and communicated to all relevant parties.  This will help ensure that project teams know what is expected and by when.  This allows them to manage their time and will ensure that the regular requests are not seen as “fire drills”.  Project managers can get very agitated with what they think are last minute requests and they will be very vocal to their own project sponsors.

It is imperative that once you have set out schedules and routines that you adhere to them.  If you don’t it will frustrate the stakeholders as they will not know what is going on, result in more fire drills and sends the message that meeting dates is not really important.

Step 7 – PMO charter

Steps 1 – 6 covers a lot of information.  Therefore, it is a good idea to capture these key elements in a project charter.  A good project charter will cover all of these points in a way to clearly articulate:

  • PMO objectives
  • What the PMO will / won’t do
  • Organisational model (including roles & responsibilities)
  • Tools and processes
  • Monthly reporting requirements
  • Key contacts


Defining and setting up a PMO does not have to be complex and take a long time.  If you follow these steps you will quickly be able to design and build a PMO.

  1. Define the objectives of the PMO – clear statement what the PMO will achieve
  2. Sponsorship – ensure sponsor provides PMO with mandate and publicly communicates
  3. PMO tools and processes – what functions / services will the PMO provide
  4. PMO organisation – roles and responsibilities, engagement models, etc
  5. Engage and communicate – make sure stakeholders know what is going on and that there is a 2 way flow of information
  6. Regular routines – get the reporting up and running as a priority to demonstrate progress and to start providing value
  7. PMO charter – capture all of the key points in a charter that can be shared

Remember, you do not have to have it all perfect and ready on day 1.  You can implement in phases.  This is a good approach as it will provide incremental value and will help stop sponsors getting nervous if the investment will provide value.

A good approach is to have the day 1 plan, the week 1 plan and month 1 plan.  You can lay this out in a simple road map so everyone knows what to expect.

Another tip to help accelerate the PMO setup is to consider buying professional PMO templates, especially if you do not have any templates you can reuse.  The small cost far outweighs the time to design and develop your own.

The PMO Manual

  • Do you need to design & set-up a PMO?
  • Do you have limited time but need results?
  • Is this the first PMO you have set-up?
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If you answer ‘Yes’ to some or all of the questions, don’t worry, The PMO Manual shares valuable  knowledge gained from many years of designing, building and implementing PMO’s.  Your own step by step guide for a pragmatic PMO for the real world

Download Free PMO Set Up Manual
Unlike many other books, this is not an academic or theoretical book with ideas and concepts that are difficult to understand and implement. It does not assume that you have many years experience and full understanding. It is aimed at people who have been asked to set-up a PMO and want help taking the right steps


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PMO Template Framework

If you are looking to really “fast track” the design and implementation of your PMO, the PMO Template Framework gives you what you need!

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  • Video tutorials for each process and template
  • Full e-mail support

PMO Template Framework ProductThis official PM Majik resource gives you all you need to get started right now.  No more guessing what to do and a great time saver!

All of this is avialble in the PRO Membership package, which also includes the PMO Manual and the Mobilization Framework (a tool designed to help rapid mobilisation of projects, programmes, portfolios and PMO’s).

Visit the PM Majik Members Area for more details of this and other time saving tools, templates and frameworks.

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PMO Setup Presentation