By Hussain Bandukwala, Consultant

Setting up a Project Management Office (PMO) can appear to be daunting. Let’s not kid anyone: it is daunting. Setting up a PMO requires careful planning, deliberate relationship building, flawless execution and continuous improvement. Throwing in a mix of doubters, “we’re not going to change”-ers, and differing demands makes the situation even more challenging.

One could get pulled in to endless planning and constant people pleasing while stitching together a roadmap on a shoestring budget.

Avoid this! Take back control. Even if it takes more time, there are fundamental first steps you should take.


Identify Why a PMO is Needed in Your Organization/Department

If you want your PMO to be accepted by your organization, you must focus on determining why your PMO is really needed. It’s not enough to just gather the cursory viewpoints of a couple of people. It’s not enough to hear the problems you might come across in hallway conversations. What you were told when you were hired or promoted for the top PMO role is also not enough. You must roll-up your sleeves and get this information directly “from the horse’s mouth”.

Let me walk you through a systematic way to do this, so that when you go about setting up your PMO, you are confident that you are truly addressing the problems your organization expects the PMO to solve.


Step 1: Identify for Whom you are Solving Problems

Before you figure out which problems you need to solve for your organization, you need to determine who within the organization is facing them, with whom  is the PMO is likely to interact and whose lives will be simplified when the PMO comes into being. In other words, you’re identifying your PMO’s stakeholders.

It’s going to be difficult to get a complete list at the start; however, you need to start somewhere and see where events lead you. Here are some ways you can start:

  1. You can ask your boss, someone who hired you into the PMO leadership role or promoted you from within, to identify the stakeholders he or she thinks you should interview.
  2. Using that list as a starting point, brainstorm to identify others with whom you could connect. For example, if the focus of your PMO is limited to the IT department, then you should probably speak with the CTO/CIO and VPs/Directors of Application Development, Infrastructure, Business Development, Quality Assurance, Architecture and any other IT department heads in your organization. Additionally, since IT typically interfaces with other departments within the organization, identify which other departments are the ones with whom it usually works – whether Finance, HR, Legal, or any other departments – and seek to connect with the department heads.
  3. Lastly, don’t miss the program managers, project managers, project coordinators, and others who will actually work directly or indirectly with the PMO. Once the PMO is established, the work of these stakeholders will reflect on the success of the PMO, so it crucial that you get them involved in this process, hear what they have to say, and understand what challenges they are facing on a daily basis.


Step 2: Meet your Stakeholders and Ask Them about their Challenges

Once you’ve identified who your stakeholders are, get a 30-minute meeting on their calendars and meet with them in person, if possible, or speak with them over the phone or video conference. This process may take some time but is an investment worth making. In addition to the point already mentioned about identifying the problems to solve, you will be able to develop a relationship and a sense of trust with the stakeholders and understand which ones are truly enthusiastic about the PMO initiative and which ones are not. Then, create a plan to deal with resistors accordingly.

Depending on with whom you are speaking, you should customize and organize your questions. Be sure to design questions to be open-ended. The idea is to engage in a deeper conversation than simply receiving “yes” or “no” answers.

Here are a few sample questions to consider:

  • What are the biggest project management challenges that you see here?
  • What do those challenges mean for your department or company?
  • Describe how you are currently requesting new projects today.
  • How do you find out which projects your team members are working on?
  • What changes do you think would improve the execution and delivery of projects here?
  • What would motivate everyone here to adhere to some new standards and processes?

Through this line of questioning, note that you’re focusing on pain points; process, people and tools maturity; and how ready the organization is to embrace change. The manner in which the answers are provided will help you which stakeholders support the idea, which are fence sitters, and which will be nay-sayers.


Step 3: Collect, Analyze, and Playback all the Answers

Once you’ve met all the stakeholders on your list, go through their responses, and pick out common themes. These themes essentially address three concerns:

  1. Why should you setup your PMO
  2. The areas (in terms of process, people, tools, and quick-wins) on which you should focus
  3. How to make it easier for your organization to adopt a PMO

When your analysis is complete, share it with everyone you interviewed as a courtesy, to get their reaction, and to give them a “heads-up” on what might be coming their way soon.


Conclusion

To quickly recap: you need to set up you and your PMO for success; in order to do that, you will need to understand why your PMO is truly needed. In order to achieve this, you need to understand who are your PMO’s stakeholders, meet them to ask about their pain-points and, using their own words, describe why the PMO should be created. Once this is done, you are ready to start setting up your PMO.