You are one of the individuals who have been helping to manage projects so far, so you are a natural selection to help build the new process. Where do you start? Interview candidates for PM positions and consider who should lead this new organization? Discuss and decide what tools you should be using? There are many things that need to be analyzed and many things that need to be considered.
Here is my suggestion for four questions that you should be asking when you are asked to help plan and create this new project management office in your organization...
What types and sizes of projects will be handled by the PMO? Will all or just some of the organization's projects be directed to the PMO. I always feel like it should be all or none, but you need to know this because it's the basis for staffing, defining the types of templates and tools you'll need and possibly even with how you go about starting it up with leadership. If you go small, you can find someone within. If you go big, you should probably get a seasoned outsider. Lots to consider so don't cut corners here.
Is funding readily available and easily obtainable for the PMO? Many may seem to back a new PMO, but is the money really there? Ask if leadership for the organization is really behind it and ready to fund it. I am definitely of the opinion that no PMO can survive without the financial backing and the overall buy-in and support of the executives in the organization. Without them the PMO will lack dollars and the credibility to gain enough forward momentum to remain viable over the first 3-5 years of it's existence. It will likely fail before that time.
Will leadership come from within? Who will lead this new organization? No PMO should start without a leadership person in place – preferably a dedicated PMO director that will not also be required to lead projects. If you require that person to lead projects, the position may be spread too thin. You need the new PMO to succeed and the director must help with training plans, career development and defining keys to success within the new PMO.
How large will we start? This is a critical question as it's answer will help tell you how many project managers need to be hired and how serious management is about the project management office. There is no real right answer, I guess – it all depends on how large your organization is. You certainly don't want to go overboard – that will be waste of cost, time, and resources. But understaffed PMOs fail quickly. A good place to start is to put out a questionnaire to all department heads that defines generally what a project is and ask them how many projects and dollars would they be projecting in the next 1-3 years. This will be hard for them to answer, and most will miss the mark....probably under estimating. I would double whatever number and dollar amount you get in and try to consider staffing for that amount.
Summary / call for input
What about our readers? Have you been a part of putting together a project management office? If so, what are the first steps you take? What are your initial concerns and considerations? What questions do you ask first to get answers so you know what direction to head in making decisions and defining new practices and policies?