Now your organization is considering taking the next step in building a true project management infrastructure. You are certainly one of the more experienced and qualified project managers in the organization so you'll like be asked to advise on and help plan for the creation of the PM infrastructures - most likely in the form of a project management office (PMO). Where do you start? Do you hire first or research and plan first so new PMs and a director can be part of these efforts as well?
Below is my list - yes, in order of how they should happen - of five key steps that need to occur as you build your new PMO.
Plan the reporting structure. Before you do anything else, hire anyone and put any project management tools and policies in place, plan how the PM reporting structure is going to happen. This will set the stage for any hiring that needs to be done. Do you need a PMO director? Likely. Should that position come from inside or outside the organization? I vote outside, but that’s up for debate. Every successful PMO has to have C-level buy-in and support. Without it the PMO is doomed to fail – in my opinion and from my observation. But does this newly formed PMO need a CPO, or Chief Project Officer? Likely not – at least not at this early stage. The position of CPO is a new concept and an organization creating a new PMO likely won’t have funding for such a C-level position from the outset.
Hire the PMO director. Next, hire a PMO director. My vote is that this person should come from outside – not inside – the organization. Why? Partly just because I’ve seen too many failures from organizations who took a resource manager who was in between jobs and put them in charge of the PMO. Bad call. But also, the PMO director should be unbiased and focused solely on the success of the PM infrastructure. No favorite executives or department managers. They should also not end up leading projects. The director needs to be focused on PM career development for his staff and focused on the satisfied customers that each project should be producing. He needs to help rundown big issues, remove roadblocks, implement and enforce policies, report up to senior management and gain visibility for his fledgling PM organization.
Create templates and define tools to start with. Next, define policies that the PMO and PMs will follow. Create templates to start with, but be flexible to change as the PM organization gains traction and goes through learning and growing pains. And pick a good project management scheduling tool to start with. You can always change it later – there are hundreds of options out there now.
Hire project managers. Hire experienced project managers. Some of these should be from within the organization because well-connected PMs can get things done internally for their projects faster than those that are new to the organization. But keep it a mix. And don’t staff with just certified PMs. Go for experience over certification, but certification is definitely great - just not the only reason to hire someone. Look for successes.
Make an announcement to the company and customers. Finally, roll the PMO out to the company the project client base with confidence. Announce all the players in the PMO and tout their experience. Indicate any current or just-about-to-start projects. Make it sound as important and visible as possible…taking creative freedoms along the way. The idea here is to be bold and confident and gain publicity for the new PM infrastructure so it gets used and everyone takes note of it. If you can get the announcement to come from or be co-authored by a C-level, all the better.
Summary / call for input
PMs…what do you have to add to his list? PMO directors…what are your thoughts on this list or your own key steps to building a good PMO? What has worked for you and your organization and what is to be avoided?