The team must be properly aligned to business strategy and equipped with the right resources, skill, and opportunity to build a successful PMO. 

Did you know that project management offices (PMOs) can improve productivity and reduce spend? According to PM Solutions, PMOs increase productivity by 25% and result in an average of $175k in cost savings per project. To establish a PMO to successfully lead strategic business initiatives, the team must be properly aligned to business strategy and equipped with the right resources, skill, and opportunity.

Align Strategically

The first step to building a PMO is developing a model that is aligned to the culture and business strategy of the enterprise. During this stage, leaders should analyze and understand the maturity level and general strategic direction of the organization. The project management frameworks, such as Agile or Scrum, along with the organizational model of the PMO should be determined based on this strategy. Additionally, leaders should select the best project portfolio management (PPM) tool for their team to optimize results. Business strategy and company culture should be the driving force behind all other aspects in a PMO, ensuring project results align with the organization’s overall direction.

Define Objectives

Armed with a solid PMO strategy, the next step to creating an effective PMO is setting clear, actionable objectives for the team with the appropriate stakeholders. Goals should be measurable and unambiguous, rather than general problems the PMO is expected to resolve. Driven by the PMO strategy, responsibilities and areas of focus should be determined upfront, such as whether the PMO will focus on training and development, defining processes and standards, or simply monitoring project progress. Each member of the team and relevant stakeholders should understand and commit to achieving the PMO objectives and become advocates of the PMO to the business. Once objectives are set, focus can shift to determining the required roles.

Determine Required Resources

Ensuring that the right people with the right skills are involved in a PMO is integral to meeting goals. Hiring project management resources based on their potential contributions to the strategic goals of the team will increase project success rate and drive profitability for the organization. Employers should hire resources for PMO teams based on their skills and expertise, and how that experience aligns with current business strategy.

“Diversity of skills and approaches is key for a successful PMO. You need people with Waterfall, XP, Agile, and Extreme to be able to manage projects with the most applicable methodology. You also want different personalities engaged – the cautious for operational projects, and the bold for changing the world with the oyster projects.” – Jay Russell, Technology Manager

Finding qualified project managers is often a challenge, as the skills gap continues to plague employers. According to the Project Management Institute’s 2017 Job Growth and Talent Gap report, more than 87 million project management professionals will be needed for work by 2027. Such high demand makes it even more critical to align PMO programs to the organization’s overall business strategy, ensuring that the individual resources on the team have the necessary skills for the initiative and are the best possible fit for the role.

Establish Strong Communication

In addition to the necessary technical skills, PMO’s also need to establish methodical communication practices among the team and stakeholders. Teams are typically made up of diverse groups of people working together toward a common goal. Ensuring that personalities and communication styles work well together is essential for project execution. Team members need to be able to deliver intended messages to each other and stakeholders effectively, including conveying tone and using appropriate body language.

“The art of project management, where you are working more with the people and more the soft skills, is where the smarts come in. If a person can't work well with other people, or doesn't know how to function in certain situations, it won't matter how well they read a Gantt chart or break down work.” – Scott Sax, Sr. Project Manager, PMP, PMI-RMP, CSM

Along with interpersonal interactions, strong communication and reporting to stakeholders is typically enabled by utilizing the right PPM tool. The tools provide dashboards and reporting mechanisms designed to achieve the right communication based on target audience, project complexity, and program risk. Corporate leadership is vital to aligning projects with business strategy, and establishing rapport with key stakeholders can help create a champion for the PMO and demonstrate its value. Maintain communication throughout the lifespan of projects to ensure expectations are met and stakeholders stay informed. 

Provide Training and Development Opportunities

Once the PMO launches, it is important to retain and cultivate the talent on the team. Providing training and educational opportunities allows an organization to expand their company knowledge base while also enriching employee experience. Training opportunities show employees they are valued, which can boost morale and help businesses retain good resources in a competitive hiring market where opportunities abound. Additionally, organizations that provide training benefit from having employees who are actively learning innovative skills, and applying those skills to their current projects. Identifying the right resources and empowering them with the education to make good decisions can only benefit a PMO.

“Blending all of the elements described here is crucial, but it's also vital to grant them a sense of ‘team.’ By allowing them to develop a common identity, a common set of values and a true community, they can achieve even higher levels of performance. The best amalgam of personnel is simply a group of people. A group of people with common goals, communications and identity will be truly unstoppable.” –Carl Pritchard, Project Management Trainer, PMP, PMI-RMP