How to set up a PMO by Stealth

More and more research clearly indicates that organizations with a PMO deliver more successful projects than organizations without a PMO, yet that same research also tells us that a lot of organizations fail to see the benefits of a PMO, and some organizations are even getting rid of their PMO’s. They see them as an unnecessary expense rather than the investment that they actually are.

Keep in mind that PMO is not a single standardized thing – what it is will reflect the level of project management maturity, your industry and the size, complexity and duration of the projects you undertake. It may be anything from a single ring binder full of templates through to a specific part of the organization that controls all aspect of project management. The one thing that all forms of PMO have in common is that they are the center for project management excellence in the organization.

Now, we as professional project managers know that we can do our jobs much better when supported by a PMO. But how do we go about establishing one in the when top level management fails to see the benefits? How about a stealth PMO or perhaps a VPMO – the V can stand for volunteer or virtual?

Here are three simple achievable steps to creating your own stealth or virtual PMO:

  1. Establish a project management users group in your organization. Invite all project managers to be part of it. Then schedule regular meetings – a good idea is 4pm on the 4th Friday on each month, or a breakfast meeting – and supply some refreshments for people. Have a specific topic to talk about – it could be improving your change control, standardizing templates, lessons learned and updates to your project management methodology. Invite a speaker to attend to present on a particular topic. Have someone document the meeting and follow up on any agreed actions.
  2. Get the project managers to take responsibility for documenting your project management methodology and then volunteering to carry out audits on each other’s projects.
  3. And most importantly of all, when your do deliver successful projects attribute your success to the support you have received from the VPMO or users group or whatever it is you want to call it. Let the decision makers higher up see the value. Your goal is to get them to support not just a PMO but also professional project management within the organization so don’t be shy about blowing your own trumpet. Take care to first prove the worth of the PMO to practitioners and the organization before trying to get financial support for a more complex form of a PMO, or even a paid PMO manager position.

Remember that this stealth or virtual PMO will be your first PMO so it doesn’t have to be overly complex. The main goal is to prove its worth and get support for a more complex one.

Let me know how you go with this idea, and it you have any other suggestions for getting a PMO off the ground in your organization.