The Tactical Guide for Building a PMO – How to Run a Successful PMO


Despite what you might read in the news, or hear at the water cooler, there’s a growing demand for information on building a PMO.  Over the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to share my perspectives on this topic” based on my book “The Tactical Guide for Building a PMO”. It has been a wonderful opportunity, people have really enjoyed the presentation and have told me they now have some “amazing take-aways” that they can implement when they go back to work.  Giving back to the PM Community is a great feeling.  I love those moments of feedback, when they come back to me and say that they implemented this or that, I know they’re setting themselves up for running a great PMO.  And honestly, setting themselves up for a great career.

Author Bill Dow dives even deeper into his Guide for running a successful PMO, part two of this series on Building a PMO, during a webinar with MPUG. Watch the webinar on-demand here.

Running a PMO

However, setting up a project management office (PMO) is really just the beginning. Running the PMO is actually the hard part. When you’re building your PMO, you’re in the “honeymoon phase” of the PMO lifecycle. You have everything going for you. Management is excited; you have budget; you can hire as many people as you want; you can buy portfolio and project management tools; and basically everyone is rooting for you to be successful.

Trust me. That fanfare dies quickly, leaving you in the position of running one of the most challenging organizations in the company.

What it takes to run a PMO.

Before we look at what it takes to run a PMO, we need a brief reminder of the Inputs to running a PMO, covered in my earlier article “The Tactical Guide for Building a PMO – How to Build a PMO”, I cover these twelve critical steps.

  1. Start with a Plan
  2. Obtain Executive Support
  3. Create PMO Staples
  4. Select 4 P’s of PMO (including Methodologies)
  5. Select PMO Model
  6. Create PMO Maturity Model (Categories and Measurement)
  7. Obtain PMO Resources
  8. Select PMO Training
  9. Implement PMO Methodologies
  10. Select PMO Reporting
  11. Select PMO Tools and Processes
  12. PMO Complete

If you want to see that article, check out this link “The Tactical Guide for Building a PMO – How to Build a PMO”.

You went back and implemented these, right? If not, then spend the time and go back now because those twelve steps are the core to building a solid and long-lasting PMO.

Running a PMO is about leadership and tactical management.  Today we’ll cover reporting, troubleshooting, day-to-day operating, and staffing issues. Here are the four main tactical areas that you will be involved in when running your day-to-day PMO.

  1. Develop Executive Reports
  2. Develop PMO Reports
  3. PMO Day-to-Day Operations
  4. PMO Resources (Mentor & Buddy System)

Don’t let the small list fool you, there is a ton of work here and not only is it a lot of work, it is going to be your full-time job. Most PMO Managers have to focus 100% of their time to these four areas.

I am seeing some companies that want PMO Managers to be Portfolio Managers, Program Managers, and Project Managers and run the PMO. That’s crazy and something that is not sustainable in the long run for anybody so if you are in this position has a talk with your manager and set some realistic expectations. Take if from me, I have managed several PMOs and it is not sustainable.

Anyway, let’s jump in and provide more details on each of these 4 steps.

Develop Executive Reports

Those same executives that approved your PMO and gave you the world when building the PMO are going to want reports. Lots of reports and will want them to be updated and accurate all the time. Some of the reports you will run will be PMO Dashboards, Milestone reports, PMO Resource reports…etc. This list goes on and on. Working with your executive to determine the reports they need will be critical.

Develop PMO Reports

Some of the same reports that the executives want to see, you the PMO Manager will want to see as well. An great example of that would be tracking progress on your efforts. There will be some specific Portfolio, Program and Project reports that you will need to create depending on the methodologies you use in your organization. Embrace reporting in your PMO it will be the only way to keep on top of your organization and the value it’s been created to deliver

PMO Day-to-Day Operations

The day-to-day operations of your PMO will consist of PMO Cadence calendars, PMO Vacation calendars, PMO OOF calendars and generally the main components of running a PMO. These components include:

  • Define Color Definitions
  • Setup CR Process
  • Develop Program/Project Playbooks
  • Define PMO Priority List
  • Define PMO Weekly Checklist
  • Setup Project Transition Plans
  • Develop PMO Templates
  • Execute PMO Reports
  • Review and Select PMO Tools
  • Continue to support Management and Value Discussions

PMO Resources (Mentor & Buddy System)

One of the key components of running a PMO that I always talk about is the people. If you don’t take care of your people you are going to have huge problems in your PMO. One of the easiest ways of taking care of your people is setting up PMO Mentoring or more informal PMO Buddy systems. Each of these systems give your PMO staff members an opportunity to turn to each other for help, share best practices and learn from each other. I have setup several of these programs in the past and they have been very successful.

As we summarize, running a PMO is a huge undertaking and most PMO managers struggle in being successful for a number of reasons. I encourage you to step back, look at some of these best practices and take some time to implement them in your organization.

Here are some articles that you may be interested in

Check out this article I wrote on this subject for on PMO’s.

Good luck, it’s a tough job running a PMO but you are going to be great!


Bill Dow, PMP

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Written by Bill Dow
Bill Dow, PMP, is a published author and project management professional with more than two decades of experience in information technology, specializing in software development and project management. Bill has built and operated large project management offices (PMOs) and is the author of three project management books. The latest is Project Management Communication Tools, co-written with Bruce Taylor. Contact Bill at
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  1. Bill:
    Enjoyed your writing and topic. I lived and identified with the entire PMO lifecycle from 2005-2015 and happy to say I left it at a sustainable PMM level for an organization our size. A lot of flexing and pullback until we right-sized it to where process did not choke progress. Great article.

  2. Thanks Mary, thanks Jim for the comments. I am glad you like it, I hope you guys can join me on the 16th for my webinar.

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