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Episode 229: The Tactical Approach to Building a PMO (Free)

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Episode 229: The Tactical Approach to Building a PMO (Free)Building a PMO is a daunting task. Wouldn’t it be nice if you had a “simple” 12 step approach that would guide you through the process from start to finish? We can help you there. My guest today is Bill Dow who wrote The Tactical Guide for Building a PMO. The book will provide PMO Managers with the knowledge and skills to develop, refine, and enhance their Project Management Office.

In todays interview Bill and I will will discuss the 12 steps he recommends you must go through in order to build your PMO and then next week we’ll look at aspects of implementing and growing it

If you want to learn the tactical for building a PMO then today’s episode is for you


Episode Transcript

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Podcast Introduction

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to Episode #229. This is The Project Management Podcast™ at and I am Cornelius Fichtner. Nice to have you with us.

Building a PMO is a daunting task. Wouldn’t it be nice if you had a simple 12-step approach that would guide you through the process from start to finish? Well, we can help you there.

My guest today is Bill Dow who wrote “The Tactical Guide for Building a PMO”. The book will provide PMO managers with the knowledge and skills to develop, refine and enhance their project management office.

Are you planning on becoming PMI-ACP certified? Well then, our sister Podcast, the Agile PrepCast is the answer. It’s a complete PMI-ACP workshop that you can watch or listen to just like you listen to this Podcast right here. Please go to to learn more and be twice as agile for half the price you’d have to pay elsewhere.

So in today’s interview, Bill and I will discuss the 12 steps he recommends that you must go through in order to build your PMO. And then next week, we’ll look at aspects of implementing and growing it. If you want to learn the tactics for building a PMO, then today’s episode is for you.

So well then, let’s get tactical, tactical, let’s get tactical, okay, I’m definitely no Olivia Newton-John but I hope that you will still enjoy the interview.

Podcast Interview

Female voice: The Project Management Podcast’s feature Interview: Today with Bill Dow, speaker and author of “The Tactical Guide for Building a PMO”.

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello Bill! Welcome back to the program!

Bill Dow: Thank you!

Cornelius Fichtner: Hey, we last had you on for Episode #134, a long time ago. You were then together with Bruce Taylor on the show. You talked about “The Project Communications Bible” and the top 9 reasons why projects fail. So what happened in the mean time? What keeps you speaking and writing on the topic of building a PMO and not about communications?

Bill Dow: Yeah! Well, thanks! So I think the biggest reason is really, I’m so passionate about it. I’ve been building and working in the PMO environment for 10+ years. I’ve been in project management for 23. I’ve ran 2 large PMOs back in the AT&T Wireless Cingular days. Now, I’m at Microsoft and I ran 2 large PMOs there. I, basically, just want to write a book and really share what I’ve gone through and help people with some of the struggles that they have run into building and managing PMOs on a daily basis.

Cornelius Fichtner: So we know there are a ton of PMO books out there. In fact, I got another one today in a mail from another author also about PMOs. What makes yours different?

Bill Dow: I think what you’re going to find in my book, it’s very tactical. So very tactical and it’s one of the only books out there that really takes you through both the build and the implementation process bases.

One of the things I did do from a strategic perspective though is a put a series of build questions throughout the book and so I should go through the various chapters of the book, you’re answering build questions. Well I have a program management methodology. We have a project management methodology and that type of thing. And so, as you write your answers down, you capture those build decisions. When you hit implementation, you’ll know exactly what you decided.

And then as you get into the build and implementation phases, we go over things like change agents, capability assessments and how do you continually improve your PMO once you got it up and running.

Cornelius Fichtner: Alright! So what we want to do today in this interview is we want to do a little bit of a cross-section and jump around in the book into various chapters and hear what you have to say about PMOs. And I’d like to begin with the question why you believe that PMOs fail because in the last interview with you, we had the top 9 reasons why projects fail. So this is sort of a segway from last interview straight into this one. So why do PMOs fail?

Bill Dow: I would say executives support, executive support, executive support. We’ve heard that everywhere right. It’s so important. It is something I’ve seen. If you don’t have it or if you have it at one time and you lose it, there’s a good chance you’re going to fail. And really, that’s got to be the top reason, no question.

But why we say that is why do you need your executives? You need your executives for budget. You need it for process changes. You need it for org changes. So you need your executives for a reason and therefore if you don’t have those or you lose that, you’re going to fail. You’re just going to struggle.

Cornelius Fichtner: Okay, just to clarify: Building a PMO is a humongous task. We are going to do 2 interviews with you. One today, one next week and we’re breaking this down right now. We’ll talk about building the PMO. That’s the focus what we look at in the book. And then next time, implementing running a PMO. So we’re focusing on building a PMO. Alright, Bill, where do you start?

Bill Dow: Again when you think about it, really there are 5 steps. I look at building a PMO with 5 steps:

  • Step 1 would be Analysis.
  • Step 2 would be Design.
  • Step 3 is Build.
  • Step 4 is Implement.
  • And step 5 is Improve.

When you think about the Analysis and Design phases, like I said I highly recommend you spend time and analyze what you have. You may have nothing and that is okay, you’re building a new PMO or you may have an existing PMO and actually, you want to analyze what’s going right, and what’s going wrong, or what are some of the challenges in that existing PMO. And I’d recommend building a PMO recommendation report. This will document what you have, what your findings are all within that Analysis phase.

When you jump to the Build phase, what I’ve done is I’ve come up with 12 easy steps of building a PMO:

  • Step 1 is You start with a plan.
  • Step 2 is Obtain that executive support.
  • Step 3 is Create the PMO staples.
  • Step 4 is Select the 4 P’s of your PMO.
  • Step 5 is Select your PMO model.
  • Step 6: Select your PMO maturity level.
  • Step 7: Select your PMO resources.
  • Step 8: Select your PMO training for those resources.
  • Step 9: Implement your PMO methodology.
  • Step 10: Select your PMO reporting.
  • Step 11: PMO tools and processes, selecting them and nailing them for your PMO.
  • And then finally, Step 12 is complete and really this is the time you celebrate.

And one of the questions when people ask me that and I give them those 12 steps, they say, ‘Are they in order?’ and I got to tell, they are in order. They literally build upon one another so you will follow those steps in a particular order because they build upon another.

Cornelius Fichtner: Right. I can now imagine that there are many listeners out there who took out their pencil and started writing this down and paused, and went back and paused again without knowing that they don’t have to do that because as you were writing the book, you created a MPP file, MS Project file that contains these 12 steps and that’s free for download, right, on your website?

Bill Dow: It is, yes.

Cornelius Fichtner: Absolutely! And we will link to that website in the show notes. But for those who are currently sitting on their computer, what is the URL to your website?

Bill Dow: It’s pmotacticalguide dot com.

Cornelius Fichtner: So pmotacticalguide dot com easy to find. Let’s focus a little bit on those 12 steps. Overall, those 12 steps seem very easy. But we all know, it ain’t so, right? It ain’t that simple.

Bill Dow: No, it’s really not. It’s actually very, very difficult. We break it down into 12 steps to make it manageable and really allow people to handle things in easy chunks. But it’s so important to have a plan, start with a plan and let people get real tactical with those 12 steps and then start driving those 12 steps.

Then really once you have those 12 steps, my recommendation is to put them into a scheduling tool. Use Project, use whatever tool you want but get them into a scheduling tool because building a PMO is a huge project and you really need to treat it that way. And like I said a little earlier, one of the things I want to mention very, very early in the process is you do have those build decisions so as you go through, you’re going to start capturing the build decisions.

And so I’ve created in my book a chart called the PMO Build Decision Chart. It’s a very simple chart. It’s very simple and easy. It has 2 to 3 columns. Column 1 would contain the build decision. In column 2, it contains the decision made. So for example you would say PMO Model Type, supporting. PMO Methodology, program and project management. As you go through those steps, you’re literally capturing and documenting what decisions you’ve made for when you are able to go the implementation phase, you can go back to that table, that PMO Build Decision Chart.

Cornelius Fichtner: So having a plan, that’s important to write. Let’s get tactical for a second. Is that build chart the first thing that you do as you are building your PMO, that’s the number 1?

Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete PDF transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

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Cornelius Fichtner
Cornelius Fichtner
Cornelius Fichtner, PMP, CSM, is the host and the author at The Project Management Podcast. He has welcomed hundreds of guests and project management experts to the podcast and has helped over 60,0000 students prepare for their PMP® Exam. He has authored dozens of articles on and PM World 360. He speaks at conferences around the world about project management, agile methodology, PMOs, and Project Business. Follow him on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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