Creating a PMO Handbook

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PMO Handbook

PMO Handbook – urbansheep (Flickr.com)

A PMO handbook is useful for organizations seeking a common set of steps to support project management processes. It can also quickly orient new project managers to the organization’s project management expectations and helps align activities to standardized processes and tools. Here’s an example to get you started.

If you’re managing a PMO, how do you communicate the project management activities required to deliver PMO functions? The project management methodologies found in many organizations are specific to the project-level management processes and do not provide guidelines for program- or enterprise-level PMOs. Project managers understand the project management processes but may not understand how project management is executed throughout the organization. The following article describes an approach that aligns an organization’s project management methodology to its organizational PMO functions.

I previously worked in an organization where project managers understood the concepts of initiate, plan, execute, control and close, and they followed a project management methodology to deliver projects. The project management methodology described issue, risk and change management processes, but each project manager used different tools to track the issues, risks and change requests. Project schedules lacked standardized milestones and project managers didn’t consistently establish project baselines or track schedule variances.
By implementing a PMO handbook, we helped align project managers to the project management processes, and provided a standardized set of tools and tasks for the organization to follow.

Who is the intended audience?

Our PMO handbook was written by experienced project managers within the PMO and shared with novice project managers entering the organization. If your organization already has standardized templates that project managers follow, then a PMO handbook or similar process guide has likely been integrated into the project management process. The handbook is useful for organizations seeking a common set of steps to support project management processes. It also quickly orients new project managers to the organization’s project management expectations and helps align to a standardized process.
Project management processes within an enterprise may vary by organization. Projects can be initiated, executed and controlled differently across business functions. In my example, the IT organization’s software development teams and infrastructure management teams initiated and managed projects differently despite a common project management methodology. The activities described in the PMO handbook helped align project managers to a common set of tools and techniques to deliver the project management process.

How is the PMO Handbook organized?

The PMO handbook was organized around the five-phase project lifecycle of Initiate, Plan, Execute, Control and Close. A sample table of contents includes:
PM 1.0 Initiate Project

  • Establish Project Control File
  • Identify Stakeholders
  • Initial Project Charter
  • Initial Project Charter Signoff

PM 2.0 Plan Project

  • Determine project team
  • Hold Project Kickoff Meeting
  • Create a project schedule
  • Determine Roles and Responsibilities
  • Establish the Communications Management Plan
  • Establish the Issues and Risk Management Plan
  • Establish Change Control Process
  • Establish weekly project status meetings

PM 3.0 Execute Project

  • Hold weekly status meetings
  • Report project status
  • Maintain the project schedule
  • Manage Project Information

PM 4.0 Control Project

  • Monitor and Control the Project
  • Conduct Reviews

PM 5.0 Close Project

  • Finalize Delivery
  • Conduct Lessons Learned
  • Update the Estimation Matrices
  • Close and Archive Records

Let’s take a closer look at PMO 3.0, which describes the details of the Execute Project expectations.
Hold weekly status meetings. Conduct weekly project status meetings and upload the meeting minutes to the project repository:

Report project status (weekly). Update the project schedule. Project schedules are maintained in the project repository at: and need to be version controlled. Project plans must be updated weekly, at minimum, in order to update the weekly project status report and to perform earned value analysis (EVA).

Conduct EVA. At the end of each week, the project manager should generate the EVA metrics to determine the SPI and CPI and update the project portfolio tool. Please refer to the PMO website for instructions on how to apply EVA to your project.

Update the monthly project health scorecard. All medium and large category projects must complete the scorecard and submit to the PMO on a monthly basis. The scorecard is due on the 26th of each month and should be published to: . The scorecards will be reviewed with the portfolio manager during the weekly portfolio review.

Update the project portfolio tool. Enter your project’s status in the portfolio management tool, distribute the project status report as outlined in the communication plan and include a link to your project’s scorecard as an attachment in the portfolio management tool.

Support the weekly project portfolio review meeting. The portfolio review meeting occurs on Mondays from 11am to 12:30 pm. Please see the PMO manager to be added to the meeting distribution list. Be prepared to discuss your project’s status at this meeting.

Maintain the project schedule. [Insert standard process on how to update the project schedule]

Manage project information. Save electronic approval emails and upload them into the project repository and update the original document with the signoff date. Maintain a copy of the .mpp and .pdf project schedule in the project repository. Upload important team project documents into the non-methodology docs folder in the project repository to control versions. (technical diagrams, email chain regarding a specific issue, etc.)

Expanding the PMO Handbook

In the article, PMO Functions,” several key PMO functions were identified. If you are managing a PMO, reviewing these functions and providing a PMO handbook to implement these functions consistently across the organization will help align project managers to the project management process. The table of contents above addresses aspects of performance, schedule and issue management. Expanding on all the PMO functions and providing a consistent direction on how they are implemented within an organization can improve the handbook.

This has been a glimpse into the tactical steps to implement a project management methodology. A methodology provides process descriptions but doesn’t necessarily address the tools and techniques to execute the process consistently. Process descriptions are useful, although mature project management organizations follow standardized processes using common tools and techniques. The PMO handbook is one approach to adopt common tools and techniques and to help improve your organization’s project management

About Andrew Makar

Professional Cat Herder and an Agile Enthusiast with a keen interest in putting PM theory into actual practice.
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