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PMO Credibility + Buy-In

Author: Tony de Freitas | | August 2, 2017

A PMO is a Project Management Office, a project management knowledge repository and management structure that standardizes project governance processes for the organization’s portfolios, programs and projects. A supportive PMO is a largely passive collection of essential documentation driving standardization with minimal governance. A controlling PMO will include threshold settings and activities associated with the data, such as notification to customers that their approval is required to advance a process. A directing PMO will automate as many decisions as possible, requiring the setting of triggers or thresholds and the monitoring of the system. In a survey in the Project Management Journal, half of the PMOs investigated had “the function of monitoring and controlling their own performance.”

Datavail has just released a new white paper on PMOs. It’s entitled, Standing Up a Project Management Office (PMO), and it is available to download from Datavail. The white paper covers the process for “standing up” (initiating) a PMO and “maturing” a PMO — taking it through established levels of support from document storage (Level 1) to an automated system synched with organizational strategy (Level 5). In this post, we’ll take a look at getting organizational buy-in for the PMO.

Establishing PMO Credibility

One of the benefits of using a PMO is the ability to quantify the contribution of the PMO to the profitability of individual projects. When a PMO is being stood up, a connection is made between such activities as scheduling meetings and status reports to an organization’s strategic goals and to the costs and benefits of each project under management so that the impact of the PMO can be measured.

The ability to connect the PMO with ROI (Return on Investment) provides the mechanism for measuring the value of the PMO to the project and provides the initial credibility needed to win support for the PMO from key stakeholders. The PMO process is iterative, continuously improving as it matures, but it has to be embraced and used for this iterative process to function properly and for the promised returns to manifest.

“PMOs have burst out of the backroom and into the boardroom where they are critical to C-suite executives and board members in steering large portfolios of projects. Driving the move is a proven value and return on investment.” — Standing Up a Project Management Office (PMO)

ROI is not the only measure of a successful PMO. In an article for CRM Buyer, Michael O’Brochta and Curt Finch look at five key performance indicators for a PMO. ROI is number one on their list, but they point out it’s easier to calculate for specific projects than for the system as a whole. They look at PMO performance in terms of time to market, service availability, service utilization, and sales growth. The authors conclude, “Arm your PMO with these measurements of success, and let it shine as a beacon of efficiency in the sea of muddled metrics where competing offices exist.”

PMO Buy-In is Built on Communications

The success in building buy-in for a PMO begins with establishing credibility and continues with effective communications. A PMO will not demonstrate its value unless it is maintained. That maintenance requires regular communications with key stakeholders in order to record changes in organizational direction and strategy.

Communication around the PMO begins with making key parties aware that a PMO is being stood up and why. PMOs usually serve diverse teams rather than one small group. Face-to-face communications are not always possible or efficient.

“The departments should also be alerted to the value and benefits of empowering PMO to increase buy-in,” according to the Datavail white paper. “It’s important that the key customers of the soon-to-be-improved or new services see the business value and the backing of the investment in the initiative from management.”

The main users of the PMO reports and analysis should be approached first. New tools need to be explained along with their importance to driving organizational achievement by aligning the PMO with enterprise strategy. The need to stand up a PMO is usually the result of a project, program, or even an entire portfolio that went badly. In understanding why it failed, the organization realizes that it needs a central repository for documents, processes, phases, and rounds of approval to 1) make sure it is following the established procedures and 2) be able to peel back the process to discover the errors that can be improved upon.

With buy-in from key stakeholders, it is easier to stand up the PMO and begin the collection of information needed to keep it running. The tools used to communicate the importance of the PMO and the value it is generating are surprisingly old-fashioned:

In Person

Sometimes people will not commit their opinions to writing and won’t offer them unsolicited. A frank discussion can save a lot of detective work about why compliance isn’t stronger.


People work in teams. Often a team meeting is necessary to understand how to best integrate the PMO with team practices. It can also help team members get on the same page about the PMO.


Often overlooked in these days of texting and emojis, phone communications can reveal issues that are difficult to express in an email or comment thread.


Regular reports on the efforts to stand up and mature a PMO are often shared on intranets. While these seldom generate buy-in, the updates are critical after buy-in has been achieved to keep the PMO rolling.


A PMO will contain a polling feature that allows for instant surveys on questions related to the PMO. Satisfaction surveys can also be conducted through email and phone.


Departments should be alerted to the value and benefits of empowering a PMO. It’s important that the key customers of the PMO see the business value and management backing for the initiative.

Experience Makes the Difference with PMOs

Just as a PMO matures over time as a project management knowledge repository of templates, processes, lessons learned, and best practices, so a PMO consultant with experience standing up PMOs for dozens of institutions can provide the support you need to get high-level buy-in for the PMO and to deal with difficulties on the route to maturity. Even highly automated PMOs — especially highly automated PMOs — need monitoring and tweaking.

Datavail has highly-certified project management professionals with a methodology for speeding up and enhancing PMO establishment and maturity efforts. Datavail’s approach is to structure the effort so that all members of the PMO are directly involved in producing deliverables. This whole team involvement approach decreases the time to deliver work product from the effort, decreases the training time of PMO members to the new processes and tools, and leverages institutional knowledge directly.

Datavail is a specialized IT services company focused on Data Management with solutions in BI/DW, analytics, database administration, custom application development, and enterprise applications. We provide both professional and managed services delivered via our global delivery model, focused on Microsoft, Oracle, and other leading technologies.

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