5 Tips To Create a PMO From The Bottom-Up

The classical way of creating an Enterprise PMO is most often described as top-down.
“5 tips to create a PMO” is another way, the bottom-up way.

This approach works best in the most advanced organizations that demonstrate a high level of trust, empowerment, and autonomy among their employees.

Why would you indeed bother senior executives with a project of setting up a PMO?

Start instead with a community of skin-in-the-game[1] players in the field of portfolio, program, and project management. Identify together your pain points, select solutions, and implement them one after the other.

The reward is soon a visible higher performance in the way the company is realizing its projects and getting benefits from them.

Here are 5 key steps to help you set up a PMO bottom-up:

1-Establish a powerful and appealing cause for a PMO.

A cause is the first asset you should develop. This intangible asset will counterbalance the tangible assets the organization has (legitimate authority, money, resources…)

This cause must be appealing. It should present positive elements for each and everyone, not only for a minority.

These positive outcomes are both personal gains for the individuals adopting the cause (reduce project fatigue, increase career development…), and organizational benefits for the organization as a whole (superior project benefits realization, stronger strategic alignment, reduced project costs and duration…).

Output of this step: a short and powerful phrase telling what you want to do and why.

Examples: “Make project management a win-win game” or “No more nasty surprises in projects, only good ones”.

2-Build a community of diverse project stakeholders volunteering to devote time and experience to this cause.

Start with a core team of volunteers, experts, influencers willing to devote a portion of their energy to work for the cause.

The community should comprise individuals from a variety of levels (senior leaders, middle managers…), functions (manufacturing, information systems, product development…), roles (sponsors, portfolio managers, project managers, product owners, release train engineers…).

Output of this step: a core team of engaged players and an agenda of working sessions.

Example of core team: 12 members including an executive sponsor, business leaders, a portfolio manager, a few program and project managers, PMOs, specialists in various domains.

Example of agenda: ½ day together every month, workload between each meeting to be adjusted every month.

3-Identify the pain points met by the stakeholders of the organization’s portfolios, programs and projects.

The cause must answer real problems or needs met by people and the organization.

You will have during some time only one asset, which is the power of this cause aiming at answering these problems and needs. The organization has control on all other assets, from the command and control to the infrastructure and the management of money.

These pain points detail how you intend to respond to your cause.

Output of this step: a list of pain points identified by key stakeholders and a SWOT focused on the vital few internal strengths, weaknesses, and external threats and opportunities.

Examples: opportunity offered by new technology (IA), threat from new entrants in business, weakness in complex program management, strength of the strategic initiative portfolio.

4-Establish an action plan designed to eliminate the pain points

Identify improvement actions based on the SWOT. Rank the actions by highest impact and accessibility. Start with action #1. When finished, take action #2…

Impact defines something that creates sudden, powerful, and positive effects on the environment.

Accessibility must start with actions that the core team has the capability to realize on its own (including its close network).

Outputs of this step: visible improvements in the domain of project management.

Examples: coherence in the methods and tools used across the organization, project fatigue eliminated in overloaded areas, new critical training modules available (starting with training for sponsors).

5-Remain low-profile and trust that success will come over time through your results and your network

Realizing things is your priority. Not communication. Nor lobbying for immediate executive sponsorship.

Onboard necessary people to develop solutions and to adopt these solutions in their job. Develop your network and a community of allies.

Create a knowledge base with great methods, tools, and tips. Keep live a logbook of your progress with what works and what does not work (what does not work is often more useful than what works).

Be patient and resilient. Success can come at any time.

Above all, “you need to be a real “servant leader” and at the same time you are a salesman for the PMO”[2].

Output of this step: survival and development of the initiative, then organizational benefits, then personal gains.


The community starts like a community of practice and a “virtual PMO“.
It quickly becomes a Center of Excellence.

And by the right choice of its members, it soon includes “de facto” PM and PMO roles in charge of part or all of the organization’s portfolio, program, and project management activity.

This approach creates improvements and results that leaders can see.
They understand that a PMO is more a value-adding function than a cost center.
They see their team as autonomous, empowered and accountable.

Executives recognize the initiative and its results. They support it and give it a legitimacy.

Do you agree?

To your continued success


[1] I take the expression from Nassim N. Taleb’s book Skin in the Game.

[2] Martin Gray, Director Professional Development, PMI France recommends rightly the servant leader and the salesman role. Why not read Dan Pink’s book To Sell is Human.

Buy the High-Impact PMO on Amazon or read my most successful articles:

High-Impact PMO

Leave a Comment