The PMO: Developing A Standard Organization

– By Kenneth Day, Data Center Engineer at Nelnet

Ken Day, Engineer at Nelnet

Ken Day has earned both BA-MIS and MS-MIS, and is currently finishing up his third degree, Master in Project Manager (MPM) at Bellevue University. He currently serve as an Infrastructure Engineer, working with planning, equipment installations and cabling for Nelnet in their Data Center.

Most organizations have some processes and procedures that they may loosely follow as a matter of habit or at least use them as a place to start.  One of the first steps in creating standards to do a thorough investigation into what teams and project managers are using now in the way of templates, procedures or just the methodology that they employ when executing a project.  If an organization has no base standards, it may be possible to adapt a “pre-built” solution and then just move forward but very rarely will an “off-the-shelf” product suit the needs of everyone in the organization.  The existing standards in the organization may not represent best practices or align with generally accepted project management practices (Letavec, 2006) The PMO builds or collaborates on a common set of practices, principles and templates for managing projects.  Standardization means project managers can move more easily between different projects and new project managers can get up to speed faster.  Creating project management templates means standard components of a processes like Risk analysis, Project planning and Scope management, can be reused which can save time and money since they are not created for each new project. (IPlanWare, 2011)  While this can be a huge benefit for most organizations, it will also soon find out that “cookie-cutter” solutions often fall short or the desired results.  So does that means that there are no such things as “Standards”?  No, it means that formal processes may be similar but each project will be unique enough that modifications may involve minor tweaks or major revisions, depending on the nature of the project.

When creating standards, it’s necessary to gather feedback from project managers or others that people in the organization that represent the standard’s intended audience.  The purpose of this is to make sure that the proposed standard will meet the needs of the targeted audience.  Nothing is worse than creating a systems that produces worthless results that increase a projects workload.

Organizations of any industry and size need a Project management Standard to manage external client projects as well as internal improvements.  There is a strong and direct correlation between the maturity of the organization’s Project Management Standard and the overall organization’s performance. (Kapteina, 2016)  Many experts say that organizations will not even survive in today’s business climate anymore if they do not have an appropriate Project management Standard implemented.  The sad reality is that approximately 40% of organizations even in this day and age are still managing their projects with no defined Project Management Standard, which leads in the short-term to lower project success rates, and put severe risks on the overall success of the organization in the long term future.


(Microsoft, 2016)

But how do you go about establishing the right Project management Standard for your organization?  Do organizations build something up from scratch by themselves?  Many have tried this and failed because it usually involves lots of money, time and effort only to produce little in return.  So is it better for an organization to adopt a third-party project Management methodology and roll it in?  You then have to figure out how to handle the organizations differentiators that make it unique from everyone else.  Off the shelf products are rarely a “one-size-fits-all” product.  Then, once the Project management Standard has been finally built, how shall the organization implement the standard they have created, and keep them up to date?

The answer to this can be found in PMI’s globally accepted Tailoring approach which can be seen as a method to develop and organizations project Management Standard by following several process steps.  It starts with an assessment (to measure the current organization’s maturity level and to suggest the desired change), continues with the development (to create the methodology), and finally not ends but again continues with further improvements (to make sure that there is always the right project management standard in the organization.) (Kapteina, 2016)

Building a customized standard is about bringing together the right mixture of policies, practices, processes, tools, techniques, and templates.  You should mix together the usage of well-known global project management methodologies like those developed by Project Management institute (PMI), some third party Project management standards and last, but more importantly, the integration of the Organization’s differentiators that make the whole package unique.  Companies today need their own Project Management Standard to be able to function successfully in today’s markets.  Building and implementing such a standard is tied directly to the success or failure of that organization.  Organizations without an Established Project Management standard risk disappearing from their market place sooner or later.

A critical success factor in building a standard is the right mixture of required internal differentiators as well as the adoption of the right external methodologies and standards. Tailoring practices from PMI can help manage this process more smoothly. When finally implementing the new Project Management Standard into the organization, a holistic approach is needed to integrate also Program Management and Portfolio Management into the company’s business management framework, connecting all domains to the organization’s vision, missions and strategy. PMO Frameworks can help organizations coordinate such developments across multiple organizational business units. (Nayab, 2010)

An established Project Management Standard will lead to realized strategic objectives. It is important to keep such a standard in the organization continuously up to date. Looking forward, it will be interesting how new offerings in methodologies and technologies may further change the Project Management knowledge as we know it today.  Always keep looking for better ways to accomplish your goals without losing sight of the finished product.

Kapteina, Gernot, (2016) Building the Organization’s Project Management Standard, Retrieved March 24th, 2017 from

Nayab, N, (2010) Understanding PMO Roles and Responsibilities, Retrieved march 24th 2017 from

iPlan. (2011). Responsibilities of a Project Management Office. Retrieved from