Setting up a Project Office

Author: Neville Turbit

Project Office, Project Management Office, Program Office, Program Management Office…..?

No matter what you call it, a central office to manage projects across an organisation, or part of an organisation, is becoming a more common occurrence. I have seen they called Program Office, Program Management Office, Project Office, Project Management Office, Project Control Centre, Project and several other variations. People have their own interpretation for each but in the end, their role is to make projects more efficient.

Project Office Role

It is essential for the success of a new Project Office that there is clear understanding before establishment, as to the role of the office, and the interaction between the office and the individual projects.

The key to successfully establish a Project Office or Programme Office is to gain agreement at the start of the process, as to the responsibilities. A useful and speedy technique is to workshop the possible activities with the key players, and gain consensus as to what the office is intended to do. The starting point is to create a list of possible activities, then hold a workshop to evaluate the responsibility of the office, for each activity. It is likely in some cases there will be no activity, and in other cases, the activities will need to be split down further. It is also useful if the office is not to have responsibility, to identify who does have the responsibility

Attached is a list in no particular order. The list is not definitive. It is intended to form the basis of a review of the role. Each organisation will have specific activities that may, or may not be included in the role of a Project Office.

This matrix allows four conditions for each activity.

  •  Uninvolved. The Project Office has no responsibility for the activity
  •  Monitor. Essentially they are aware of the activity and pass on information.
  •  Influence. Whilst the Project Office is not responsible for the activity, there is a responsibility for the project team and the Project Office to work together on the particular activity.
  •  Control. The Project Office is fully responsible for the activity.

On completion of this matrix, questions such as resourcing, inputs and outputs can be determined.

The Project Perfect Checklist for Project Offices

Rate each of these as one of the four categories above. Also try to identify activities that may be important in your organisation.

IT Strategic Plan

  • Creation of a plan (3yr to 5 yr) for the whole organisation

IT Annual Operational Plan

  • Define the next level of detail focusing on the projects to be undertaken in the next year

Project Establishment

  • All projects need to be logged into some central source

Project Sizing

  • Create a first cut size estimate

Project Charter

  • The plan for the project covering all aspects objective, scope, constraints, organisation and staffing etc.


  • Setting the initial budget
  • Performance against budget
  • Budget changes


  • Setting the initial scope (including exclusions)
  • Scope variations (Process for managing and management of)


  • Project organisational structure
  • Assigning staff (who?)
  • Staff movements
  • Staff personnel management
  • Skills matrix and identification of gaps
  • Resourcing contract maintenance & negotiation
  • Staff training
  • Project roles and responsibilities
  • Project team terms and conditions (allowances, rates etc.)
  • Timesheet and payment
  • Exit management

Methodology & Processes

  • Selection of a methodology
  • Maintenance of a methodology
  • Training
  • Maintenance and customisation of procedures
  • Maintenance of templates
  • Compliance with methodology
  • Creation of processes and procedures
  • Approval of processes and procedures
  • Standardisation and rationalisation of processes and procedures
  • Training of processes and procedures
  • Review of new methodologies


  • Selection of tools
  • Purchase of tools
  • Exemptions from using tools
  • Availability to teams (IT support, upgrades etc.)
  • Training
  • Review of new tools


  • Approval of expenditure (levels?)
  • Gating approvals


  • Use of external standards (ISO 9000, CMM, SPI)
  • Creation of internal standards
  • QA services to project teams
  • QA approvals

Admin Support

  • Assist teams with logistics (rooms, travel, photocopy etc.)
  • Produce regular reporting
  • Provide facilitators to workshops
  • HR issues (employee leave, payment, queries)
  • Materials (Stationary, PC’s etc.)


  • Compile plans (Project, phase, specific activity)
  • Approve plans

Risk Management

  • Risk assessment and logging
  • Risk monitoring
  • Provide risk logging facilities

Issue Mgmt

  • Creation of issue log
  • Management of issue log


  • Identification of dependencies (other projects etc.)
  • Monitoring of dependencies
  • Identification of new dependencies
  • Liaison with other teams


  • External to project team (where?)
  • Inter project team

Change Mgmt

  • Creation of a strategy and plan
  • Implementation of plan
  • Monitoring expectations

Problem Escalation

  • Create a mechanism to escalate project issues
  • Facilitate problem escalation


  • Maintain standard documents
  • Maintain example documents
  • Set project documentation standards
  • Maintain project library
  • Maintain checklists for project activities (Implementation, testing, initiation)
  • Create and maintain a glossary


  • Identify benefits from the project
  • Quantify the benefits
  • Track benefit delivery after the project
  • Prepare cost benefit analysis
  • Produce business case


  • Identify project constraints (resource limitations, system limitations etc.)


  • Project status (what?)
  • Budget v Expenditure
  • Scope changes
  • Project overview
  • Staffing
  • Projections
  • Gantt charts
  • Earned value


  • Compliance with IT architecture (applications and technical)
  • Integration with other systems
  • Compliance with IT Policy (package preferred, particular vendors, etc.)


  • Compliance with organisational standards
  • Ad hoc audits of projects to ensure company policy is being adhered to


  • Carry out post implementation review
  • Generate action items from PIR
  • Carry out recommendations of PIR

Acceptance & Conformance

  • Set conditions for acceptance of deliverables
  • Accept deliverables
  • Authorise exemptions to acceptance standards

Configuration Management

  • Setting up Configuration Management
  • Managing software migration
  • Version control


  • Formal mentoring programs
  • Support roles in projects (e.g. supplying an experienced resource on a part time basis)
  • Special Interest Groups

Business Interaction

  • Carry out Business Process Re‑engineering
  • User documentation
  • User training

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