4 Crucial PMO staffing considerations

by Jan Schiller

Are you finding it challenging to find and retain the talent you know you need to succeed in delivering valuable project management office (PMO) services? Do you wish you had the budget to acquire the talent you really need to accomplish your strategy? What should you take into consideration when staffing your PMO?

People are the vibrant heartbeat of a PMO and bring life to the services the PMO offers. Without the right people, a PMO’s value may not be readily established or visible. Four staffing considerations can help you build a stellar PMO team.

 1. Skills and competencies   

Go beyond determining how well skills and competencies deliver the job requirements and qualifications. Get to know your team members, either through the interview process or when you first inherit a team. Understand what they like to do and what they do not like to do, what they excel at, and what gets them excited about their career. Leverage that information as much as possible when assessing their fit. Match their passion and interests to their role. Focus on maximizing strengths instead of converting weaknesses to strengths. 

Each team member’s skills, competencies, and experience should align with the services offered by your PMO. If your PMO offers mentoring or functions as the source of the organization’s project managers, they must have extensive and recent project management experience and be willing to share their extensive knowledge of solution delivery and outcome management in an unbiased manner. PMOs offering primarily administrative services require people that love attention to detail and have an analytical bent, usually in the context of excellent writing skills for executive-level documents. Project management tool support requires a heavy focus on infrastructure, software, and other technical knowledge and problem-solving skills, combined with a person who enjoys daily variety.

2. Capacity 

Expect that you will create demand for the PMO’s services. Plan your service launches in alignment with the resources you have available. Plan how you will avoid saying “no” to requests for services due to shortcomings in available staff. Timing is everything since it is sometimes difficult to predict when the fruits of your marketing efforts and actual results are going to have a positive impact on demand for your services. 

Staffing PMO services that require experienced project managers can be especially challenging when your budget is constrained and outsourced staff is not perceived as credible. Quite often, the source of staffing for this type of service is from your customer base. Consider enticing those customers with rotations and providing a clear career path.

3. Ratio

Identify customers of the PMO and align the number of resources in the PMO with that customer base to avoid diminished service delivery quality and long customer wait times. Knowing your customer base can be hampered in organizations where job titles are not necessarily indicative of the PMO customer’s role. Identifying PMO customers can be as simple as asking or encouraging self-nomination. Maintain your customer list in alignment with resource changes and as visibility of PMO increases.

PMO sponsors and senior management already familiar with the PMO services and value are more likely to support requests for additional resources when it is clear how those resources align with service offerings and address pent-up demand. Plan for open, frequent dialogue with all stakeholders. 

4. Credibility

Avoid experimenting with the PMO’s success by ensuring your staff is perceived to be credible in the context of your PMO’s goals, values, and service offerings. Where can you find credible and competent staff? The “not invented here” mindset may suggest a focus on existing resources in your organization, along with the organizational savvy to shift talented resources to another role and career path. Outsourced staff is indeed a viable route and can overcome the “we cannot be a prophet in your own land” mindset. Outsourced staff can be credible in the same way a general contractor can leverage one set of skills and experience to build a variety of buildings. Plan for the time for this talent search because people of this caliber are harder to find and may take longer to hire. Mitigate the risks associated with renting a project manager by obtaining a firm agreement to the end of the lease and to the transition plan that is executed when the lease is up. 

You will have a rock-star PMO team when you focus on knowing the team, launching PMO services in alignment with team size and customer base, and ensuring credible PMO service providers. 


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