Sustaining a Transitioning Project Management Office (PMO)



By Eureka Saunders

Texas, USA


What do you do when you are reduced to foundational pieces? You rebuild with what you have. According to Napoleon Hill, “Start where you stand, and work whatever tools you may have at your command and better tools will be found as you go along.” A strong foundation of templates and practices is required to cover the mechanics of project management, but unexpected personnel and organizational changes require a quick response to address the increase in project demand. A tiered project approach can be established to meet these organizational challenges.

Two areas quickly become a priority:

  1. Resetting and redefining project expectations with the newly hired staff of project managers and
  2. Establishing a community of practice with existing employees to shape a culture in project management.

These two avenues help fortify the importance of project management throughout the institution for initiatives while engaging and keeping constituents involved. Methods to meet these challenges will be presented along with practical applications using scenarios for continued project management success.


Transitioning a Project Management Office (PMO) can be a daunting task including being disruptive and chaotic but also can serve as an opportunity to adjust and reset to better serve the greater good of an organization. For the purposes of this paper, we’ll focus on the case of overhauling an entire PMO, which also may be referred to simply as “office”, from the perspective of Information Technology (I.T.) Higher Education and walk you through a few scenarios of what helps to keep a PMO moving forward through such trying times. The case outlined is based on real-life situations and will be used to illustrate a variety of components coming together to work to sustain a transiting PMO. It is important to state up front that the Information Technology functional area does not own Project Management and that it can exist in multiple areas throughout an organization as is the case as described in this paper and will be discussed in more detail later.

In the meantime, having a foundation to stand on is key during a transition since this can provide a baseline of where the starting point of work begins. In this case, coming into a PMO that was already underway for eight years, lends one to believe that basic components such as people resources, tools, and processes put in place are useful to dive into and improve upon. This is also where initial data points can be extracted that may develop further into key performance indicators (KPIs) translating to meaningful metrics. These components put together help frame and set the tone of what a PMO would become for the organization, especially in terms of practices and expectations of services to be delivered. More importantly, the collection of information will help create a more sustainable PMO that is flexible in meeting the needs of those served.

People Resources

Starting with identifying and understanding the people resources component first is key to any area within an organization since they are the ones doing or facilitating the work. This is where much time is spent in the case scenarios that follow to understand the PMO presented.  The following data points were collected via an internal questionnaire as part of this case shortly after the arrival of the newly hired Director of a pre-established PMO and can also be expanded and used to help understand the current state of an office area and where opportunities may exist for improvement:


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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally presented at the 15th UT Dallas PM Symposium in May 2023.  It is republished here with the permission of the author and conference organizers.

How to cite this paper: Saunders, E. (2023). Sustaining a Transitioning Project Management Office (PMO); paper presented at the 15th University of Texas at Dallas Project Management Symposium in Richardson, TX, USA in May 2023; republished in the PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue IX, September. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/pmwj133-Sep2023-Saunders-sustaining-a-transitioning-pmo.pdf

About the Author

Eureka Saunders

Dallas, TX, USA


Eureka Saunders currently serves as a Senior Project Manager in the healthcare industry. Eureka has over 25 years of professional experience, spending 18 of those years in the Education sector. This is inclusive of K-12, two-year and four-year institutions both public and private. As a Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) Eureka implemented an Information Privacy and Security Program (IPSP) that spanned seven campuses which also included an awareness training program component for employees. As a Project Management Professional (PMP), Eureka has directed a PMO, implemented several enterprise-wide systems valuing over one million dollars each. In addition, as a Certified Six Sigma Green Belt (CSSGB), her structured training and professional experience operating within a Process Knowledge Center of Excellence (PKCE) has prepared her as a leader for effectively managing multifaceted projects.

She can be contacted at saunderseureka@yahoo.com or LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ensaunders/.