Boost Your PMO through Bridging the Gap between Operations and Project Management!

A PMO Setup Case Study


Senior Advisor

Establishing a project management office (PMO) today is becoming an indispensable step in building a momentum of sustainable success for carrying out megaprojects and programmes. However, one of the most frequent mistakes in establishing and implementing a PMO for a governmental entity in the Middle East, is to set up the PMO independently and separately from the technical and functional departments; hence, it will live in an isolated island far from others within the firm.

This paper is about presenting a case study of setting up a PMO with a focus on developing a framework that integrates the efforts of the functional teams (engineering and IT) and the project management team as a crucial success factor for the PMO. Some of the encountered challenges are highlighted, such as: enabling the PMO as an engine for the development and implementation of the projects, facilitating the PMO as a stakeholder management hub between all parties (design review, contractors, supervision consultants, supervision management), and providing a quality management system to ensure compliance and continuous improvement.

Processes, capacity building, and project management information systems are meticulously orchestrated to enhance the performance of over 400 infrastructure/construction projects for a government city municipality in a manner that integrates the efforts of the client, engineers, project managers, and subcontractors and aims for success.

Keywords: project management office (PMO), project management, operations


One of the most frequent mistakes in establishing and implementing a project management office (PMO) for a governmental entity in the Middle East, is to set up the PMO independently and separately from the technical and functional departments; hence, it will live in an isolated island far from others within the firm. To avoid this, the methodology that has been employed in one of the city municipalities revolves around three main pillars (PMO, design review, and supervision management), which constitute one entity that has been put forward to ensure the success of the PMO.

In fact, this methodology does not only depend on establishing the project management office, but exceeds it by providing a mechanism to ensure effective implementation of the business functions. Hence, the PMO has been equipped with a central planning, which is the PMO and executive arms that help in performing the design review and supervision management functions.


Three key stakeholder groups can determine the PMO's value: the executives, the project and programme managers, and the clients who are serviced by the PMO (Haddad, 2014). The PMO in general provides value in:

  • Establishing and managing programme/projects and enabling project management and standardization through project management information system.
  • Monitoring and controlling projects progress and applying agile methodologies in developing backup and recovery plans.
  • Developing and implementing corporate governance and compliance management system.
  • Upgrading the manner of assembling and evaluating information about the reality of existing projects.
  • Preparing guidelines and checklists to be used by the technical/functional teams.
  • Developing and enhancing communication plans and applying a project managing information system (PMIS) to manage the data handling among different parties.
  • Automating the processes and procedures and developing dashboards and key performance indicators (KPI) using PMIS applications.
  • Developing a risk process for identifying risks, performing risk analysis, and developing response plans.
  • Establishing a clear system to measure the rates of effective project completion and project financial performance (e.g., earned value management)
  • Promote the PMO and quality management culture by conducting trainings and interactive workshops


  1. Assessment/Evaluation:
    • Gathering information about existing projects and configuring a centralized database for these projects.
    • Conducting assessment workshops with the concerned parties (stakeholders) to explore the processes and procedures in place and the existing practices and their effectiveness (OPM3 assessment).
    • Developing a methodology showing the steps to be followed and the expected improvements.
  2. Development:
    • Developing processes and procedures, along with their associated guidelines and training materials, in line with the best practices and international project management standards.
    • Developing and configuring the automation project management information system (PMIS).
    • Developing a plan for the communication and the coordination among the various parties involved.
  3. Implementation:
    • A gradual implementation of the development outputs on a limited range of projects, as pilot projects, and the use of the applications to display performance indicators and ensure its effectiveness.
  4. Activation:
    • Gradually deploying the outputs that have been tested to be effective on all projects.
    • Competency development, by conducting interactive workshops and lectures, to carry out all project management functions in order to monitor and control the projects’ performance and to ensure sustainability and continuity of the work after the establishment of the project management office.
    • Monitoring and controlling: conformity assessment procedures and quality assurance standards and evaluating the commitment to implement actions according to quality control standards using performance templates checklists.


Some of the encountered challenges are highlighted, such as:

  • Enabling the PMO as an engine for the development and implementation of the projects; the PMO should be involved in planning and controlling the project functions to ensure the compliance to the project and PMO requirements. It should also engage subject matter experts (SMEs) as part of the PMO. Thus, the PMO should be equipped with people who have a technical background to bridge the gap between the project managers and functional departments. The SMEs can be from within the organisations or external to the organisation and brought in to assist in a specific project.
  • Facilitating the PMO as a stakeholder management hub between all parties (design reviewers, contractors, supervision consultants, supervision management)—a key driver to project success is visibility across the board. Visibility allows timely decision making for the sake of project success and benefit realisation. One of the challenges of leaders and executives today is to be given accurate information when it matters. The PMO should understand the challenge and establish a culture of project management accountability across the projects as: “High-performing organisations fully understand the value of project management and are creating a project management mindset” (PMI Pulse, 2015). It is essential to implement a PMO that will tell decision makers and campus leaders the truth about projects in a timely fashion and will pave the way for talent development of the people in charge of those projects.
  • Providing a quality management system to ensure compliance and continuous improvement; The PMO should verify the proper implementation of all procedures developed and validate the outputs of the projects with the agreed-upon specifications and requirements. This includes:
    • Developing detailed checklists per project type to assess quality of the deliverables onsite
    • Developing thorough guidelines for quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC) per project type and per discipline containing all relevant processes, templates, checklists, and tools
    • Consolidating all quality assessment figures in the electronic system with predefined mathematical equations in order to calculate the quality indicator for each project. This indicator is then displayed on a customized executive dashboard, which helps in the decision-making process
    • Conducting trainings and hands-on workshops for all involved supervision consultants on the developed QA and QC processes

As a result, quality performance indicators increased from 60% to 84% during the year 2014 (24% increase in contractors’ commitment in applying quality procedures). Health and safety performance indicators increased from 41% to 78% during the same year (37% increase in the contractors’ commitment in applying health and safety procedures).



Mohamad Boukhari PhDc, PMP, PMI-RMP, is a PMO, and portfolio and programme management professional. With more than 15 years of experience in project management and business development, Mohamad has worked across a range of industries with different disciplines such as IT, construction, engineering, government, telecommunications, health care, and financial services. He developed and implemented project, programme, governance, risk, and portfolio management processes, and provided business solutions and development. Mohamad has delivered more than 1,000 hours of project management training for hundreds of professionals and executives at the American University of Beirut CEC, Order of Engineers and Architects of Beirut, and leading companies across the Middle East region.


img    img [email protected]         img   [email protected]

Haddad, Raed S. (2014). Five ways to boost your and your PMO's value. PMI Global Congress 2014, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Project Management Institute. (2015). Pulse of the profession®: Capturing the value of project management. Newtown Square, PA.

© 2016, Mohamad Boukhari
Originally published as part of the 2016 PMI® Global Congress Proceedings – Barcelona, Spain



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