How to Become PMO of the Year

PMO of YearAs a judge for the PMO of the Year sponsored by the Center for Business Practices, I was impressed by all the entries.  One in particular, however, stood out.  PMO Director at Accident Fund Insurance, Norm Buckwalter says, “Through our responsibility of leading the creation and execution of the strategic plan for the enterprise, the Innovation & Planning team has played a vital role in aligning the five year strategic plan, strategic projects and the annual budgeting process.  We have accomplished this by ensuring our executive management staff has the best information possible to make decisions on which projects will contribute to the vision in the most cost effective manner possible.  We continue to focus on improving our processes, but business results remain our team’s primary mission.”

Unique differentiators that this PMO achieved include:

  • A clear linkage and ownership of the 5 year strategic plan to each annual planning process
  • PMO takes priorities and direction from a cross functional Executive Steering Committee.  The PMO team institutionalized a dual project governance structure and Project Prioritization & Management Committee for tactical department project prioritization: even bringing acquired subsidiary companies into these processes
  • The team directly facilitates these committees through scenario planning, prioritization, decision gates, reviews, resource allocation, and project sequencing decisions
  • The PM’s “own” the initiatives right from concept exploration through close out & benefit recognition — regardless of the type of project it is
  • Team is responsible for a bringing a broad range of methodologies to bear for executing projects
  • PMO is responsible for linking the annual plan (a subset of the 5 year strategic plan) process directly to the annual budgeting process across the enterprise
  • PMO manages project team roles & forecasts resources right down to name level assignments through a shared resource pool across all projects
  • PMO is responsible for the post project “Benefits Realization Process” at checkpoints in a large program and the post project implementation
  • PMO now has a sub-team that manages key enterprise vendor relationships, contract negotiations, RFP’s, SLA’s, performs vendor audits, explores creative sourcing opportunities
  • The negotiated cost reductions and recoveries that the team provided in 2007 funded the entire department: meaning on a go forward basis the department can likely be self funded.
  • PMO has geographically remote staff that reside in subsidiary companies

Norm’s team does not lead every single project in the company, nor does he believe they should.  Rather, they focus time and energy on the projects that are core to achieving the 5 year strategic plan, those projects that provide the biggest business benefit, and the projects that span multiple departments/ companies.

“I love the way your PMO is so tightly entrenched with the business and everything is documented” was one consultant’s statement when they joined the team to assist with a short term initiative.  Besides making it easy for new team members and contractors to “come up to speed”, good process documentation makes it easy for everyone involved to know what the expectations are: including the PMO.

Norm BuckwalterAs Director of the Innovation and Planning for Accident Fund Insurance Company of America, Norm Buckwalter and his team created a program management office (PMO) that continues to mature, adapt, and evolve to changing needs of a growing enterprise.  Norm leads the PMO responsible for the enterprise portfolio of projects that are created through the company strategic planning process. Through many changes, they achieved unique PMO innovations that make it one of the best in class.  Learn how they focus their time and energy on the execution of a wide variety of complex initiatives that drive realization of the strategic plan for a growing enterprise when he presents his case study September 3rd at the PMI NorCal Symposium 2008 at Stanford University.

Be inspired: be challenged: transform!
Randy Englund, Englund Project Management Consultancy,


1 thought on “How to Become PMO of the Year”

  1. That sounds great – something to emulate.

    Randall worked for HP at a time when they had fantastic project management. They produced plenty of project managers that went out to do great things.

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