Creating a PMO Handbook

A PMO handbook is helpful for organizations seeking a standard set of steps to support project management processes. It can also quickly orient new project managers to the organization’s project management expectations and help align activities to standardized processes and tools. Here’s an example to get you started.

How do you communicate the project management activities required to deliver PMO functions if you’re managing a PMO? The project management methodologies found in many organizations are specific to project-level management processes and do not provide guidelines for program—or enterprise-level PMOs. Project managers understand the project management processes but may not understand how project management is executed throughout the organization. The following article describes an approach that aligns an organization’s project management methodology with its organizational PMO functions.

I previously worked in an organization where project managers understood initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing concepts. They followed a project management methodology to deliver projects. The methodology described issues, risks, and change management processes, but each project manager used different tools to track problems, risks, and change requests. Project schedules lacked standardized milestones, and project managers didn’t consistently establish project baselines or track schedule variances.

By implementing a PMO handbook, we helped align project managers to the project management processes and provided a standardized set of tools and tasks for the organization to follow.

Who is the Intended Audience?

Our PMO handbook was written by experienced project managers within the PMO and shared with novice project managers entering the organization. If your organization already has standardized templates that project managers follow, then a PMO handbook or similar process guide has likely been integrated into the project management process. The handbook is helpful for organizations seeking common steps to support project management processes. It also quickly orients new project managers to the organization’s project management expectations and helps align to a standardized process.

Project management processes within an enterprise may vary by organization. Projects can be initiated, executed, and controlled differently across business functions. In my example, the IT organization’s software development and infrastructure management teams initiated and managed projects differently despite a standard project management methodology. The activities described in the PMO handbook helped align project managers to a standard set of tools and techniques to deliver the project management process.

How is the PMO Handbook Organized?

The PMO handbook was organized around the five phases of the project lifecycle: Initiate, Plan, Execute, Control, and Close. A sample table of contents includes:

PM 1.0 Initiate Project

  • Establish Project Control File
  • Identify Stakeholders
  • Initial Project Charter
  • Initial Project Charter Signoff

PM 2.0 Plan Project

  • Determine project team
  • Hold Project Kickoff Meeting
  • Create a project schedule
  • Determine Roles and Responsibilities
  • Establish the Communications Management Plan
  • Establish the Issues and Risk Management Plan
  • Establish a Change Control Process
  • Establish weekly project status meetings

PM 3.0 Execute Project

  • Hold weekly status meetings
  • Report project status
  • Maintain the project schedule
  • Manage Project Information

PM 4.0 Control Project

  • Monitor and Control the Project
  • Conduct Reviews

PM 5.0 Close Project

  • Finalize Delivery
  • Conduct Lessons Learned
  • Update the Estimation Matrices
  • Close and Archive Records

Let’s take a closer look at PMO 3.0, which describes the details of the Execute Project expectations.
Hold weekly status meetings. Conduct weekly project status meetings and upload the meeting minutes to the project repository:

Report project status (weekly). Update the project schedule. Project schedules are maintained in the repository at: and must be version-controlled. At a minimum, project plans must be updated weekly to update the weekly project status report and to perform earned value analysis (EVA).

Conduct EVA. At the end of each week, the project manager should generate the EVA metrics to determine the SPI and CPI and update the project portfolio tool. Please refer to the PMO website for instructions on how to apply EVA to your project.

Update the monthly project health scorecard. All medium and large category projects must complete the scorecard and submit it to the PMO monthly. The scorecard is due on the 26th of each month and should be published to:. The scorecards will be reviewed with the portfolio manager during the weekly portfolio review.

Update the project portfolio tool. Enter your project’s status in the portfolio management tool, distribute the project status report as outlined in the communication plan, and attach a link to your project’s scorecard to the portfolio management tool.

Support the weekly project portfolio review meeting, which occurs on Mondays from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Please see the PMO manager, who will be added to the meeting distribution list. Be prepared to discuss your project’s status at this meeting.

Maintain the project schedule. [Insert standard process on how to update the project schedule]

Manage project information. Save electronic approval emails, upload them to the project repository, and update the original document with the signoff date. Maintain a copy of the .mpp and .pdf project schedule in the repository. Upload important team project documents into the non-methodology docs folder in the project repository to control versions (technical diagrams, email chains regarding a specific issue, etc.).

Expanding the PMO Handbook

If you manage a PMO, reviewing these functions and providing a handbook to implement them consistently across the organization will help align project managers to the project management process. The table of contents above addresses performance, schedule, and issue management aspects. Expanding on all the PMO functions and providing consistent direction on implementing them within an organization can improve the handbook.

If you’re looking for a specific project control book format, check out my article on the Project Control book.

This has been a glimpse into the tactical steps to implement a project management methodology. A methodology provides process descriptions but doesn’t necessarily address the tools and techniques to execute the process consistently. Process descriptions are helpful, although mature project management organizations follow standardized processes using standard tools and techniques. The PMO handbook is one approach to adopt standard tools and methods and to help improve your organization’s project management.


Andrew Makar

Andrew Makar, DMIT, PMP, CSM is an IT director with delivery experience across projects, programs and portfolios in Digital Marketing, Automotive, Software and Financial Management industries. He is an enthusiastic leader who effectively translates project management theory into practical application. His area of interest and practice is in implementing Agile processes and SCRUM techniques to deliver better software to his customers. Find out more about Andrew on and please reach out and connect with Andrew on LinkedIn.

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