Project Management

Making the Case For a PMO: Building Your Presentation

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at

In my last column, we discussed the need to sell the value of a PMO in order to get confirmation of the mandate and approval to move forward with building it. Specifically, we covered being able to clearly articulate for your sponsor--or sponsors--the value to them personally of creating a PMO, and providing the answer to the essential question of "What's in it for me?"

Now that you have answered the question for each stakeholder that you have to bring on board in order to get approval, the next step is to actually build a presentation that makes the logical case of what you are trying to do, how you intend to do it, and yes--what the value is if you build it. In this column, we discuss how to build a presentation that makes the case for your PMO, in a way that your audience is likely to be most receptive to receive it.

First, however, let's discuss logistics. When I talk about building a presentation, am I really referring to a deck of PowerPoint slides? For the most part, the answer is likely to be yes, but not always. You do need to know your audience, and how they best receive information. For some senior management teams, the use of PowerPoint is outlawed (and for good reason--there are a lot of really bad presentations out there that give PowerPoint a bad name).

Mostly, however, it represents the easiest way to structure your presentation and make your case, and it gives your audience something to follow and make notes on. Whether your presentation will involve you standing up in a boardroom or sitting down over a cup of coffee, a set of slides will guide people where you need to take them.


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So what should be in your presentation? How should it be structured? What order should it take? And how much information is enough? To deal with the last question first, you want to keep your presentation simple. Slides should only have enough information on them to help you remember what you mean to say and help you to cover off your points, and to give your audience cues to recall what you said when they review it later. Keep slides simple--no more than 3 to 5 bullets on a slide, and no more than 5 to 9 words in a bullet. If you can figure out a way to use a diagram instead, by all means do it!

In terms of the structure of your presentation, there is a logical sequence that is going to help you to logically explain why you need a PMO, and why your approach makes sense and deserves investment:

Define The Problem.
This may seem exceedingly obvious, but it's a point that most presentations--believe it or not--completely ignore. Do so at your peril. What is the problem that a PMO is going to help solve? Are projects constantly coming in late or over budget? Is there a problem with consistency of projects? Is the organization facing a significant period of change such that the status quo isn't going to successfully be able to deliver on? Are you at a competitive advantage to others in your industry? Be clear about what the problem is, and take the time to explain how you know that it's a problem. What facts, figures, benchmarks and feedback can you use to help to make your case?

What's the Consequence of Not Doing Anything?
Once you've defined the problem, be clear about what is going to happen if nothing changes? Does the problem get worse? Stay the same? Will it go away on its own? While the latter may be doubtful, you again need to be able to make the case of why the status quo is unacceptable. Paint a very clear picture of the consequences of nothing happening. While this may require some projections of current behavior into the future, if you have defined the problem well enough this should be a straightforward exercise. The bottom line is that you need to create a compelling argument of what is going to happen if your organization doesn't implement a PMO.

What Does The Solution Look Like?
Now is the time to lay out the logic of what your solution is, how it works and why it makes sense. What would the PMO do? Who are its customers, and what services does it provide to them? What is the role in the organization that the PMO will take on? Also be clear about what the PMO will not do. This is particularly true if there are responsibilities that will be maintained by other organizations, or there are cultural threats that could be misinterpreted if you don't clearly spell out what you aren't going to do. Much of this information should be drawn from your mandate and charter as you have drafted them.

What Is it Going to Take to Get There?
This is where you identify the resources you need, the funding required and the time you need to take to get there. In essence, you are laying out what the project plan looks like to get to the end state of your defined PMO. What are the major phases of work, and the timelines for each one? What internal and external support will you need, and what will that cost? What other supplies, equipment or services will you require? What does the overall budget for the project look like, and what are the ongoing support costs once your PMO is in operation?

What's In It For Me?
Finally, you are able to bring your argument to a close by identifying the benefits of implementing a PMO. There are three questions that you need to answer here: How does your proposed solution solve the problems that you identified at the start of your presentation? What is the financial return back to the organization as a result of making the investment you have asked for? How does this personally make life easier for the person or group that you are presenting to?

Each of these points is critical in building a presentation and making the sale of being able to proceed with your PMO. While you can sell their heads on the logic of your approach, you are going to have to win their hearts as well. To do that, they will need to be able to convince them that their lives will be visibly easier and demonstrably better as a result of accepting your proposal. The rest of the presentation gives them the logic by which they can justify their emotional buy-in. Give them both, and you can't lose.

Next column in the series: I Got Approval. Now What?

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughoutNorth America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark is also the author of Interthink's Project Management Process Model (PM2), a maturity model that has been used to assess over 550 companies worldwide.

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One word sums up probably the responsibility of any vice president, and that one word is 'to be prepared'.

- Dan Quayle