Project Management

Becoming a Customer-Centric PMO

From the I wish I had me when I was you... Blog
"I wish I had me when I was you..." That expresses precisely how I feel each time a project manager or PMO leader tells me a story about their frustrations encountered while trying to create effective and sustainable change, build (or fix) a PMO, or deliver projects successfully. I always think to myself…I wish I knew then what I know now. I’ve made it my mission to share with you everything that I have learned while creating change and building PMOs in both large and small organizations for the last 24 years, many of those years as an employee in the "hot seat" responsible for building internal capability. I’m hoping these articles help you along your journey as you continue to evolve and develop skills and techniques to be the high-IMPACT leader you are meant to be. Learn more at

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Categories: PMO

As we get into the thick of building and running a PMO, we often get caught up in the templates and process or figuring out how we are going to get all the projects delivered. We fight with a never-ending scenario of not enough (time, resources, funding, etc.) and must delicately balance all the competing priorities on our time and energy.  As a result, we might forget why we are there in the first place.

The PMO is a service organization.

We provide a litany of services that, when leveraged effectively, can drive ever-higher IMPACT for our customers and the broader organization. Everything we do, every product we produce, and every service we create should be with that customer in mind. Follow these practical steps to ensure that you and your team have a customer-centric mindset:

  1. Identify your customer.
    Before we can build anything that will have a chance of delivering IMPACT, we must focus on identifying and understanding who we serve. What value do they provide to the organization? Who do they serve? How are they motivated? What are their highest priorities? Take the time to dig here, so you have a good sense of your customer avatar.
  2. Learn what they value.
    Once we know who they are and how they serve, we must ask “why?” Why do they need the PMO? We must know what they value enough to ask for or need help and once we ask questions, we should follow with silence. Our objective here is to listen, not talk. How successful have they been in getting their projects delivered with high-IMPACT outcomes? Listen to their story and let them talk about what matters most to them.
  3. Discover the customer journey
    It’s so easy to start building services that we “just know” the customer needs and wants. I mean, why wouldn’t they want a complete set of templates to help them walk through the project process? The reality is that if your customer is drowning in chaos, they probably cannot even look up long enough to grab a template. We must always meet them where they are and then gently guide them where they need to go. This means that we may have to start with making their lives easier so that they have the time and space to learn something new. Fix the pain. Then worry about growing capabilities.
  4. Develop a roadmap together.
    The journey starts with the customer in their current state and is developed together based on pain points they identify and business objectives they must accomplish. Make sure that you look at the biggest pain points they are experiencing and evaluate which ones you could solve quickly. Do those first. This creates momentum off which everything else will run. Then, establish a thoughtful plan of capabilities you can roll out over time. Remember that it will take them a lot longer to implement new capabilities or engage in new services and see value than it will for you to create them.
  5. Speak their language.
    As you identify the services that you can deliver to provide IMPACT for the customer, consider how you will talk to them about the capabilities. Don’t underestimate your role in marketing. The art of marketing is speaking to someone in the way they need to hear information and helping them understand how they can benefit from services you provide. They need to hear about the outcomes you will create for them, not the PM speak you will use behind the scenes to get them there. We must resist the urge to tell them about the medicine they must take and instead focus on how their life will get easier.
  6. Treat them like a partner.
    You need them and they need you. Without them, the PMO has no value. Work with them to establish a set of guiding principles that you will both follow to ensure strategic alignment, transparency, predictability, reliability, and ultimate return on investment (ROI). Make sure that everyone in your PMO is clear on the importance and their role in providing a stellar customer experience.
  7. Remember that while the customer might not always be right, they are always right. 
    Never underestimate the power of an unhappy customer to derail your PMO sustainability. Your goal will be to cultivate that relationship with your customer, hearing them along the way as they express concerns or frustration. While it’s so easy to tell them how we know better when it comes to the things your PMO can provide, if they can’t yet see it for themselves, it doesn’t exist. Go back to the values they hold dear and see how you can align your services and offerings with what matters most to them. That, my friend, is how you ensure your PMO can deliver IMPACT.
Posted on: April 30, 2018 06:00 AM | Permalink

Comments (15)

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Thanks Laura for another great look into PMO's.

Really great points, Laura. Number 6 encompasses much of the others. Sometimes simply having dialogues with your partners/customers sheds light on previous assumptions.

Thanks for sharing. One question 'Speak their language' is it literally language or their culture & custom.
Secondly,Good point is speak what they want to hear, I agree, However if the client change it mood daily basis, then how would we speak their languge

Thanks Laura for sharing insights into PMO approach. Listening and building bridges are very important aspects of any service offered.

Thanks for sharing, Laura.

Excellent, thanks Laura

Thanks all! @Dhananjay Salve -- To answer your question...yes. It is literally to speak in a way they can hear you, maybe its in their language as in literal language but mostly it is in terms they can relate to.

Thanks for sharing


“We must resist the urge to tell them about the medicine they must take and instead focus on how their life will get easier” Like this a lot!!! So applicable to the program I’m supporting right now! Thanks for sharing!

“We must resist the urge to tell them about the medicine they must take and instead focus on how their life will get easier” Like this a lot!!! So applicable to the program I’m supporting right now! Thanks for sharing!

Another good list

Brilliant post, thank you Laura

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