What’s a PMO, and why does it matter to my intranet?

If you’re reading this, you obviously have some kind of interest in your law firm’s intranet, whether you work in IT, the library, marketing, or elsewhere within your firm.  Maybe you have some decision-making power, or perhaps you work on day-to-day maintenance of your intranet and related projects.  No matter what your role or status, you should be thinking about how to involve your intranet in the project management (PM) efforts going on at your firm.

If you haven’t heard the term before, a Project Management Office, or PMO, is an established department or group that defines and maintains the project management process at your firm.  The PMO can be a source of standardization, documentation, guidance, and metrics, and is usually based on formally recognized and accepted principles such as the Project Management Institute and their widely used Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK).  If you come from a large firm, your PMO could connect and provide overall management structure for already existing processes and workflows at your firm such as incident, problem, change, release, and configuration management, which are all parts of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework.  Chances are, however, if you are part of a smaller firm, a PMO could simply bridge the gap and provide visibility and support between management committee and project teams.

If your firm has a PMO already, then your task should be to get involved with it as much and as soon as possible.  Talk to the lead project manager (PM) and ask for a presentation overview to your department, to show how the PMO benefits the firm.  During that presentation, ask what kind of projects go through the PMO (size, responsibility, visibility, budget, etc.), and if your intranet projects are not already on the PMO radar, talk about the firm-wide reach of your intranet and the importance of the availability of technology and firm support.  Make sure that the PMO knows about what you’re doing, and what you’d like to do, so they can help you plan for projects at a higher level.

Now, it’s my understanding that PMOs are not widely established within law firms, so this may be unfamiliar territory to some of you.  Even if your firm doesn’t have a PMO, there are some things you can do to raise the visibility of your intranet projects.

  • Start using a project plan of some sort.  It can be a simple outline that includes overview, approach, specifications, tasks, schedule, cost/budget, and staffing/resources. Circulate this plan and keep it up-to-date.
  • Talk to your managers about your project.  This could include people like your department director, the CIO, CKO, library or IT director, management committee, or technology partner.  Get them on board and keep them informed often of your progress.
  • Dedicate an official (or unofficial!) project manager, even if it is only a portion of their job duties.  You need to have someone responsible for the project plan, overall details, and keeping things on track.  Make sure others know who that person is.
  • Get your users involved early.  They will be your information sources, advocates, validators, and testers.   User involvement should be a planned part of your project.
  • Establish a team that you can rely on.  This could include content experts, librarians, trainers, marketers, technology experts, or application developers.  Rally them around your project, get them excited to work with you and what you’re doing.  Keep them updated on the progress as it applies to them.
  • Stick to your schedule as much as possible.  Even if the deadlines are self-imposed, you will gain much more credibility if you can meet your goals.
  • If possible, deliver a “quick win” early on in your intranet project.  This is something that is fairly easy to do that will impact a larger number of users.  This will make everyone happy and keep them engaged for future phases or deliverables.

I realize that it’s easier said than done to create visibility and support for an intranet project, especially if it’s not viewed as one of your firm’s high priorities.  Keep talking to people, start documenting and distributing your plan, and get involved with as much PMO-like activity that you can.

For more law firm PMO tales, you might want to check out this multi-part article series called PMOs and Law Firms: Lessons from the Field from the Project Management Hut.

-Amy Witt


  1. 1 ILTA PROJ 3: Project Management Isn’t My Day Job « The Law Firm Intranet

    […] At the end of the sessions during the attendee question period I was pleased to hear Joseph mention the importance of aligning your project with the PMO if at all possible to help with overall management (see my previous post on What’s a PMO, and why does is matter for my intranet project?). […]

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    […] See also my previous post on “What’s a PMO and why does it matter to my intranet?“ […]

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