Project Management OfficeStrategic Alignment

How to Shut Down a PMO

For as many presentations as I give about building a PMO, I am also starting to get asked about shutting down a PMO. So I thought it was time to address those steps. If you are in the position to have to shut down your PMO, the steps provided below are going to help you along the way.

I think it is important before we go too deep to look at the steps required to building and running a PMO, because as we look at shutting down the PMO, we will be essentially reversing those steps. Clearly, it is not that simple and straightforward, but you get the point—you have to shut down all the components that you built up when you were running your PMO.

Here are the steps to building a PMO, covered in an earlier article, “The Tactical Guide for Building a PMO – How to Build a PMO”:

  1. Start with a plan
  2. Obtain executive support
  3. Create PMO staples
  4. Select 4 p’s of PMO (including methodologies)
  5. Select PMO model
  6. Create PMO maturity model (categories and measurement)
  7. Obtain PMO resources
  8. Select PMO training
  9. Implement PMO methodologies
  10. Select PMO reporting
  11. Select PMO tools and processes
  12. PMO complete

After we built our PMO, we moved to running a PMO, which involved these four areas:

  1. Developing executive reports
  2. Developing PMO reports
  3. PMO day-to-day operations
  4. PMO resources (mentor & buddy system)

So at this point you have built and are running a PMO, and now you have been asked to shut down the PMO. You could be the employee who has been running the PMO all along, or you could be hired to shut down the PMO. Whatever the case may be, again, the process of shutting down a PMO is quite the undertaking.

More specifically, here are the seven steps in shutting down a PMO:

  1. Create a project schedule.
  2. Review resources (FTE & contractors) for different roles in the organization.
  3. Shut down mentoring/buddy systems in place in the organization.
  4. Review all financial/billing and determine steps to close out.
  5. Review software contracts/maintenance agreements in place that will need closing.
  6. Review PMO materials/PMO sites and archive/backup.
  7. Actually shut down the PMO.

I will provide a bit more detail into each step so you have context and understand exactly what you have to do.

  1. Create a project schedule: Shutting down is a huge project that is often under huge time pressure, so creating a project schedule in your favorite scheduling tool is a best practice. Your executives are going to ask you for progress and reports on what is remaining to complete, so having these tasks documented and available for reporting is important.
  2. Review resources (FTE & contractors) for different roles in the organization: Shutting down a PMO will have people impacts across both employees and contractors, and as PMO Manager your job is to find different jobs for your people across the company. The employees have to go somewhere, and just because you shut down the PMO does not mean the programs and projects go away. The work is still there. It just means that the formal organization goes away. Although in PMOs that are based on one particular program, when the PMO is shut down it usually means the program shuts down and the work does stop. In this case, the employees especially need to shift to a new role.
  3. Shut down mentoring/buddy systems in place in the organization: In building a PMO, one of the key steps was building a PMO mentor or buddy system, and when you shut down your PMO, that means you will need to disband these programs. You are going to see that your employees will be quite upset about shutting down these programs, so there may be a point where the respective employees involved continue this mentoring offline. Regardless, sending formal closedown emails and shutting down the program all falls under your responsibilities.
  4. Review all financial/billing and determine steps to close out: This phase of shutting down the PMO will consist of closing out POs and returning any unused money to your organization. Make sure that all vendor POs are paid out and that you are tracking your budget and spending closely in order to be able to close down your budget. It is highly recommended to work with your finance department staff to walk you through this process, close off POs, and transfer any budget back to the company funds.
  5. Review software contracts/maintenance agreements in place that will need closing: Depending on any software that was purchased for your portfolio, program, and project managers, you are going to have to look at any contracts that you have in place with vendor companies and determine how to close them off or at least shut down billing. Some of these maintenance contracts go on for years, so getting in front of them and shutting down all billing is very important.
  6. Review PMO materials/PMO sites and archive/backup: In this step of the process, you are taking copies (hard and soft) of all PMO information. From SharePoint sites to change control process documents, it is important to back up and store offline copies of this information. If/when the company decides it needs a new PMO, you will have all this information at your fingertips and basically be ready to start building a new PMO.
  7. Actually shut down the PMO: This is the final check phase of the project where you have basically ticked every box and tied up loose ends for the components of the PMO. This is not a period to celebrate; the PMO shut down for a reason that was most likely not positive, so make sure you handle this whole process professionally and with grace. It is how you handle situations like this that management looks at to determine how you will fit in other roles. Which is important to keep in mind, because a new role will be exactly what you will be looking for at this moment.

Bill’s Thoughts: I have done this 7 times in my career so far with 6 of them being at one company. As PMO Manager, you are going to have to get used to this process and don’t take it personally. This is just a step in our job that we will have to deal with and get used to. It is not fun shutting down your baby, but don’t take it personally; it’s just business.

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Bill Dow

Bill Dow, PMP, ITIL is a published author with more than 23 years in Information Technology, specializing in software development and project management. For 10 years Bill has built and operated large Project Management Offices (PMOs) in two Fortune 500 companies. Bill has written and published two books “Project Management Communications Bible” and "The Tactical Guide for Building a PMO". Bill has a strong passion for Project Management, Project Management Offices (PMOs), and Software Development Lifecycle Methodologies. Currently Bill works at the Microsoft Corporation where he leads and drives Project Management across the IT organization and is a part time instructor on project management program at Bellevue College, Bellevue WA.

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