Project Management Office Lifecycle (PMOLC)

The Set-up, the build-out, and the sustainability journey



By Waffa Karkukly, PhD

Ontario, Canada



PMOs have been taking on a more prominent role in their level of authority, structure, reporting lines and mandate.  Project Management Offices (PMOs) have been growing and going through change and transformation and today literature defines PMO types, roles, functions, as well as their impact on performance.  The lifecycle journey that PMOs go through requires attention since there is little or lack of knowledge regarding PMO lifecycle (PMOLC) pertaining to set-up, build-out, and sustainability.

Due to the evolution of the PMO and there is a need to cover the lifecycle of PMO which would allow those interested in building PMOs to learn what is required in each phase of the PMOLC, the complexities associated with each phase, and the challenges and rewards.  The PMOLC has not been fully explored nor has it been discussed in detail; hence, this research makes valuable contributions to the practicality of the project management field in general, and sheds light on the PMO practices in particular.  Further, the research adds valuable insights to the mechanics governing the establishment of PMOs.  Results will lead us to:

  • Determine the PMOLC complexities, shed light on the nature of each phase, and the skills required to build each phase
  • Determine similar and different challenges in each phase in the lifecycle

Keywords: PMO lifecycle, PMOLC, set-up, build-out, sustainability

Research Questions

  • Which phase in the PMO lifecycle is more complex?
  • What are PMO challenges in each phase in the lifecycle?
  • What is the PMO leader’s role in the PMO lifecycle?
  • How does PMO authority level impact change management and project management?

Research Methodology

The research approach adopted is quantitative.  Quantitative methods include the historical, descriptive, correlation, causal-comparative, experimental, action research, and developmental (Taylor, 2005). Quantitative researchers tend to be interested in whether and to what extent variances in one variable explain variance in another (Maxwell, 1996). The underlying principle of quantitative research is measurement (Simon, 1969).

A survey was conducted to collect data regarding the set-up, build-out, and sustainability of the PMO.  The web-based survey consisted of 25 questions that uses a 5-point Likert-type scale and was developed and made available on-line to PMO leaders who had set-up, built, or supported a PMO, and were PMO professional volunteers across geography and industry. There were 100 respondents who logged on to the survey website between April 2011 and June 2011. Not all respondents who started the survey completed; 8 were excluded because they did not complete the first question. All remaining respondents who partially completed the survey stopped at the start of a new section. Of the 92 who took the survey, 67 completed the survey for a completion rate of 73%.

Survey Findings

Research results from the web-based survey lead to the finding that PMO set-up and build-out phases are more complex than the sustainability phase. Additionally, the findings show the effect of executive leadership support in an organization and the skill set and role of the PMO leader.

  • PMOLC complexity

The findings of this research describe the complexity of PMOLC.  Whether one or more of the three PMOLC phases (set-up, build-out, and sustainability) are more or less complex than the other. The survey suggests that 44% found the build-out most complex, while 34% found sustainability to be the most complex, followed by 32% for the set-up.

  • PMOLC challenges

The findings of this research describe the challenges of PMOLC and identify similarities or differences based on each phase. While funding, leadership support, and governance were ranked high as challenges pertaining to set-up and build-out phase, the survey found continuous improvement, reporting/KPI, and quality management to be the highest on list of challenges pertaining to the sustainability phase. While cost / value ranked closely as a challenge for all phases ranging between 29% and 32%, similarly the adoption of methods or tools ranked at the same level independent of the PMOLC phase ranging between 34% to 36%.


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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally prepared while the author was a PhD candidate at SKEMA Business School in France and published in PM World Today in November 2011. It is republished here with the author’s permission.

How to cite this paper: Karkukly, W. (2011). Project Management Office Lifecycle (PMOLC): The Set-up, the build-out, and the sustainability journey; PM World Today, November 2011; republished in the PM World Journal, Vol. VIII, Issue II, February 2019.  Available online at https://pmworldjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/pmwj79-Feb2019-Karkukly-Project-Management-Office-Lifecycle.pdf


About the Author

Waffa Karkukly, PhD

Ontario, Canada




Waffa Karkukly is currently the President and Managing Director for the www.globalpmosolutions.ca. During her career, she has been involved in managing technology and project management offices, as well as being a strategist and change agent transforming organizations through alignment between strategy and operation and delivering through projects, programs and portfolios.  Waffa has helped organization improve their IT and / or Project management practices through building standards and proven solutions that improved the delivery process of an organization.  Waffa is an active PMI member and a frequent speaker and panelist at the various PMI events. Waffa has a BSC in Information Systems from DePaul University and an MIT from Northwestern University in the United States, and a PhD from SKEMA School of Business in France. She is a certified project management professional (PMP) and Agile Certified Professional (ACP) by the Project Management Institute (PMI®), as well as a Change Management Practitioner (CMP).  Waffa is dedicated to improving the understanding and standards of project management practices, especially in the Value proposition of building and sustaining successful PMOs. Waffa can be reached at [email protected]

To view other works by Waffa Karkukly, visit her author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/dr-waffa-karkukly/