Utilities understand that their operating climate has undergone major change in recent years. From emerging competitive markets to retiring in-house knowledge and nonstop energy demands, infrastructure and investment projects must be efficient, on time and add value. One area that offers tremendous potential to help organizations realize these goals is the establishment of a project management office (PMO).

While there are many different models and types of PMOs, the shared intention of each is to support projects by standardizing processes and facilitating the sharing of tools and techniques that drive efficiency. When mapping out the right PMO that will support project management excellence, utilities focus on people, processes and technologies.


Creating effective change in any organization starts from the top. A successful utility PMO is supported at the highest level to both champion and direct the establishment of new internal functions.

With executive buy-in and expectations set, a PMO then defines and builds the project team by recruiting people with the right experience levels. Whether they consist of project managers, subject matter experts or business personnel, this group has clarity of purpose and understands how a PMO can bring value to a utility.

Many utilities don’t always have staff available for deployment to establish a PMO. External knowledge can help guide this process. Firms with experience in utility PMO setup can fast-track progress and train internal staff for highly effective, long-term project management roles.


Planning and executing projects in a standardized way saves utilities time and money by increasing efficiency and reducing risk. Standardization is only possible by defining overarching objectives and creating clearly defined processes that will support achieving these goals.

By nature, utility projects consist of an almost unlimited number of variables. The creation of and adherence to PMO processes supports consistent decision-making and helps define project elements, from data gathering and resource tracking to budget monitoring and project team training. The result is consistency, a hallmark of excellent project management.

Evaluating existing processes and assessing areas of past project performance can help identify what methods can be used, what aspects need to be modified and where new procedures are required. Leveraging industry best practices, such as the Project Management Institute Book of Knowledge, is a great guideline to get going without reinventing proven practices and guidance already available. It is essential that a gap analysis be performed to identify the path that must be taken to transition from existing practices to new process.


With the right team in place, goals established and processes defined, a utility PMO is ready to evaluate the tools and technologies needed for execution. The toolset used by a PMO helps to drive process accountability and further increase efficiency.

Utilities should begin by explicitly defining what the criteria are for software and technology tools to support the processes developed by the PMO. Requirements for technology options will be driven by the vision for the PMO, stakeholder roles and needs, and will be used to enforce the defined processes. Problems can arise with PMO implementation if the need is not clearly identified or if methods aren’t in place before implementing a solution.

Leveraging external experience as part of the overall PMO setup can also benefit in defining the role of technology and the types of tools a utility PMO may need. Identifying project tracking, critical path scheduling software, geospatial tools and other technologies required can be daunting, and tapping into proven utility PMO setup experience can be valuable.

With leadership commitment to a PMO in place, utilities can move on to establishing the right team, defining overarching goals and developing effective processes. This strong foundation naturally leads to evaluating the tools and technologies that will help with efficient implementation. These critical elements help utilities succeed in creating an effective PMO, ultimately driving longer-term project management success.


The road to successful project management and execution begins with an effective PMO implementation. Explore a step-by-step road map for the journey.

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CHRISTOPHER EITEL, PE, is a department manager for project controls at Burns & McDonnell. He has more than 20 years’ experience and is passionate about successfully meeting project objectives. Christopher has proven his skill in adapting to a multifaceted industry, with a full spectrum of experience ranging from engineering design to successful project planning and execution.