036 – PMO – What is it really? And how do I run one?

036 – PMO – What is it really? And how do I run one?

This episode, we get the great opportunity to speak with Hussain Bandukwala, PMO Coach and founder of the PMO Virtual Summit this October. Hussain helps us understand what a PMO really is (and should be), then shares some great insights into the career path of someone who wants to be a PMO leader. He really gives us a great download on this episode – you may want to listen to it twice!

Some great tools Hussain shared are linked here:



Check out the PMO Virtual Summit October 16 – 18 – Hussain will have some amazing guests – a few of which have joined us on PM Happy Hour! 

  • Click HERE to check out the PMO Virtual Summit:


Hussain Bandukwala is the Chief Coach at Parwaaz Consulting (https://www.parwaazcc.com/) and helps PMO leaders succeed.

Through coaching, workshops and other resources, Hussain arms aspiring and first-time Project Management Office (PMO) leaders with experiential learning and confidence to achieve PMO triumph systematically and effectively.

He also works with PMO leaders and executives at high-growth small- and mid-sized organizations to conquer their biggest challenges in meeting strategic goals, achieving operational efficiency, and delivering project value.

Hussain has led and facilitated the setup of PMOs at several companies and advised numerous PMO leaders throughout their own PMO setup journeys. He has authored several PMO-focused publications, teaches at LinkedIn Learning and speaks frequently on the subject.


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Check out this episode!

Show Notes

About our guest, Hussain Bandukwala [0:46]

Hussain is a PM office coach that works with first time and aspiring PM leaders to either successfully get a PM role or successfully set up their first project. He sets up workshops, webinars, and is working to get a PM setup course on LinkedIn Learning.

He started off his career from a more technical standpoint as a Computer Science major, and eventually got into management and tech consulting. It was through this he got exposure to project management, and starting helping PMOs be successful. He seeks to teach people how to do well themselves rather than do it for them. When he’s not doing PMO stuff, he loves to spend time with his wife and two sons, help others set up their own businesses, and watch sports.

What is the most valuable business lesson you had to learn the hard way? [5:47]

You need to plan to fail- there is never a straight line from point A to point B in career, and if you can come to terms with this, your journey will be so much less stressful. Accept the fact that you will fail, irrespective of anticipation and planning, and you should be able to expect this and recover from it.

Businesses and people rarely fail from a failure to execute, but because they don’t get up after a failure.

Hussein’s PMO Summit [8:58]

50% of PMOs fail every 3 years. Hussain thinks this is because of two things: 1) the mindset and expectation people have about PMOs, and 2) the nurturing and education about PMOs. Hussain wanted to provide the support and coaching to help PMOs succeed, and this is what motivated him to create this Summit. He has broken the summit down into three teams: the first on how to get a top PMO position, the second on how to settle into the role quickly, and the third on how to knock it out of the park. He put together a panel and curated the topics carefully to fit these topics, and he hopes it will give real, actionable advice to those who need it.

What exactly is a PMO? [12:25]

A PMO is no different than any other department in a company like finance or marketing- it has a purpose to help the business achieve certain goals through tools and strategy. Project Management is ultimately a tool, a means to an end, for the PMO office, to do what they need to do, not the end itself. Hussein ultimately condenses the role by stating that the PMO makes sure that the right things are being worked on by the right people at the right time.

Product Management vs Project Management [16:10]

Operational elements can be blended with PMO duties. Product and Project Management can be similar, but the difference Hussain sees between the two is the proactive solicitation of requirements and marketing which are uniquely required for a product and not seen so much through strict project management. There is often the notion that product management can replace project management, but at the end of the day, it’s about the consistent delivery of doing what you need to do.

PMO and Benefits Realization [18:40]

Tracking the Benefits Realization- that is, the actual measurable benefit seen by a project- is a role that the PMO office should take on. They should be responsible for tracking the benefit, but more than this, hold themselves accountable for this. If there isn’t an urgency to analyzing the results of a project, it simply won’t be done, and can cause a lot of frustration with executives and others long term.

What should we expect from a PMO? [23:45]

There’s a lot of frustration PMs have around PM Offices, and this is often because they are not involved in the key decisions of the PMO. Hussein makes a point to tell PMOs to communicate consistently with PMs, and says the PMO should be a safe haven for Project Managers. They shouldn’t be focused on than box checking, but instead on being leaders in taking care of PMs and others.

What should I do if I want to be a PMO? [28:00]

The first thing someone should do is understand that being a great Project Manager doesn’t mean being a great PMO. They are vastly different roles, and you should have an understanding, yes, of project management, but also of business. You should also be adept at managing the politics of an organization- if you as a PMO can clear the politics out of the way so PMs can do their job, this is a huge benefit. Every single organization is different in what they need from a PMO, and knowing the history of an organization is therefore an advantage.

If you think you’re coming into PMO from a conventional perspective, get some business skills. And, if you think you’re coming into PMO from an unconventional perspective, get some Project Managing skills.

Advice to the Accidental PMO Leader [34:00]

Look at your own skill sets, look at what skill sets the organization needs, and fill in the gaps. Hussein has created a tool called an “Attributes Introspective Guide” designed to help people develop the skills they need. But-don’t fall into the bucket of analysis paralysis. Additionally, looking for a mentor is a very smart move that can help you not to feel overwhelmed and improve in your role.

Key Probing Questions for Sponsors of Accidental PMOs [37:25]

  • What does success look for you?
  • What challenges are you facing preventing you from meeting business goals?
  • What do you think the PMO can do for you?

Key Probing Questions for Your Team [38:19]

  • What road blocks are you facing on a regular basis?
  • What’s working well for you?
  • Which stakeholders are difficult to work with, and why?

You know you’re in trouble if… [39:19]

  • Your PMO doesn’t have a sponsor
  • You’re only talking to your PMO sponsor
  • You don’t have a plan to build credibility with your stakeholders
  • The first thing you’re doing is solving for what tool your PMO should be using

Principals for Success [41:10]

  • Building a PMO is a marathon, not a sprint, so pace yourself
  • Build credibility up front by getting some stuff done
  • The maturity of the PMO should match the maturity of the organization
  • Educate sponsors and stakeholders on what your PMO should do
  • When you start off, showing tough love is far more important than peace

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