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Blog post 22 Apr 2022

Project Management Office (PMO)

Project Management Office (PMO)

Within an organisation, a Project Management Office (PMO) is a department that maintains project management standards. It helps project managers find the proper methods, processes, procedures, formats, templates, and information systems. Reusing the ones that have already proven to be successful helps future projects bring desired results.

project management office (pmo) illustration

What is a Project Management Office (PMO)?

In its fifth edition of PMBOK® Guide, the Project Management Institute defines the project management office as a management structure that standardises the project-related governance processes and facilitates the sharing of resources, methodologies, tools, and techniques.

Inside the organisation, the PMO supports projects and ensures that they stay within established parameters to achieve the expected benefits. Outside the organisation, the PMO serves as a co-facilitator so that the market receives high-quality products and/or services, contributing to the economy's maintenance, and rework in the projects is minimised.

A fundamental function of a PMO is to help project managers.The PMO does so by:

  • Managing shared resources across the PMO's whole project portfolio
  • Developing project management methods, best practices, and standards
  • Guidance, mentorship, training, and supervision
  • Conducting project audits to ensure that project management standards, rules, procedures, and templates are followed
  • Creating and maintaining project policies, processes, templates, and other forms of shared documentation
  • Coordinating project-to-project communication.

A purpose a PMO serves can be for a single project or set up as a separate unit within the organisation. Once the project it supports is finished, the PMO will be decommissioned. But just because it is no longer needed for the project it was created for, its members and infrastructure still may be merged to serve another project as a new PMO. That, however, runs the risk of the 'new' PMO transferring projects without making the necessary adjustments to the PMO's constituents to enable it to cater to the new project, resulting in a 'one-size-fits-all' approach to project management.

3 Types of PMO

3 types of PMO

Categorisations of PMOs can be based on two things - their influence and their position within the company. Therefore, the first categorisation can be divided into three types of PMOs:

1. Supportive

Supportive PMOs supplies templates, practices, training and access to information. In that regard, it resembles a consultant, which is a significant advantage of this PMO because that provides a continuous improvement platform and helps increase the organisation's competitiveness.

On the other hand, these PMOs lack the authorisation to deliver. Their responsibilities become obsolete once they stop curating best practices and many organisations find it difficult to justify the cost of such a PMO.

2. Controlling 

The controlling PMO provides the organisation with assurances of consistency and visibility by allowing senior management to get insight into the projects' performance. It adopts project management frameworks or methodologies, using specific templates, forms and tools or conformance to governance. The role of the controlling PMO can often be described as a policing role in the organisation.

Similarly to the previous type, the controlling PMO also lacks the power, authority, resources, or ability to deliver change or execute strategy. Furthermore, due to the nature of its role, this type of PMO will face opposition from project managers as well as teams performing the work. When projects fail, the blame is generally passed back and forth between the PMO and the project teams, with each accusing the other of failing.

3. Directive 

Direct project management is how directive PMOs take charge of projects. Unlike the other two PMOs, the directive PMO's degree of control is high. It provides resources and support in managing a project's process, and project managers are obligated to report to this PMO. This structure helps in achieving a high level of consistency across the projects.

Another categorisation is based on the position PMOs have within the organisation. So, there can be three more types:

  • Individual PMO typically oversees planning and controls activities;
  • A departmental or business unit-level PMO provides support for many different sized projects within various divisions;
  • Corporate PMOs develop standards, processes and approaches to increase project performance inside the organisation.

Who Is the Part of the PMO Team 

To ensure the effective implementation of strategic objectives throughout the business, a diverse set of talents and jobs are required. Although there are some differences depending on the roles needed for the specific organisation, all the PMOs consist of the following positions:

PMO Director

This is the most critical role in the PMO team. The PMO director oversees the project's progress and keeps an eye on all the projects within a department and those that cross divisional boundaries.

Project and Program Managers

From conception to completion, project managers are accountable for the success of projects. They are in charge of planning, budgeting, managing their assigned projects, and providing leadership, advice, and assistance to the project teams.

Project Support Team

The Project Support Team has a responsibility to help the project manager so that the project can progress as planned. The team can include a project scheduler, a project planner, and a project controller. Each team member takes on a little piece of the project, allowing the project manager to focus on the facilitative and business components of the project.

PMO Coordinator or Analyst

The PMO Coordinator oversees knowledge management coordination and keeps track of time, team members, and finances, among other things. Project managers must record and store vital data in a project database. This allows for project data, standards, methods, and lessons learned from earlier projects to all be available. The PMO Analyst's job is to ensure that project metrics and statuses are constantly available to the project manager in the form of presentations, charts, and thorough Excel statistics.

Change Control Analyst

Some PMOs include this role if they need someone who can help teams quickly adapt when business stakeholders change their minds about what they want. On smaller projects, PMO teams can get by with a few spreadsheets tracking and controlling changes. But for large projects, having a dedicated team member to help you switch gears can be a big help. 

Project Management Office Roles & Responsibilities 

project management office roles and responsibilities

The project management office is a central hub for all project management functions. All projects should go via this office, and all project managers should report to it. The PMO should be seen as a distinct unit with its own employees, funding, and mission. The best PMOs are well-defined and self-contained units within their firms or business units.

Depending on the industry, stakeholders' needs, organisation and project management methodology, there are differences in each PMO. However, they all share the following key functions:

  • Establishing a well-structured project management governing body
  • Creating a centralised repository for all projects and project data
  • A centralised management structure should manage all project management functions such as portfolio management, programme and project planning, risk management, stakeholder management etc
  • Providing reporting capabilities for project portfolios
  • Outlining a well-defined project management methodology or process
  • Simplifying team collaboration and communication
  • Project-specific training and knowledge sharing among teams
  • Standardisation of the project management process

PMO responsibilities include program scope modifications to capitalise on opportunities, optimise shared resources across projects, and manage procedures and metrics. A project manager's responsibilities, on the other hand, may include directing assigned resources and managing unique project restrictions in order to meet project objectives. A project manager is responsible for achieving individual, unique project goals, whereas the Project Management Office is responsible for achieving larger business objectives.

Benefits of PMO to the business

PMOs bring a copious amount of success to the organisations that establish them. PMOs optimise project management and offer many benefits, some of the key ones can be seen listed below.

1. Offers guidance, organisation and helps in decision-making

PMO is an agency that helps align your project with the company's strategy. A project management office has an overall view of all the projects, allowing it to support the project management team and provide them with information on a host of areas. In addition, it seeks to bring a sense of organisation and repetition to the project and the teams working on them. Thanks to its guidance, you can work within the boundaries of a long-term plan and make more efficient decisions.

2. Helps keep projects on track

They also serve as an external check to assure the project's success. The metrics-based review can help keep projects on track and notify you when schedule, money, or other scope issues threaten to derail the project. As a result, you will be able to respond quickly to problems before they become project-failing issues.

3. Shares resources throughout the organisation

The creation of a project management office allows for resource sharing. Any resource concerns can be resolved with the help of the PMO. If your resources are limited but your projects are not, a PMO can help you think about how to best use those resources across your project or program. It can assign the ideal project manager to the ideal project by analysing the skills of the available project managers.

4. Increased accuracy and project control

The project management office improves project accuracy regarding money, resources, and time. By being more precise from the beginning to the finish of the project, you can lessen the likelihood of having to make adjustments. Making changes to projects is where you usually spend money and time that was not accounted for. Your projects will be less likely to fail if you are accurate or predictable, and your project teams will be more likely to be consistent.

The PMO succeeds at project management because of its well-defined protocols, procedures, and good communication. The organisation will be able to attain its strategic goals and objectives with the help of this control.

5. Helps with communications

The PMO can facilitate communication with stakeholders ensuring your message is well delivered and understood correctly. Project management governance can also assist with cross-communication because they frequently have working relationships with other elements of the project or program participants with whom you may not be familiar.

How to Set Up a Project or Program Management Office 

Building a successful PMO requires a clear understanding and definition of what a PMO should accomplish for the organisation. So before you begin designing and implementing the PMO, make sure that all stakeholders are aware of its importance and what to expect from it- what the PMO will and will not accomplish.   

There are three key steps to execute to set up a successful PMO:

1. Establish the vision and strategy for the PMO

The vision should be adaptable, simple, and comprehensive in describing the result. Including as many stakeholders as possible in the vision development process will ensure buy-in, commitment, and support. Therefore, you should include and manage the expectations of all stakeholders, including senior management, decision-makers, project managers, project team members, and anyone who will have an influence or be impacted by the PMO.

The PMO's plan must take into account the organisation's main success elements. It must ensure that the PMO is established and structured in such a way that it can support and enhance the organisation's current orientation while remaining flexible enough to handle future changes. Many practitioners fall into the trap of wanting to create a mature PMO and then forcing the entire business to change to fit it, which most often leads to a disaster.

2. Prepare a plan for the PMO 

When preparing a plan, you should do so in alignment with the project processes. This ensures that the plan contains elements such as a transition plan, benefits management, stakeholder engagement, power transfers, role and responsibility definitions, and how implementation will be monitored and controlled. In other words, approach the creation of a PMO as if it were a project.

Including representative people from all business sectors would help align the PMO with the company's strategy and guarantee that it has the necessary support from the start.

3. Establish implementation priorities

The methods and strategic position of a PMO in the organisation will take time to develop and mature. The initial focus of the Project Management Office should be on the programs and projects that have the most significant impact on the organisation's strategic goals.

Before a PMO is officially introduced, a pilot roll-out should be conducted first. This way, project management can establish strategic objectives that can help design and test PMO methodologies and processes and utilise the processes to choose, prioritise, manage, and deliver projects that help achieve the selected objectives.

Give the PMO a length of time to perform (usually around three months) and then conduct a performance audit to see if what was developed worked or not.

To learn more about running a successful project management office, look at the PMO Essentials course.