What is a PMO?

A PMO is a department in an organization that focuses on projects and getting good project results. What it does and how it does it varies tremendously. It should be noted that PMO’s have many different labels and roles and that the label does not define what it does. Typical labels include: Project Office, Project Control Office, Strategic Project or Program Office.

This is a department within an organization that is responsible for one or more of Projects, Programs or Portfolios. Some organizations have one PMO in one area while others may have many of them. Program Management Offices are typically set up for the duration of the program and shut down when the program is over.

There are 3 main types of PMO’s:

  1. A Project Management Office which typically focuses on individual projects
  2. A Program Management Office which focuses on a group of related projects
  3. A Portfolio Management Office which focuses on how to deliver a business strategy through a portfolio of projects

There are also 3 different flavours of each type:

  • Reporting: This approach provides administrative services that focuses on the collection, analysis and reporting of data on projects
  • Supporting: This approach typically provides a core methodology and templates that defines the general approach that should be used on projects. It also provides support in terms of advice and best practices
  • Controlling: This approach requires that a methodology be followed and it may be integrated with tools. In some instances the PMs report into this type of PMO

PMO can be implemented at any level of an organization's structure.


What are the benefits of setting up a PMO in my organization?

The benefits of setting up a PMO vary based on the needs of the organization. In general the reason that a PMO exists is to improve the business value delivered by projects. In practice the underlying objectives also vary tremendously from organization to organization. Not all organizations would benefit from a PMO.

Typical benefits that are derived from an effective PMO include:

  • Improved results on projects (more on time, on budget, delivering the scope)
  • Improved project visibility
  • Improved awareness of project health and issues to enable corrective action
  • Introduce common language and terminology to improve communication about projects
  • Providing a focus and vehicle for improvement in project practices
  • Improve bottom line results
  • Improved resource utilization
  • Clear business prioritization
  • Reduced business and execution risk
  • Improved project management skills and competencies

Many PMOs are now also moving into the areas of Change Management and Strategic Planning.


What are the key services that a PMO delivers?

The services that are delivered by a PMO vary depending on the type and need.

Most Project Management Offices provide:

  • An understanding of the principles or PM to the organization
  • A basic methodology and some common language
  • Reporting on project activity and health
  • Some support to people managing projects
  • Some support to the process of creating the portfolio of projects also known as project intake

Additional services provided by somewhat more advanced PMO’s include:

  • Quality assurance reviews
  • PM education
  • PM Mentoring
  • A more comprehensive methodology
  • Project management tools
  • Overall project governance
  • Project integration services (ensuring that cross project impacts are dealt with)
  • Overall project resource management support

Some PMO’s provide additional services such as:

  • Development of the strategic roadmap
  • Management of organizational change
  • Measurement and tracking of project value delivery
  • Oversight of the execution of the entire project portfolio
  • Project managers to run the larger and more strategic projects


What type of PMO is best for my organization?

The type of PMO that is best for your organization is dependent on the organization’s culture, objectives and project needs. Further, the type of PMO can and should evolve as the organization does.


Where to start?

Start by define the organizational needs in the area of projects, it’s current culture and capability maturity relative to project management. Assess the organization’s capacity for change and the support for tackling project management improvement.  Look across the organization to see what is already in place in terms of formal departments or informal roles that provide PM functions. Only once this is done can you determine which approach makes sense for you.