Every company’s Project Management Office is slightly different. The functions that your PMO provides depends on where the unit sits within the business, what resources it controls and how much responsibility it has. PMOs can range from small one-person enterprises with a mainly admin outlook to large strategic international teams advising the company’s Board members.
Wherever your PMO is on this scale at the moment, you should be looking to see how you can develop it in the future. There is no defined set path for the growth of a PMO (although there are maturity models that you can turn to) so you’ll have to work it out for yourself based on the unique set of circumstances in your business. Here are some pointers to help you get started.
Small to Medium
A small PMO could be one person, or a couple of people each working part-time while they do other things for the rest of the week (like managing small projects or acting as the assistant to a senior member of staff).
Small PMOs manage things like:
- Storing project management templates
- Consolidated reporting from all project managers
- Helping with processes like paying project invoices
- Booking meeting facilities and acting as a scribe at meetings
- Managing timesheets
- Creating users for software tools and managing passwords.
Moving your PMO up a level means paying real attention to what value you could add if you were bigger. Investing in PMOs of this size needs to come with a clear return as it will normally involve hiring one or more people – people who have PMO management experience and who can scale your existing efforts up.
Think about how you could contribute to managing the delivery of projects by providing different types of reporting, peer reviews, internal audits, communications support and more. What additional project tracking could you do that would assist managers with decision making? Creating clear internal processes for projects is a good place to start as this will standardize repetitive activities and create company policies for project tasks.
Medium to Large
The functions provided by medium PMOs are so wide-ranging that it’s impossible to list them all here. In the past we have seen PMOs that we would classify as medium-sized carrying out all or some of the following activities:
- Management of project managers
- Project management coaching
- Project management training
- Being the guardian of standards and methods
- Owning the enterprise project management software and assisting with its use
- Expense tracking
- Project tracking and reporting.
Instead of adding more administrative and governance functions to a medium-sized PMO, think about what value you could add by taking on other, allied tasks like resource management. Creating a skills database or carrying out training needs analysis for project teams can be a help as this will ensure you select the right team members for the job. Being forward-looking will help you skill up staff for work that is yet to start.
If you aren’t doing it already, combine related projects together into programs under a program manager. This will require additional processes and communication channels but by pooling resources under a common stream of work you will see benefits.
Large to Enterprise
Large PMOs are typically staffed with full-time members of staff and have wide-ranging responsibilities. There may be several local offices all reporting into a global PMO HQ. The responsibilities of a large PMO can include:
- Software and methodology selection, implementation and support
- Portfolio management
- Benefits realization and management
- Knowledge management
- Portfolio management.
Where do you take your large PMO next? Focus on moving it to being a strategic partner for the company’s Board. It should be in a position to advise on project selection and portfolio management. As you move to having all the company’s ad hoc work being managed through the portfolio system, enterprise project management tools become essential to provide the level of decision-support information required.
Think of your PMO in the same context as a strategic planning or finance division. Some of what you do is tactical support, but most of the effort is focused on long-range planning identifying forecasts and trends. Enterprise PMOs typically sit at a high level on the corporate hierarchy which gives them the ability to oversee project standards and delivery in all areas of the company. This gives you the opportunity to standardize globally and across divisions while ensuring consistent success.
Of course, you may feel that your PMO is performing optimally for the size of company and the type of projects that you take on. In a small business without overseas offices and only a handful of project managers, a medium-sized PMO might feel like all you need right now. However, even small businesses with small teams can benefit from someone taking an enterprise-wide look at all the in-flight work and ensuring it aligns with the company’s strategic objectives.
Ultimately, you’ll have to create your own PMO roadmap, with each step adding more value in measurable activities. This constant evolution and commitment is what makes projects successful, wherever on the journey you start from and wherever you decide is the right place to end up.