Every Project Management Office (PMO) is unique because it serves the unique needs of your organization. It needs to be perfectly tailored to support your strategies and your staff.
However, there are 5 types of PMO that we see most commonly. They were also identified in a study by PMI® called PMO Frameworks (available free on the PMO Thought Leadership page of the PMI website). These ‘frameworks’ – the foundational configurations for what a PMO does – were validated with PMO leaders and members so the model was validated with real teams.
What sort of PMO are you? Here are the 5 frameworks. Which one most closely aligns to the way that you run your PMO?
1. Business Unit PMO
Also called: Organizational Unit PMO, Divisional PMO, Departmental PMO
A business unit PMO provides all the PMO services that you would expect, but its remit is limited to one division. We often see this in IT teams: a PMO set up to serve the needs of the IT department offering processes, resource allocation, training, governance, reporting and other project and portfolio management activities.
According to the PMO Framework study by PMI, business unit PMOs tend to have higher than average number of staff, 49% of which are contractors. More often than not they are not involved in strategy formulation but 96% partially or fully achieve their potential to contribute business value.
2. Project PMO
Also called: Project Office, Program Office
Large projects or programs might require their own PMO. This is a temporary set up, perhaps staffed with people from the company’s main PMO. It can deliver governance activities for the project, coordinate reporting, be the link back to the main PMO, provide administrative support and gather other relevant data.
Over 40% of project-specific PMOs sit within the main PMO, so they operate as a sub-group. They also have the highest incidence of weekly reporting than any of the other types, with 44% reporting progress weekly.
3. Project Support PMO
Also called: Controls Office, Project Services
This PMO set up focuses mainly on what is required to get the job done. They are the guardian of processes and procedures. They own the tools and practices, offering training on techniques and processes. They probably have a huge template library and experts in using the project management software and departmental collaboration tools.
This type of PMO is governance-driven with the aim of supporting project and program managers to follow and adhere to corporate standards.
Project support PMOs, according to the PMI research, tend to appear most frequently in areas where project management maturity is low. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – putting a support PMO in place can quickly improve maturity and introduce standardization, which in turn can help you move your PMO into a more mature model.
4. Enterprise PMO
Also called: Global PMO, Corporate PMO, Strategic PMO
This is the highest level of PMO in an organization and can often be found on the org chart just underneath the C-suite, reporting into one of the board members and maybe even the CEO.
The main objective of a PMO at this level is strategic alignment. Their goals are to make sure that the project and program work being carried out within the company perfectly fits to strategic goals. They can unblock issues relating to priorities, based on the company’s strategy and vision.
An enterprise PMO also ensures appropriate enterprise-wide governance and can operate in more portfolio management functional areas than PMOs lower down the organization. You’ll also find a stronger focus on benefits realization and management.
Enterprise PMOs have the highest level of involvement in project prioritization, strategy formulation and strategic alignment than any of the other PMO frameworks – this is what you’d expect from a team set up to deliver those. However, PMI also reports that enterprise PMOs have the lowest percentage of projects that successfully meet original goals and business intent, at 66%. This might reflect the higher levels of complexity seen in enterprise projects.
5. Center of Excellence
Also called: Competency Center
This type of PMO supports project work by improving the competence and skills of the people doing the work. This involves a variety of support services, everything from a maintaining a company library of project management textbooks, through to organizing and delivering training courses, through to coaching and mentoring schemes. The PMI study reports that 35% of respondents have a Center of Excellence in their business.
The Center of Excellence could also be the guardian of methodologies. This in turn could involve supporting project managers through certification programs including qualifications such as PMP® or other national and international standards that are appropriate for their company. With the focus so strongly on professional development, we often see small group training, online courses or self-study groups set up by, and overseen by, the PMO.
Professional development is not a one-off activity, so this type of PMO will have long term career plans, succession plans and ongoing development mapped out for project managers, as well as annual training plans.
The objective of a Center of Excellence is to increase the capability of the organization and that will include managing standards and tools as well as the soft skills. They will promote good practice, facilitate knowledge sharing and collate and manage lessons learned as well.
While these 5 frameworks for PMO activities broadly fit most PMOs we work with, in reality yours could be a hybrid of two of these, more of these, or something unique to your business. The PMI study we mentioned earlier reported that 4% of respondents did not recognize their PMO in the descriptions of the 5 frameworks, so you are certainly not alone if you feel that your PMO doesn’t completely fit one of these models.
Whatever your PMO does, as long as it is aligned to business strategy and delivering on the objectives for why it was set up, you are doing a good job.