A PMO is a Project Management Office. It’s a function within an organization that defines the standards for project management. And it can do a whole lot more than that too.
The main purpose of a Project Management Office (PMO) is to make sure that projects and programs are run in a repeatable, standardized way. But how does a PMO actually do that? And what does the PMO team do all day?
We’ve got the answers.
What Are The Functions of a Project Management Office (PMO)?
A PMO is the backbone of a successful project management approach at an organization. It is a function that provides decision support information, although it doesn’t make any decisions itself.
A PMO underpins the project delivery mechanisms by ensuring that all business change in an organization is managed in a controlled way. PMOs have a range of functions, and the services they offer often depend on the maturity of the department and the skills of the people working in the PMO.
At a very basic level, the PMO supports the project management teams, and the people make decisions about funding, prioritization and resourcing.
The most mature PMOs provide:
- Governance. The PMO ensures that decisions are taken by the right people, based on the right information. The governance role can also include audits or peer reviews, developing project and program structures and ensuring accountability at all levels.
- Transparency. The PMO is responsible for providing information and being the single source of the truth. Information should be relevant and accurate to support effective decision-making, and provided to people in a way they can understand.
- Reusability. The PMO facilitates the sharing of knowledge. This stops project teams from reinventing the wheel and makes the PMO the central point for lessons learned, templates and best practice.
- Delivery support. The PMO makes it easy for project teams to do their jobs by reducing bureaucracy, providing training, coaching, mentoring and quality assurance.
- Traceability. The PMO provides the function for managing documentation, project history and organizational knowledge.
In reality, most PMOs will do a blend of activities, and provide a range of services tailored to the needs of the organization.
So what does that actually mean in practice? PMO teams fulfil a variety of functions on a day-to-day basis including:
- Gathering data about project progress and producing reports
- Developing standards and processes
- Encouraging (or enforcing where necessary) the use of those standards and processes
- Managing resources for projects
- Delivering training and mentoring project team members
- Managing dependencies across multiple projects
- Tracking and managing project benefits
- Reporting on financial information such as return on investment.
As part of this, the PMO is also the guardian of Enterprise Project Management tools and project management methods. There will normally be an expert (or several) in the PMO who can support project managers and their teams with using any project-related software.
What Are the Benefits of a PMO?
Running projects and programs in a standardized way has lots of benefits. For one, it’s cheaper to have everyone doing things the same way. There are economies of scale that come with introducing standardization but it’s also more efficient.
When every project manager has to work out their own way of managing risk, the organization suffers from a lot of wasted time. If you can hand someone a template of how to manage risk on a project, you’re saving them effort. Plus, you can capitalize more effectively on organizational knowledge. The lessons learned on one project can be captured and incorporated into the way you do things – so that other projects benefit from that knowledge too.
When there is a common way of working, managers and their teams get used to what to expect. This means that starting a project happens more quickly, as everyone already shares the common vocabulary and expectations for working on a project.
As an extra bonus, common reporting frameworks mean that people can contribute more quickly and consistently to the project. Stakeholders don’t have to spend time working out how they are going to report progress up the chain, because there is already a framework in place to do so.
What Are The Different Types of PMO?
Research from PM Solutions says that 85% of organizations have PMOs. The average PMO has a staff of nine people, each with around 10 years’ experience in a project role. It works on 75 projects a year and has a budget of $500k.
Of course, there’s not really any such thing as an average PMO. PMOs look different in different organizations, as you would expect.
Your PMO might be a central function reporting to the Board – PM Solutions’ State of the PMO study points to nearly half of PMOs reporting into the C-suite. However, there are alternatives that might work better for you and be more aligned to the way your organization chooses to manage change.
Your PMO might be a department within a division. You may have a hub-and-spoke model with a central PMO and divisional units in different locations. The PMO might even be a temporary team, put together to support a large program. It may incorporate a centre of excellence for training and standards, or that might be separate. In short, there are a number of different ways for a PMO to operate, and they all have the objective of providing operational efficiencies and supporting the successful delivery of change.
Read Next: The 5 Different Types of PMO
Whatever model you choose for your PMO, getting the implementation right will undoubtedly make the difference between a function that increases the success of projects and one that just focuses on retrospective reporting.
A mature PMO can really help an organization make the most of the tools, methods and the skilled staff they have, by ensuring all these resources are used in the best possible way to support the organization’s strategic goals.
What Roles Do You Find Within a PMO?
As with all teams, a PMO is headed up by a leader. That’s about all we can say with certainty! The reason it’s harder to be specific is that the team members within the PMO will be chosen to best support the function and capabilities of the PMO. For example, if you want to provide a training program to project managers, you’d want your PMO to be staffed by people with experience of delivering training, and probably with the experience of having done the job for some time already so they could more easily answer questions.
If your PMO predominantly provides management information and deep portfolio analysis, you’d want someone on the team to know their way around data analysis tools.
Generally, you’ll have a mix of skills in the PMO team, each complementing the others. You may have administrators and coordinators, data analysts and software experts, trainers, coaches and senior managers. Everyone on the team will have a range of PMO competencies that allow them to contribute to the organization.
In some companies, the project managers report directly to the PMO, although this is not as common as you might imagine. The increasing maturity of the PMO function means that we are likely to see more and more project managers reporting into a PMO in the future, which in turn provides a better opportunity for standardization and embedding tools and processes.
The PMO: Your Strategic Partner
Ultimately, the Project Management Office (PMO) should act as a strategic business partner. It’s there to serve the needs of the organization. A good PMO will challenge, have the difficult conversations and champion approaches that lead to greater results.
With a supportive PMO behind you, your organization can reach your goals more quickly, and deliver your strategy with more certainty in the outcome. If you’re serious about delivering change, you should get serious about making your PMO the best it can be.