23 February, 2023

Project Management Office – PMO 101 | Video

In this video, I will give a broad introduction to what you need to know about a Project Management Office, or PMO.

This video is safe for viewing in the workplace.

This is learning, so, sit back and enjoy

PMO – Project Management Office

What is a PMO?

There are as many definitions of a PMO as there are PMOs. I like to keep things simple. 

A PMO is a group that serves the needs of Project Managers and project teams.

They can do this in a number of ways that we’ll look at in more detail shortly. But which of those ways they select will be different wherever you look. The selection should arise from the needs of the project community within the organization.

The most common activities are:

  • Setting and maintaining project management standards
  • Developing and promoting standard processes
  • Providing support to project governance
  • Sharing of knowledge and tools
  • Supporting project management practitioners
  • Coordinating project and program activities
  • Monitoring and documenting status across a portfolio of projects 
  • Maintaining documentation on process, standards, and performance

Project, Program, and Portfolio… P3MO

We equally find Project Management Offices, Program Management Offices, and Portfolio Management Offices. These may genuinely operate at different levels in the organization. However, they may also be different names for largely similar internal organizations.

Projects, Programs, and Portfolios are often contracted into the convenient acronym, P3. This leads to the term P3MO or, indeed, P3O. While I shall use the term PMO and Project Management Office as the generic term throughout this article, I shall sometimes use P3 as a shorthand for Projects, Programs, and Portfolios.

I will stick with the term Project Management Office in this article. Because that is my primary focus.

Project Management Office

The focus is on support for project management teams. They offer and standard tools and processes for project delivery. They often have an additional focus on project assurance.

Program Management Office

The focus is on support for program management teams. They offer and standard tools and processes for program delivery. They often have an additional focus on governance.

Portfolio Management Office

The focus is on forming and overseeing a balanced portfolio of projects and programs and supporting project and program management offices.

The benefits of a PMO

The Benefits of a PMO to the Organization

For the organization, a good PMO can help ensure projects deliver on time, on budget, and to specification. There are other benefits a PMO can bring:

  • Projects are aligned with business strategy and objectives
  • Resource allocation that matches strategic priorities
  • Stakeholders have good visibility of project status
  • A standardized process for project delivery brings efficiency and economy
  • Centralized tracking and data analysis allow best practices to become clear
  • Quality assurance and control reduces risk and use of contingency time and budget

The Benefits of a PMO to a Project Team

And, for project teams, a good PMO can provide them with:

  • Standard processes
  • A toolset of software, and templates
  • Centralized provision of resources
  • Relief from certain data gathering and analysis
  • Objectives review that provides lessons to learn
  • Ability to learn from other projects 
  • Support for multi-project management 
  • Provision of training and coaching support
  • A powerful advocate in support of the project team

PMO Models

The PMO Operational Modes

The three operational modes are:

  • Supportive
    A consultative style that empowers the teams with knowledge, resources, guidance, and advocacy 
  • Controlling
    A style that emphasizes good governance and enforces compliance with defined methodologies and standards. There is a lot more enforcement of preferred approaches and a move from ‘good practice’ to ‘best practice’.
  • Directive
    This style has direct control of the projects within its compass. It often provides its own Project Managers to lead them. If not, the Project Managers are accountable to the PMO.

PMOs at Different Levels of the Organization

Another way that we see different PMO models is the level of the organization at which they operate.

The earliest PMOs were single-project or single-program PMOs. These formed a central office function to serve a single large project or program with administrative support, resource management, communications management, data-gathering, and reporting.

At the next tier, there may be a regional, divisional, functional, or a multi-project PMO, serving projects or programs across a specific portion of an organization. This would centralize a number of additional functions across a range of projects providing some consistency, support, shared resources, and economies of scale.

An Enterprise PMO (EPMO) serves a whole organization. It will often have a Portfolio Management remit, to ensure that projects align with organizational strategy and objectives. They will also have a clear focus on value and will either be led by a C-suite executive or its director will report to one. The EPMO director will have authority to make strategic and tactical decisions across the portfolio.

How to Set-up a Project Management Office

In setting up a new PMO from scratch, the first decision is likely to be ‘an incremental or a big bang approach?’ An incremental approach is far more likely to provide continuing beneficial returns on investment. In addition, it will be easier for its proponents to garner internal support and counter the inevitable resistance.

Stages in an Incremental Approach to Creating a New PMO

This is not a complete checklist, but an indicator of the kind of process you are likely to adapt and follow. 

  • Establish the core business case 
  • Achieve some quick wins
  • Communicate and consult
  • Determine the Why 
  • Set up the core functions
  • Tailored expansion
  • Implement the right toolset 
  • Involve ‘customers’ in frequent reviews
  • Communicate the value you deliver

Periodic Operational Review of Your PMO

You must keep your PMO’s service portfolio relevant to the needs of its clients and the sponsoring organization. And yes, I do appreciate that there may well be conflicts between these two stakeholder groups!

Here are some essential things to keep under review:

  • Strategic status and sponsorship
  • ROI, (see measures of success below)
  • Stakeholder satisfaction
  • PMO model and services provided against needs
  • Prioritization of activities: The roles you fulfil, and which are adding most and least value
  • Personnel and skillsets
  • Tools in use by the PMO
  • Tools available to the P3 community
  • Lessons learned and making the incremental improvements they indicate

A Project Management Office Career

Project Management is a brilliant core competency that is a springboard for a great number of different career paths. And one of those is a PMO career.

The Benefits of a PMO Career

At the start of a career, junior PMO roles can be a fabulous place to learn core Project Management skills, and to observe and learn from experienced Project Managers. You can also observe multiple projects with a wide range of challenges at the same time. This can truly multiply your rate of experiential learning.

For experienced Project Managers, used to long and unpredictable hours – and maybe a lot of travel, PMO work can often offer greater stability and predictability. For some people, ad at some stages in life, this will be very welcome.

However, for others, a PMO role can seem dull. What matters is what suits you.

What are the Roles in a PMO?

Within the PMO career path, there are many roles. However, I shall focus on five: four of which are taken from the excellent House of PMO publication, ‘The PMO Competency Framework’.

  • PMO Director
    The principal focus is upward in the organization, working at the board level to understand, interpret, and possibly help shape strategy.
  • PMO Manager
    Day-to-day leader and manager of the PMO team. Also, be the face of the PMO to various departmental and functional teams and will negotiate with them and deliver reports. Stakeholder engagement will be a large part of their role.
  • PMO Analysts 
    planning and scheduling, data collection and analysis, budgeting and financial analysis, maintaining key project documentation
  • PMO Administrators 
    Data gathering and entry, meeting support, financial admin, supplier liaison, report creation
  • PMO Coaches and Trainers

PMO Organizations You Can Join

Carefully curated video recommendations for you:

What Kit does a Project Manager Need?

I asked Project Managers in a couple of forums what material things you need to have, to do your job as a Project Manager. They responded magnificently. I compiled their answers into a Kit list. I added my own. 

Check out the Kit a Project Manager needs

Note that the links are affiliated.

Learn Still More

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Mike Clayton

About the Author...

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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