A Project Management Office, or PMO, is an organization within a company that provides support for project managers.
The PMO can take on many different forms and include a variety of personnel realities.
If you’re considering working for a company with a PMO — or perhaps forming one within your company — you’ve come to the right place!
In this article, we’ll take a look into exactly what a PMO offers, which positions might make up a typical PMO, and the value a PMO can bring to an organization.
What Does a PMO Provide?
Project Management Offices provide support for project managers, as we stated above.
But what exactly does that mean?
The type of support a PMO offers can vary from one organization to the next, but typically, a PMO is responsible for:
- Developing and maintaining project management standards
- Determining procedures, tools and Project Management Software that can be used
- Providing training and mentoring to project managers
- Assisting with project administration
- Maintaining a repository of project documents and similar reference materials
Benefits of a PMO
In addition to the above offerings, a PMO can be a valuable resource for project managers in other ways.
Your PMO might contain easy access to best practices used throughout the company, thereby creating and maintaining some consistency in project performance and outcomes.
Individuals who work in a PMO often have experience with day-to-day project management duties, and can therefore provide expert advice to junior project managers and those looking to improve their skillsets.
The Project Management Institute (PMI) notes that a PMO’s responsibilities entail the coordinated management of those projects under its domain.
That coordination can be particularly useful on complex projects that might require a high degree of coordination across different departments, or perhaps coordination with other project managers, a PMO can be the glue that helps hold things together.
Downsides of a PMO
Again, this can vary by organization, but among the complaints some project managers have about working within Project Management Offices is that too much structure can be imposed upon their projects.
As PMs, we often like to use our creativity to structure our projects based on the requirements and desired outcomes, and being innovative about solving problems that arise can be a rewarding part of the job.
Some PMOs may stifle that creativity and innovation, instead requiring that PMs follow strict guidelines and processes.
Of course, that’s not always a problem for everyone, so just be sure you’re aware of which type of organization you want to join before taking a job within a PMO.
The PMO can be a valuable resource for project managers, providing them with access to best practices and expert advice. However, the PMO is not without its critics – some argue that the PMO stifles creativity and innovation by imposing too much structure on projects.
Who Works in a PMO?
Aside from the obvious — project managers — who exactly works in a Project Management Office?
This is different in different setups, of course, but there are a variety of roles you might find within a PMO.
These could include:
- PMO Manager
- Program Manager
- Portfolio Manager
- Various other management or oversight positions
- Project Managers
- Project Leads
- Junior PMs
The main thing to keep in mind about the PMO and its varying roles is that the office itself is intended to manage projects at an organizational level.
Where individual project managers handle individual projects, those working near the top of the PMO hierarchy are concerned with all projects within the organization, ensuring the projects and their outcomes align with the company’s intended direction and philosophies, and providing support to the individuals working on those projects.
How Are PMOs Structured?
Then again, the size and scope of the PMO can vary wildly from company to company.
Some companies will have a large central PMO that supports all of the projects across the organization. Other companies will have smaller PMOs that are specific to a certain business unit or division.
There are many different ways that a PMO can be structured and operate. Here are a few examples:
- A centralized PMO that provides support for all projects in the organization.
- A business unit specific PMO that provides support for projects in a specific business unit.
- A project specific PMO that is created specifically for one large project.
- A virtual PMO that provides support and resources to project managers who are working remotely.
Which type of PMO is right for you and your organization will depend entirely on your needs, as well as your company’s requirements and goals.