A Project Management Office (PMO) is an office that provides services and organizational focus in project management. It is designed to centralize and co-ordinate and manage the projects under its portfolio. It is sometimes referred to as a programme management office, a project office or programme office. Each term may have a different mission depending on the organization. A PMO can be created to support a specific business unit/department functional purpose, may have a company-wide focus to manage the organization projects and/or programmes and it can also support a combination of both.
Managers carry out their tasks through their organizations whereas project managers carry out their tasks through their PMO’s. The project managers and PMO’s are a subset of the organization. The exponential change in technology has been one of the reasons for the increased demand for PMO’s. More and more organizations are utilizing IT solutions in order to gain competitive advantage as increasing complexities require a more thorough governance model. For some practitioners, a PMO is the only answer.
The responsibility of a PMO can range from providing project management support to directly managing a project. A primary function is to ensure that the project management methodology is followed. This ensures consistency and continuity of project documentation. Project management support functions include:
• Providing software
• Standardizing policies and procedures
• Providing templates for project reports
PMO’s can also provide control functions such as project audits.
Some organizations may have more than one PMO providing different functions and services. For example, it is not uncommon for an organization to have a company-wide centralized PMO co-exist with a department PMO. Even though they may pursue different objectives, PMO’s are aligned with the strategic goals of the organization. How the PMO is structured varies from one organization to the next. Management literature describes different ways in which an organization can be structured, ranging from the most basic functional type, the matrix type, to the ideally optimized type. However, in real life, many organizations are a mix of these structures. Despite the benefits of having a PMO, creating a successful PMO can be more challenging than originally expected. An unstructured organizational environment where the leadership is in a state of flux and the organization itself is still maturing is not helpful. In fact there is a strong possibility that the PMO will either fail or not be as effective.
Trying to implement a PMO without the support of the executive is also not a good idea. Projects are the building blocks of organizational strategy. Proceeding with any strategic initiative needs the support of the organization’s executive leadership. Because of the need to protect their self-interests, department managers can be an obstacle to the generation of new ideas. These managers have direct access to the executive and they may continue to control the flow of information to maintain the status quo hence, the lack of executive awareness. This is why the leader of the team implementing the PMO needs direct access to the executive and their support must be clearly visible. This way, the PMO will also have the full support of the whole organization.
Those with the responsibility of implementing and growing the PMO must be fully aware of the organizational and management factors that may negatively impact its success. These factors influence the projects and the executive’s attitudes towards project management.