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What is a PMO

PMO is used as a universal term in relation to the support of Portfolios, Programmes and Projects.  What is a PMO can give a range of answers depending who you ask. There are a wide spectrum of views on what a PMO should be and do.  Organisations vary greatly in how they choice to shape Project Management Offices.  So we will cover the common roles expected from PMO and touch brief on how they might change over time.

PMO originated with administration support across projects and helping departments that delivery project coordinate standards and administer policies.  Then moving on to providing central reporting and Management Information.

Over time PMOs have become a centre of excellence for project and programme management. Providing methods, approaches and frameworks as well as training, and coaching those involved with Projects.

The PMO is ideally suited to defining the best focus for projects and business change.. PMOs can facilitate the selection of the projects that best meet the aims of the organisation.


The Type of PMO

Lets take a look at what types of PMO exists.  Imagine a pyramid, starting at the base project support this is where people are engaging directly in the project assisting the project manager in running and planning and doing the day-to-day management activities of the project.   Roles here include Project Analyst,  Project Support Officer and Project Admin.

Building on Project support and looking at across projects is the project office this does not necessarily have people embedded in projects but offers support across all projects.  It also  be a centre for project methods and provide help with tools and techniques.

At the next level we have Programme Office, that works in a similar way to project office; but is limited to the collection of project that make up a programme.  A programme office also give support to the programme management.  Guiding the  programme on tools and approach.

At the top of the pyramid we have a portfolio office.  The portfolio office is looking to align programmes and projects with the organisational strategy for projects and change in general.  At this level we are aligning change activities with change policies and procedures.


What do PMOs provide

Taken together the PMO in its entirety should look at that whole breadth of project activities.  Looking at firstly at the Method and tools.  There are common themes in the methods needed but difference in how they might be applied in the various level of PMO activity.

PMO can make a significant impact on the handling and management of benefits.   An area neglected by many organisations, but a topic that can substantially improve the return on investment for change in all organisations.

Financial monitoring and control of project, programme and portfolio is key for any organisation.  Poor control here can quickly diminish financial benefits.  Well run PMOs can assist in providing financial tracking templates and become the bridge between project and finance departments.  Easing the load on both elements.

Stakeholder Management or Stakeholder engagement, what ever the label used, communication and actual involvement of those affected by change is key to the success of the change being delivered. The PMO is a central catalyst in helping change agents and stakeholders connect.

Risk Management and control of issues is central to good project management.  PMOs are well place to improve process in this area.  The sensible sharing of information across projects and result in significant improvement of risk handling.



PMOs are in place to facilitate the selection of the right projects and programmes; supported by a framework to enable them to be delivered successfully in terms of benefits, quality, time and budget.

If you would like more information why not try our Free PMO Overview Course

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