Project Management Offices (PMOs) are a hot topic right now. With recent research indicating that having an established PMO gives you better quality outcomes on projects and more chance of achieving the business benefits in comparison to organizations without a PMO, it’s no surprise that managers are considering setting up or furthering PMOs in their own companies. But one of the stumbling blocks is that the role of a PMO is a bit of a mystery to most people. How do you set one up if you don’t know what it does?

project management office

Let us help clarify the role of a PMO for you.

The PMO’s roles and responsibilities

That might sound a lot like spending all day producing reports, but there is more to it than that! Reporting is of course a very important function, but a mature, established PMO can be the hub of a company; the spine that makes project management and projects successful. It does that through making sure that every change and every project is managed in a professional way that supports the aims and goals of the organization.The critical thing to remember about a PMO is that it is a decision support function. What does that mean? Well, it means information about projects is the currency that the PMO team works in. They are there to assist senior management and the project managers by providing support and data to enable the right decisions to be made for the business.

5 core functions

There are 5 core functions that a PMO provides for a business. These are:

  • Supporting project teams: The PMO enables the project managers and their teams to do a good job by standardizing documentation, offering training and coaching, and providing a quality assurance role.
  • Managing organizational knowledge: The PMO typically manages all the project management software and central documentation, providing project managers with access to the tools and knowledge they need to use for their jobs, including lessons learned from previous projects.
  • Governance: The PMO provides that decision support role, working with senior managers and ensuring that everyone has the information they need to make the right calls. As an impartial group they can also challenge and point out where there is a lack of accountability.
  • Single version of the truth: The PMO’s use of centralized, standardized data means that everyone has the same version of events. This is better for effective decision making but also means that everyone has confidence in the data being produced.
  • Time saving: The PMO can save project managers time by providing templates and best practice advice. This often extends to personalized coaching, especially in topics like Earned Value Management (EVM) where project managers may not have vast experience themselves.


Day-to-Day Tasks

Yes, reporting is part of what the PMO does on a daily basis, but the PMO team will also get involved in a host of other activities designed to support the business. Many of these other tasks are related to enterprise project management tools and the project standards in use in the company. Where there aren’t standards, the PMO will define and develop them, making tweaks to improve processes as time goes on.

They will also help project managers and their team members use the tools and standards including offering training sessions to get the best out of the enterprise software in use. If project teams aren’t using the software or processes, the PMO can find out why and support and encourage them to do so.

Mature PMOs also often have responsibility for managing the pool of project resources by working out who is available to work on what project and when. This exercise can flag up skills needs that the PMO can then address through tailored training. In fact, many project managers report directly to the PMO executive team so managing project resources is completely centralized.

Finally, another day-to-day task is the management of project financial information. EVM calculations can be tricky, especially for inexperienced project managers, so experts in the PMO can help work these out for project reporting. They can also help with setting up tracking and monitoring for business benefits to ensure that projects really did generate the return on investment that was expected.

When you don’t have a PMO

According to research by PricewaterhouseCoopers, only about a third of companies have PMOs that perform all these functions. If your business doesn’t have a PMO, you could find that the work of a PMO is split between a number of different teams. For example, your Finance department could be responsible for helping project teams with financial calculations and managing budgets on their projects. Some companies even outsource their PMO function completely to experts. Some companies have more than one PMO, each one serving different functions or divisions. And the term ‘PMO’ may not crop up at all, as they go by a number of different names such as Portfolio Office, Programme Office or Enterprise Management team.

Whatever it’s called, it’s clear that a PMO supporting enterprise project management software tools, project teams and project management processes is a great way to embed professional project management practices in your organization. It’s clear that a successful PMO does far more than simply produce project reports and when they work well, a PMO can be a major asset supporting successful project delivery.

Setting one up can be daunting, especially given the enterprise software tools involved and the change management that comes with implementing new ways of working. However, getting the benefits of a PMO doesn’t have to be overwhelming. It all starts with a phone call. Speak with one of our team members today, (800) 931-1582.