What is a PMO?

Date: 02/02/2021| Category: Best Practices Glossary| Tags:

The abbreviation PMO is most generally used for the Project Management Office.

The Project Management Office is a group or department within an organisation whose job it is to maintain the standards for project management and programme management within the structure.
The PMO is the backbone of a successful project or programme.

The PMO offers guidance to projects and programmes by trying to standardize the practices and increase efficiency. It focuses on standards and offers help by implementing different methodologies.
The PMO also develops and maintains metrics to follow the execution of projects and programmes.

A best practice PMO has a problem-focused purpose, with its functions and services aligned with the purpose, function and services of the other PMO within the organisation.


Different types of PMO

The term PMO is mainly used to describe a Project Management Office, however, some organisations use the term to describe either a Programme Management Office or Portfolio Management Office.

  • The Project Management Office supports individual projects.
  • The Programme Management Office coordinates identify dependencies of projects and supports the transition of outputs to Business as Usual.
  • The Portfolio Management Office functions at a corporate level where all change initiatives within an organisation are managed.

All different types of PMO will provide the organisation with the capability to deliver change initiatives in a consistent way and ensure these are constantly aligned with its strategic objectives.


Zooming in on the Project Management Office, there are three different types to be defined:

The Supportive PMO

The Supportive PMO provides support in the form of on-demand expertise, templates, best practices and lessons learned. This is a great solution for organisations where projects are done successfully in a loosely controlled manner.

The Controlling PMO

The Controlling PMO provides support but also requires that the support is used.

The PMO sets requirements of specific methodologies, templates and governance guidelines.
Projects are also closely monitored by this type of PMO. The Controlling PMO is a solution for an organisation that seeks to align activities, practices and documentation.

The Directive PMO

The Directive PMO provides Project Management experience and resources to manage a project.
This type of PMO creates a high level of consistency of practise across all projects and is especially effective in large organisations.


Purpose of the PMO

The PMO, whatever type, offers guidance and information.

It helps the organisation make sure that the right projects are done and that the right decisions are made by the right people, with the right information at the right moment. It helps the organisation govern and deliver projects in line with the organisation’s values and organisational goals.


  • Seeks to implement appropriate project selection and prioritise criteria that assess the contribution to strategy, along with validation of the business case.
  • Services to support the management of dependencies between delivery, deliverables, business changes and benefits across the projects and programmes.
  • Can imply the use of appropriately tailored methodology like PRINCE2 and MSP or other Project/Programme Management methodologies in order to ensure projects and programmes are delivered well, efficiently and effectively.
  • Provides a benefits framework and support for Project and Programme sponsors in order to deliver the benefits aligned with the organisation’s goal.
  • Designs and implements functions and services that address the current or prospective problem/question that is recognised and acknowledged within the organisation.
  • Listens to the decision-makers in the organisation and designs functions and services accordingly.
  • Adapts to the maturity of the organisation, the culture, structure and level of sponsorship.
    Based on this it determines the value of the services to the organisation.
  • Keeps an overview of all ongoing, previous and future projects and programmes and serves as a repository for all documentation.
  • Creates quality reports that can be used for decision making by executives and boards with up to date, reliable and credible data.
  • Demonstrates the value of the services it provides.

Organisations are not static, they constantly adapt and change to reflect the changing business environment.
This means that also the challenges and questions to be answered will constantly change.
It is the responsibility of a well-organized PMO to keep its eyes and ears open and be aware of the changing environment.

The PMO is always looking for the new challenges and questions to be answered along with a continuous evaluation of the current functions and services provided by the PMO so they can be adapted as required.

The PMO directly reflects the organisation and therefore neither the PMO is static.
This means that the PMO can also decide to stop some services or introduce new services, with appropriately skilled resources. The PMO is very dynamic.


Capabilities within the PMO

The set of capabilities and fulfilled roles will be different for every PMO, depending on size, complexity and many external factors. However, for a good functioning PMO, there are some obvious areas that should be covered.

  • Stakeholder engagement: to ensure the right people are receiving the right messages in the right way – avoiding any misinterpretation
  • Project management: to be able to support and/or challenge with credibility
  • Analysis: to be able to collate, interpret and analyze often complex data
  • Communication: to listen to and be able to present the right messages in the right way so that they will be accepted – even the difficult ones
  • Negotiation: to act as a broker between the sponsor, business and PMO. Not usually a daily demand but potentially an invaluable skill at the enterprise level.


PMO Roles

The PMO is essentially providing services to an organization, but what this actually entails can differ between organizations. It is a complex and ever-changing environment and roles and the context of projects and programs highly influence the PMO.

The PMO related roles are:

. PMO Manager, who has the daily responsibility of the PMO.
The Project Management Office Manager is to ensure that their company’s standards are upheld and clearly defined throughout the entire process of each project’s development and execution.
PMO Managers are responsible for overseeing the work of all project management office personnel, and thus must take ownership of the resulting quality of each project.

. PMO director is a senior level role and is most definitely concerned with taking ownership and accountability for change activities within a business. They are there to make sure an organization has everything in place for strategic initiatives to be delivered successfully. They are often focusing on creating the right environment with strong capability and capacity for delivery to succeed.

. PMO administrators help to keep all those things organized. These administrators control documents, facilitate communication between the project office and stakeholders, and collect data to meet reporting requirements.

. PMO Analysts hold a managerial position, but they work with employees from all levels who touch on the projects they are assigned to. As both analyst and manager, a successful PMO analyst is a talented multitasker.

. Coach, who is responsible for providing ad hoc assistance to individual project managers or project teams.

. Communication Specialist is the figure responsible for the communication plan and ensuring that all stakeholders receive timely communications regarding their projects.

. Methodologist is this figure is responsible for the methodological content chosen for project management processes. It manages the evolution of templates and best practices, as well as for instructions on their use.

Other probable roles within a well organized PMO can be defined into four different levels:

  • Project Support roles: Project administrator, Project Co-ordinator, Project Support Officer.
  • Portfolio, Programme and Project Support roles: Project Management Officer, PMO Officer, PMO Specialist roles (Project Planner, Project Scheduler, Project Controller).
  • Leading and Managing PMO’s roles: PMO Manager, PMO Lead.
  • Directing PMO’s roles: Head of PMO, PMO Director, Portfolio Director, e-PMO (enterprise PMO).


P3O – Portfolio, Programme and Project Offices

For the higher-level roles within the PMO, a P3O (Portfolio, Programme and Project Offices) certificate is often requested. P3O is a methodology that helps organisations build support structures that enable the successful delivery of their portfolios of change management programmes and projects.


Join our PMO User group !

Are you part of a PMO and are looking to share your experience with your peers? Join our PMO User group. Every quarter we organize an (online) User group where we invite inspiring guest speakers, organize challenging breakout sessions and discuss every aspect of the PMO.

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