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Home/PMO User group ‘what is the role of the PMO’ – Summary
PMO User group ‘what is the role of the PMO’ – Summary

PMO User group summary: Role of the PMO

This summary includes the details and topics discussed in the PMO User group ‘Role of the PMO’ held on the 26th of November 2020.



The goal is to bring similar backgrounds and profiles together to discuss specific topics within PMO management.

During this online edition a QRP expert will shortly introduce the topic, before opening the floor to the Users in panel discussion/breakout session-format.


Role of the PMO

  • What is the added value of a PMO?
  • Knowledge Management role of a PMO: lessons learned, training, PM community.

Date: Thursday 26 November 2020

Subject definition

  • Decision-enabling and delivery support indicate the 2 broad aspects of the PMO.
  • It is a model
  • It contains offices, with a place in the org chart, that provide services.
  • It is fully embedded in the wider organization, you really need Business Integrated Governance.
  • This model is what we call a hub and spokes model: there is a central portfolio office with decentralized sub-offices, e.g. for divisions or departments – this is the permanent structure, these are offices that support portfolio management, which is an ongoing activity in an organization.
  • The portfolio office focuses on supporting strategy execution, prioritisation, decision support… The temporary offices support a project or a programme, mainly from a delivery point of view.
  • The Centre of excellence can be put on the central Portfolio level, can be also decentralised, or partly decentralized; and even Programme Offices can fulfill certain CoE functions for the programme it belongs to.
  • In some organisations – like an ultimate decentralized model – the P3O is a virtual office, with all functions embedded in the delivery units. In such a distributed model, it is important to outline the roles & responsibilities clearly.
  • Planning: designing projects and programmes, and their impact on meeting strategic objectives — the driving questions are “What should we deliver?” and “Do we have the capacity to deliver and to absorb the change?”.
  • Delivery support: e.g. dependency management, transition planning…
  • CoE: QRP specialty 8-)
  • The PMO should improve the delivery of business change and optimize investments to a far greater extent than organisations could do with projects and programmes on their own.
  • Strategy: prioritise the correct initiatives
  • Design: aligning different initiatives – with each other, with BaU, with governance…
  • Delivery: consistency in delivering projects and programmes, having the right skills and capabilities.
  • Value: is the change resulting in achievement of the strategy?
  • A simple technique to determine the scope of the PMO is the Value Matrix
  • High-level description of the potential role a PMO can play in providing governance
  • Supporting is an enabling role – it’s how you become the friend of the PMs
  • Assurance can be seen as restraining: here you get a police reputation.
  • It’s important to find a balance between these two roles — especially during the introduction of the PMO in the organisation.
  • One way to support the organisation as a PMO is to provide knowledge management services: this means supporting the creation of new knowledge and sharing of what people know.
  • It is not just information management: providing your process descriptions on an intranet page is not sufficient.
  • One element in knowledge management is of course to document what people know, or what they have learned by doing – it is not sufficient, and should not be the only thing you focus on: equally important is to connect people to one another.
  • The typical implementation is via a lessons learned document that has to be handed over to the PMO at the end of the project — this is not how you learn, nor how you improve.

Subject Discussion

What is the added value of the PMO

In one organisation there has been done a maturity analysis and the following was pointed out:

  • More mature in the centre of excellence part.
  • Many policies, guidelines, support PMs.
  • Developing the first of the PMO: prioritisation. Not always having the right and enough resources for projects in IT and building. Do the projects with the highest value
  • Second part of P3O: execution part is done by the local PMO’s
  • Feasibility/high level studies are done before to start (gating process)

An added value of the PMO could be resource management. There were some differences between organisations

  • Resource management part on a portfolio level
  • Resource management on a company level so people are requested for business and not for projects. Various organisations have this issue
  • Possible solution: estimate the operational activities activities ⇒ what can be realised, should be realized, do we need hiring?

The issue on timesheets came up:

This is a very important issue in many organisations and some really try to focus on this one as it’s needed to provide estimations and facilitates planning. The general conclusion was that this is a very tight rope to walk on. With consultants it works well because they need to track time in order to get paid. For employees it often does not deliver on the detailed level. So the work you put in here does not provide you with a good solution for planning. It’s useful but very difficult

Benefits realization:

Here’s the real value for PMO: before and after (compare business cases after the projects is finished);
Question: Is that the task of the project manager (programmes is just a set of projects) or is it within the PMO? It’s operational or is it PMO?

PMO has as added value a good visibility on the resources.

What is the added value of a PMO? 

Standardisation of processes

  • Creates efficiencies
    • starting up new projects quicker
    • replacing resources in the projects smoother (hanovers)
  • Easier
    • single way of working/directing
    • clarity for customers/users
  • Helps retaining knowledge
    • about project management
    • about project deliverables
  • Improve decision making
    • Providing templates → right information provided

Creating visibility

  • On ROI
  • Performance of portfolio – compare actuals vs what was promised via clear, regular reporting
  • End-to-End and cross-initiative perspective (as PM focusses on time and budget of 1 initiative)
  • On the future: planning for next year / prioritisation

Single point of control

  • Improve communication: on status of projects, new functionalities explained to users…

Knowledge management 

Tactics applied by the participants:

  • Lessons learned section in standard reporting
  • Meeting with team to share on a regular basis
  • Share (possible) improvement initiatives across different departments

What is the added value of a PMO?

Possible activities and roles:

  • Overarching organization between project management and an office
  • Standardization
  • Getting feedback from the users (PM’s)
  • Recruiting skilled PM’s, craftsmanship: training, coaching, community working
  • Quality assurance
  • Role of project innovator, think out of the box, how to make things easier
  • The PMO is part of a transformational organization. for us it is important: we are supporting execution of our strategy. Map projects to strategy → follow up of a program. program-format or smaller portfolio’s
  • The PMO should also manage a group of Project managers.

If there would be no PMO, the responsibilities would go to the organisation. There would be no knowhow about PM’s, craftsmanship would decrease, and PM would become less fun as a whole. Planning becomes poor, and in the end there will be a negative impact on time and cost.

Very difficult to measure added value, internal meetings are being had to improve KPI’s


Non profit sector: difficult to compare with the profit sector because the PM’s mostly are on the floor (have their own roles, another function besides PM).

Added value:

  • PMO serves to have total view of projects that are running.
  • No one knew what they did earlier, the PMO helps to get best results
  • They have to be very organizational. They change the organization of a service while being in that role.
  • People understand why they do projects because of a PMO
    consultancy and coaching

The measurement of added value: projects that are finished with success
Without a PMO → back to step 1

Knowledge management

Knowledge management is one of the key objectives of the PMO. There is a method, training, coach..

Lessons learned database on sharepoint. Information is entered and it is classified via predefined categories. The PMO manager is not entering anything. The PMO just provides the context and everything else comes organically from PM’s. There is a lot of emphasis on planning, “to plan is to be half way”

KPI = growth of lessons learned per month

Onboarding → go through the most important lesson learned. also embedded in the training.
lessons learned in the past → always was a passive thing. was not integrated. bonds PM’s together.

Involve also the business in the lessons learned, meetings different from traditional
‘we f’ed up’ sessions . involve everyone who is involved in the projects
PM is involved in those sessions → in the team meetings we have a group session
excel sheet for future reference

Lessons learnt database → how to manage added value? output = new procedures, new plans.

Change your organisation. just LL sharing not sufficient, you need to control how to add value ⇒ could be a pitfall

To capture LL → action plan and proposed actions. actions related to PM’s itself vs actions not in control of the project. these are most difficult


The participants can all see the added value of a PMO. That is no surprise: most people in the user group work in a PMO role, so if they would not see added value in their job, they would not join an after-work session on their job.

The topics that came up were the usual suspects: standardisation, creating better visibility, prioritization… These are all very important indeed, but I do lack a bit of the impact. I think the participants have this impact in mind, but it is important to be able to make it explicit. Let me try to translate the value add in business speak:

  • Standardization of processes leads to more effective project implementation: the work can be done quicker and better, with less re-work; that’s a cost saving.
  • Standardization of information to be gathered (via templates) leads to more of the ‘right’ projects being undertaken – those with greater strategic contribution – and earlier termination of projects that are not aligned or poorly performing, avoiding money going to waste.
  • Better visibility is only a benefit if it is made actionable. Visibility on cross-initiative resource dependencies or on aggregated risks can trigger proactive actions, which will be cheaper than fixing the issue when it occurs, resulting in efficiency gains.

Of course, this is often easier said than done. The issue of cross-initiative resource management came up, relating it to the use of timesheets. Timesheets sound like an attractive and quickly to implement solution, but very often they are a trap. When you have timesheets implemented, those are indeed a source of information to track actuals versus forecast. However, these data come after the facts. It requires quite some maturity. It is probably better to work on forecasting skills. And the best way to learn is typically doing it and making mistakes. This means you better start asking forecasts from the project managers than tracking actuals. The first few times the quality will be low, but people do get better at it. The PMO can start categorizing projects (e.g. by size) and work with default resource allocations per category (during portfolio planning). These forecasts can then be refined when initiatives are initiated and at regular intervals, e.g. quarterly and/or monthly.

The PMO role, when done well, pays for itself. It might be a nice exercise to keep track of your PMO actions and the impact they had on your business.

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