Setting the Stage
Before we can explain the PMO we need to establish a few ground rules or state the type of PMO that we are discussing.
- The PMO is for the organization and not for one project; this is important since some PMO could be dedicated to a specific project or program. In the context of this article, the PMO is for the organization and all its projects.
- The PMO is an organizational unit and may consist of as little as two team members or many more.
- Many organizations could have a PMO but they do not call it PMO; they might call it Project Management Department or something else. Again, in the context of this article we will consider those as PMO even if they have a different name.
- Not all PMO are the same.
With the above in mind, what are the role and functions of the PMO?
We represent this via the PMO Continuum.
The PMO Continuum is the way that we represent the various functions and roles (focus) of PMO within an organization. What we present below is likely to be in a logical order but since not all organizations are alike, the order we present below is not likely the sequence that all organizations follow.
The most basic form and role of a PMO could be what we might call ‘Reporting PMO’. This PMO would be responsible for collecting reports from the various projects and programs, collating and summarizing them, then forward a summary report to the organizational management for review.
Ideally, one could argue that since the PMO is responsible for reporting, then the PMO should also standardize the reports used by the projects and programs.
If an organization starts to move their PMO beyond the basic function, then the PMO could be responsible for reporting, in addition to training and development of project management personnel. The idea here is not for the PMO to replace Human Resources or Learning & Development but for the PMO to work with Learning & Development to recommend the right professional learning programs for the organization staff in the domain of project management.
The next logical level could be for the PMO to assume responsibility for career management.
In this case, establish formal job descriptions and career paths for project management personnel across the organization. This include a professional development program that include mentoring and coaching program.
In some organizations, the PMO might handle coordination of all or some of the organization projects. The focus here is not on managing the projects but possible coordinate between projects and manage the interfaces.
Project Management System
One of the most important functions of a PMO, in our humble opinion, is for the PMO to assume responsibility for the project management system in the company. Basically, establish the right project management methodology and processes such as: how to approve projects, how to launch or initiate projects, how to plan for projects, and how to manage and control projects. A project management system also includes the proper project life span model, definitions of project stages and stage gates, and lessons learned system.
The PMO should also assume responsibility for the historical databases (maybe included in reporting) and records for projects? What are the Performance Metrics for projects?
Some readers might argue, “what you describe here is given” all PMOs must be doing this, are not they?” Unfortunately no. The recent blog by a Guest Author address this point from the perspective of a ‘client’s organization’.
Managing Projects and Programs
In certain organizations, the PMO could also be the project management functional home for the career project managers and project management personnel. When there is a project, the organization will pull the project manager from the PMO and other project resources and team members will come from the other functional department. For those who have good knowledge in project management organizational structure this is what we call strong matrix organization.
Usually, organizations involved in major capital investment’s projects, such as utilities, oil and gas, among others, would likely have PMO at this level of the PMO Continuum.
Although we show this at the end of the PMO Continuum, some PMO exists only for this role.
First, what is a Strategic PMO?
This is a PMO that exists at the executive level to help decide on projects and programs for the organization; approving, analyzing, establishing the business case.
Second, most (if not all) organizations have someone or a unit responsible for this role and operates under different names, such as: strategic planning, business development, etc. and in some cases, ePMO (Enterprise PMO).
As we mentioned on more than one occasion, when it comes to PMO, one size DOES NOT fits all. Therefore, it is quite common that in some organizations their PMO could reflect only one of the roles explained in the PMO Continuum. In other organizations, they might have two or more of the functions that we outlined here. Rarely, where we find one PMO doing all of these functions.
- Should small and medium organizations have a PMO?
- Should large organizations have one PMO – only ONE? Alternatively, can an organization have more than one PMO?
- Are there other functions for the PMO?
All of these are valuable questions that we leave for you to think about and consider.