What is a PMO and does my business need one?

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Recently I was asked to explain what a Project Management Office is and why would a business need one.  Initially this sounds like question that would require a complex multi faceted response, but the real answer is fairly simple.

First of all lets define what a Project Management Office is: The PMO is a group or department within a business that defines and maintains standards for project management, the PMO should also look to standardize where possible by identifying any opportunity to repeat project workflows, and in turn reduce project costs and increase the likelihood of project success.

So basically a PMO is a team who ensures that all Projects are delivered in a uniform manner, using the same repeatable processes and where possible identify projects that can be repeated, either entirely or parts thereof, providing a more predictable financial outcome.

When put into simple terms like this, it would seem that most organisations would benefit from the implementation of this type of structure within their business.  Unfortunately for small and medium sized businesses the cost of implementing a PMO is seen as an added expense that would not return enough "value". Interestingly these businesses are most likely to benefit from these aims, as the impact of a project or program of work going over budget can have a more significant impact.

There are three main types of PMO, these are:

  • Supportive - This type of PMO provides advice, support and systems to project management specialists within the business.  This style of PMO is relatively hands off and can also be described as an Advisory PMO.
  • Controlling - A controlling PMO oversees the project management group(s) within the organisation and ensures that a specific methodology is implemented and followed, they normally provide an project audit function for the company executive, but have no direct responsibility for the project outcomes or the Project Management resources undertaking the projects. 
  • Directive - The directive PMO, is responsible for all aspects of Project Management within an organisation and the outcome is more consistent due to that control, however this form of PMO requires a significant level of executive buy in and trust.

If a business is unsure as to whether they should implement a PMO there is a solution that can replace the need for a full time PMO, recently PMO as a Service offerings have been appearing on the market and are designed to fill the PMO void in organisations in need of this type of service.  

If you are interested in finding out about this, contact the team at Thunderhead and we can advise you on the best PMO approach for your business.