What is a PMO? 10 reasons to have one

What is a PMO?…and 10 reasons your organisation should have one.

by Amy Habgood

A PMO (or Project Management Office) is a team, or more occasionally, an individual responsible for defining and maintaining project management standards. According to the AXELOS P3O guidance an effective Portfolio, Programme or Project Management Office should aim to deliver governance, transparency, reusability, delivery support and traceability. Although not delegated decision makers themselves, a PMO Team will provide advice and support to key members of the Project Team using appropriate tools, methods, procedures and data. Being either permanent or temporary in nature (dependent on the requirements of the organisation and the scope of the project) the Office is not, by design, a one size fits all facility but instead varies in size, structure and authority with members frequently crossing borders between departments and sectors.

The Value of a PMO

If you’ve stumbled across this blog post courtesy of a redirection from one of the popular search engines, chances are you’ve “googled” the likes of “What is PMO?” “What does PMO stand for?” or, (if you’re familiar with the world of Project Management) perhaps something along the lines of “Do I really need a PMO?”

Here at CUPE International we may be somewhat biased but we assert that the benefits of implementing an effective Project Management Office are indisputably dependable. We’re going to go ahead and assume you’re happy that the first of those “what is PMO?”  and “what does PMO stand for?” questions have been answered in the paragraph above. Let’s now take a good look at the latter question; “do you really need a PMO?”


Here’s 10 reasons why…

1.Accountability. As the need for a PMO gains increasing recognition, the shift towards using them to hold project managers to account brings about opportunity to embed consistent procedures and maintain quality standards.

2.Templates, checklists and resources. The evolution of a PMO is frequently accompanied by the evolution of a re-useable wealth of templates. It’s by and large easier to develop and “tweak” pre-established documents that have already proven to be fit for purpose. A centralised document database that Project Managers can tap into for resources will improve their efficiency and performance. It will also encourage…

3.Playing by the same rules. Where the PMO operates as an over-arching, whole-business function, sitting across a diverse range of projects, the office will deliver much needed standardisation, ensuring compliance with the organisation’s carefully chosen methodology and tailoring approach.

4.Regular reporting. We know that the very essence of effective project management involves regular reporting and progress updates be these in the form of Highlight Reports, End Stage Reports or Exception Reports. Interaction with a Project Management Office will, in some capacity or another, require informed reporting arrangements which can only reinforce this continued good habit.

5.Utilising expertise. Well implemented projects don’t happen overnight. They need input from a variety of different resources and layers of diverse expertise. Your PMO is the ideal opportunity to bring these assets together under one roof. It goes without saying that you’ll be aiming for individuals with experience in the context of Project Management but from this background you’ll likely find those with experience and skills of a more holistic speciality such as leadership strategy and team dynamics.

6.Contagious good habits that come from predictability. A good PMO can’t help but offer a level of PPM assurance. This assurance could come in the form of support or security, audit or affirmation – whatever shape it takes, you’ll see the benefits of its collective clout in the way that future project actions are conducted. As its service users come to learn what’s expected and pre-empt or predict its response, they autonomously learn the acceptable actions to take. This is great for business. It saves time on training and discourages silly mistakes.

7.Expanding staff skills through PMO training. As well as incorporating the wealth of pre-existing skills and knowledge into the process of building your office, you’ll reap the benefits of cultivating further competencies by training PMO staff. They can then bring their new abilities to the PMO table and beyond. There follows a knock-on effect that can be seen as Project Managers and “on-the-ground” staff interact with and learn from the upskilled PMO.

8.Improving stakeholder relations. Engaging senior stakeholders in the initial set up of a PMO is imperative. The capture of feedback and ongoing review should be seen as an exercise in improving relationships and developing trust. The implementation of a motivated PMO is a very buy-able concept. In essence, its formation is a non-contentious project that works towards easily comprehensible objectives of interest to all without the pressure of a highly public visible outcome. Establishing a Project, Programme of Portfolio Management Office should therefore be seen as one of those rare-as- hen’s teeth type projects, capable of securing early, ongoing support. Here lies an opportunity to foster strong interdepartmental relationships whilst deterring too much off-scope thinking from well-meaning stakeholders.

9.Feedback capture and continuous testing. Having one dedicated centre committed to feedback of PPM performance and PPM process analysis leads to quicker improvement through regular reviews and follow up of actions that are otherwise all too easy to let slip.

10.Promote a centre of excellence. When your projects are overseen by a respected authority, consisting of a suitable yet varied range of professionals you can expect the results to reflect this. As your organisation becomes known for being the best of the best you can nod back to the involvement of your Project Management Office and watch it become a part of your culture as it starts being seen as less of a “PMO” and more a “centre of excellence.”

Like what you’ve read?

If you’re convinced of the benefits of creating a PMO, this is the perfect time to ask about our consultant-led workshops. Drop us an email at team@cupe.co.uk quoting “Blog” to be sure of our most competitive quote!