The role of the Project Management Office (PMO) in organizations continues to be a topic of great interest to project management practitioners. As organizations mature their project, program, and portfolio management practices to better align work with strategic goals, to support effective stakeholder communication and collaboration, to develop talent, and to place a focus on realizing value from organizational investments through effective benefits realization management, the PMO has many potential roles to play as a contributor to advancing these important topics. Yet, for many organizations a struggle exists to define the PMO role, to position the PMO for long-term success, and to leverage the PMO to support achievement of the organization’s strategic objectives. While no two PMOs are created equal, it is clear that the role of the PMO is expanding in many organizations and that for many others there is a strong desire to expand the PMO role to be much more strategically focused through expanded scope of responsibility and partnering with business leaders to advance important organizational objectives.
In late 2012, as part of a broader thought leadership initiative on PMOs, PMI conducted exploratory research to understand the issues encountered with building, managing and operating a PMO. One of the overarching discoveries from this exploratory work was that many are challenged with some of the most basic notions about a “PMO:” What do the letters actually stand for? What kinds of PMOs exist? What are the functions of the various types? Who do PMOs report to? Surprisingly, the very same questions existed at all levels of management from executive level leaders in charge of entire global organizational project and program management operations to line managers in charge of operating the single function, divisional or departmental PMO. Despite the abundance of existing—and helpful—literature on the subject that we reviewed, there was little consensus around many of the very basic issues. So one of the goals of the effort was to develop a foundational starting point that we can all build upon. PMI, as the leading global project management body and in working with its partners, put forth this effort with the aim to continue evolving this work over the next few years to refine our understanding and thinking on PMOs.
PMI set out to define and understand the PMO and then create standardized definitions to set a stake in the ground on the meaning of the actual terms having to do with a project, program or portfolio management office. But it’s more than just the terms themselves; it’s also about the situational constructs of the various management offices operating in different contexts that consider things like purpose, form, role, mission, make-up, etc. For instance, what does an enterprise PMO look like versus a divisional PMO for IT, what is the optimal team size of each, who should each report to, and what other facets should be considered?
Phase I: TACKLING THE CHALLENGE OF DEFINING THE PMO
Specifically, the intent of the workshop is to:
1.Identify and reach a consensus on the most prevalent PMO frameworks in practice today,
2.Establish and define the variety of PMO practices (i.e., domains and enablers), and
3.Develop the framework profile of each PMO configuration by identifying practices associated with the PMO’s purpose and mission.
Phase II: REFINING THE FRAMEWORKS
Below are the five PMO Frameworks that the SMEs identified, which the majority of the survey respondents (53%) said matched perfectly/very close to the actual functions of the PMO in which they work. Another 43% said the PMO descriptions somewhat describes the functions, whereas only 4% said there was not a good description.
Organizational Unit PMO/Business Unit PMO/Divisional PMO/Departmental PMO
Project-Specific PMO/Project Office/Program Office
Project Support/Services/Controls Office or PMO
Center of Excellence/Center of Competency
After establishing a PMO