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The project management office (PMO) is the organizational response for managing the business process of project management. PMO's are normally responsible for project governance.
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Project Management Office and Project Governance
The Project Management Office (PMO) is the organizational response to project management. The PMO manages the process of project management and conducts governance activities for the organization.
When to use
Organizations with multiple projects at multiple locations will often create a PMO to provide common practices and standards for the management discipline of project management. The PMO is also able to accumulate project metrics to enable the measurement of the effectiveness of the project management methodology by senior management. Most PMOs conduct governance activities to reduce project risk by ensuring best practices are being used.
Project Management Office (PMO): “A management structure that standardizes the project-related governance processes and facilitates the sharing of resources, methodologies, tools and techniques.”
Every PMO is different. It must react to the business environment, project management methodology and the stakeholders. However, virtually all PMOs are responsible to create and maintain one or more methodologies and virtually all PMOs are responsible for project governance.
Project Management Office Levels
The PMBOK® Guide has identified three types of PMOs. These three types provide an increasing level of oversight and control of projects.
- “Supportive. Supportive PMOs provide a consultative role to projects by supplying templates, best practices, training, access to lessons learned and information from other projects. This type of PMO serves as a project repository. The degree of control provided by the PMO is low.
- Controlling. Controlling PMOs provide support and require compliance through various means. The degree of control provided by the PMO is moderate. Compliance may involve:
- Adoption of project management framework or methodologies;
- Use of specific templates, forms, and tools; and
- Conformance to governance frameworks.
Directive. Directive PMOs take control of the projects by directly managing the projects. Project managers are assigned by and report to the PMO. The degree of control provided by the PMO is high.”
Project Management Institute, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, (PMBOK® Guide) – Sixth Edition, Project Management Institute, Inc., 2017, Page 48, and Glossary definition, Page 716.
Project Manager versus PMO Responsibilities
Project managers often question the need for a PMO. They are responsible for their project and they don’t need help from others who are not regular team members. In fact, sometimes the PMO acts as a disrupting influence within a project. This is due to the different responsibilities of each. The project manager is focused on meeting the unique project objectives. The PMO is often focused on broader program or business goals and on making the most efficient use of the project resources within the business. Both are focused on risk mitigation, but sometimes from different perspectives. Focusing on risk will normally help to ease the tension.
The PMBOK® Guide defines project governance as, "The frameworks, functions, and processes that guide project management activities in order to create a unique product, service, or result to meet organizational, strategic and operational goals."
The focus of governance should be risk mitigation. While governance will often include audits or checks on project practices, it works best when those conducting the governance provide both positive and negative feedback to the project manager and project team. Specific governance activities and reviews will be tailored to the organization’s project management methodology and practices.
Project Management Institute, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, (PMBOK® Guide) – Sixth Edition, Project Management Institute, Inc., 2017, Glossary definition Page 715. PMBOK is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.
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PMI, PMP and PMBOK are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.