The PMO – What is this?

“If you think of standardization as the best that you know today, but which is to be improved tomorrow; you get somewhere.” – Henry Ford

[otw_shortcode_dropcap label=”I” font=”Dancing Script” background_color_class=”otw-blue-background” size=”large” border=”border” border_color_class=”otw-silver-border” shadow=”shadow”][/otw_shortcode_dropcap]n the last period many readers asked me to write something about PMO and indeed a “Program Manager’s Blog” can’t fail to include a series of articles of such kind.

So let’s start this journey with what’s a PMO; later, I’ll write about PMO’s activities, challenges and how to setup an effective PMO (at least as we did).

I hope you’ll find interesting this series. Have a good read and remember to rate the article.

What’s a PMO?

A Project Management Office (PMO) is a group or department within a business, agency or enterprise that defines and maintains standards for project management within the organization.

The concept of PMO was originated in the 1950s when its role was mainly in the military or in critical projects that was staffed with specialized project staff to ensure completion.

Their purpose was to control specific projects and be closer to the customer.

The primary goal of a PMO is to achieve benefits from standardizing and following project management policies, processes and methods.


PMO Diagram

Over time, a PMO generally will become an important vehicle within organizations to provide project management services that support the organization’s projects delivery and contribute to their performance through guidance, documentation, and metrics related to the practices involved in managing and implementing projects.

Some PMOs are separate entities reporting to higher levels of the organization, while others are embedded within divisions or another function within the organization.

Some PMOs are called Center of Excellence (CoE).


  • assist the organization to align its resources with its strategic objectives;
  • identify, categorize and prioritize projects;
  • provide a means to manage projects;
  • assist an organization to advance in its project management maturity.


The PMO Lifecycle

The PMO Lifecycle is divided into three main phases:

  1. PMO Set-up
  2. PMO Build-out
  3. PMO Sustainability


1. The PMO Set-up

It’s known as the assessment phase or the discovery phase; the purpose is to define the organization’s objective in creating a PMO, identifying the goals and determining the short term and long term plan in the form of a defined roadmap.

We should work with the executive team and senior management to establish the goals answering to some questions:

  • What’s the vision of the PMO?
  • What’s the budget?
  • What are the parameters for success?

The roadmap should include details on how the PMO will be established; the costs, resources and the timeframe for the build-out.

PMO Build-out

PMO Build-out

2. The PMO Build-out

It’s the implementation phase of PMO; in this phase we should establish an execution plan for implementing the approved roadmap activities.

3. The PMO Sustainability

It’s a sort of continuous improvement sustaining the performance of the PMO and contributing to the success of the PMO in the organization.

In order to get a real success, we should establish an effective feedback loop system incorporating organization voice into the improvements.


Note that we could treat the first two phases as single projects; the third phase is operational (it runs the day-to-day activities and addresses the continuous improvement).


The PMO types and roles

In this article I’ll provide you only an overview of the types and roles of the various PMOs; in the next articles, we’ll analyze the types in every detail.

There are three types of PMO, Project-based, Program-based and Portfolio-based PMO; before implementing one of them, we should establish what type of PMO our organization requires, whether it is a Project, Program or Portfolio Management Office.
The Project-based PMO has a focus on project level deliverables.

Its area of focus include:

  • Building the project management methodology
  • Promoting standard project management templates and tools
  • Ensuring standardization in project delivery
  • Improving project delivery and performance
  • Allocating and assigning project resources
  • Planning project budget as well as tracking variances
  • Monitoring project risks and issues
  • Project status reporting, dashboard, and KPI.

The Program-based PMO has a focus on program level outcomes.

Its area of focus include:

  • Promoting standard program management methodology
  • Ensuring standardization in project delivery across dependent and independent projects
  • Performing project benefits as well as looking at program benefit realization
  • Budgeting and tracking program level cost/value and ROI
  • Addressing resource planning across multi projects with the aim to ensure appropriate allocation
  • Monitoring risks and issues at a program level

The Portfolio-based PMO has a focus on portfolio level outcomes and how to align organization strategic initiatives to realize benefits.

Its area of focus include:

  • Creating an organization portfolio process
  • Promoting standards across PPM selection, monitoring and controlling
  • Evaluating and prioritizing all initiatives against strategic key indicators
  • Performing demand management
  • Aligning an organization’s budget requests and approvals along with the PPM initiatives
  • Implementing ongoing governance models to monitor and control PPM health checks
  • Performing benefit realization and monitor KPI’s and reporting
  • Monitoring risks and issues at a portfolio level


That’s all for now; in the next weeks, we’ll deepen the activities and the challenges of every type of PMO.



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