A PMO oversees the management of projects, programs, or a combination of both. The projects supported or administered by the PMO may not be related other than by being managed together.
In many organizations projects are grouped or are related in some manner based on the way the PMO will coordinate and manage those projects. The PMO focuses on the coordinated planning, prioritization and execution of projects and subprojects that are tied to the parent organization’s or client’s overall business objectives. The PMO is also responsible for staffing each project with the right personnel to give the project its best chance for success.
PMOs can operate on a continuum, from providing project management support functions in the form of training, software, standardized policies, and procedures, to actual direct management and responsibility for achieving the project objectives. A specific PMO can receive delegated authority to act as an integral stakeholder and a key decision-maker during the initiation stage of each project, can have the authority to make recommendations, or can terminate projects to keep the business objectives consistent. In addition, the PMO can be involved in the selection, management, and redeployment, if necessary, of shared project personnel and, where possible, dedicated project personnel.
Some of the key responsibilities and features of a typical PMO include, but are not limited to:
Shared and coordinated resources across all projects. The project management office acts as the centralized repository for the project personnel who lead all projects within the organization. And while project staff may often come form outside the PMO in a matrix organization, the primary efforts and decisions on staffing those projects – the who and the what – is coordinated either inside or in conjunction with the PMO leadership.
Identification and development of project management methodology. The PMO must be the definer, enforcer and educator of the organization’s project management methodology including all project management best practices that should incorporated, identifying PM standards, and defining how projects are to be managed and reported on.
Clearinghouse and management for project policies, procedures, and templates. The PMO becomes the centralized location for all PM policies and procedures and the development and acquisition house for all project templates, planning documents and other documentation. This also applies to the centralized knowledge database of lessons learned and Q & A type features.
Centralized configuration management. All change management and configuration management concerning projects – including all change order requests – should be originated and managed from within the PMO. This allows for future tracking as well as serving as a reference for similar changes and configuration issues on future projects.
Centralized repository and management for risks. Risks often don’t vary too much from project to project – at least not a large majority of them. With the PMO serving as the central repository for risk management it helps decrease the amount of effort that must be spent on current and future projects for risk identification, risk management, risk avoidance, and risk mitigation.
Central office for operation and management of project tools. As well as defining, enforcing, and educating the corporation as a whole concerning the project management methodology, it is also the PMOs responsibility to select the proper PM tools – including the primary project management software - that project staff will use going forward to manage all projects. Providing stable standardization across the board is important to ongoing success and collaboration.
Central coordination of communication. Communication is the most important responsibility of the project manager and the PMO also serves a critical role in this process. The PMO is the primary source of communication and reporting across all projects – communication both internally to company personnel and externally to current and prospective customers and vendors as needed.
A mentoring platform for project managers. The PMO is directly responsible for educating project managers as well as setting up a proper ‘mentoring’ infrastructure allowing less experienced PMs to learn along side of and from more seasoned project managers.
Central monitoring of all PMO project timelines and budgets. With centralized project reporting within the PMO, the PMO then also becomes a central locale for monitoring project timelines and budgets. This allows the PMO to be the one-stop-shop for information for all executive management and finance departments, as needed, rather than burdening individual project managers with yet another distribution source for their project materials and reporting.
Coordination of overall project quality standards. Finally, the PMO sets the bar for all quality standards in terms of project management, leadership, and performance. It also serves as the go between for the project managers and any internal or external quality personnel or standards organization.