What are the functions of a Project Management Office?

For project-based firms, establishing a Project Management Office (PMO) or another similar organizational unit dedicated to overseeing project activity is an increasingly common practice. However, at the planning or inception stage of the creation of a PMO, it can sometimes be difficult to determine which functions should be attributed to the fledgling Project Management Office. For a PMO can wear many, many hats. As a matter of fact, it would be virtually impossible to draw a comprehensive list of all the roles and responsibilities that a PMO can potentially assume. Nonetheless, here is an overview of the core functions that Project Management Offices perform in organizations.

PMO Function #1: Monitoring and Control of Project Execution Performance

It should come as no surprise that project monitoring and tracking form one of the key functions of the Project Management Office. In fact, the motivation for establishing a PMO is more often than not related to the need to improve the speed, quality and reliability of project execution. To deliver results in the area of execution performance, a PMO will oversee the delivery cycle to make sure that projects stay on time, within budget, and within scope. The PMO’s controlling action over project activity also involves ensuring primary and secondary stakeholder satisfaction and meeting any other requirement that may be tied to the performance of the project.

To achieve this, PMOs consolidate and manipulate large sets of data related to projects. They will track and report on progress throughout the project life cycle, until completion and closure, in order to make activity and work more dependable. Some hands-on PMOs will actively get involved in execution and delivery tracking, while others will rather focus on providing support to project managers in order to ensure smooth delivery and project success.

Additionally, a Project Management Office can enhance project performance by providing support to other populations involved in project management. Receiving general or expert advice from PPM specialists can be invaluable for teams, as it is not uncommon to see projects run by technical or operational staff with no specific project management training or background. A PMO can offer guidance on planning, scheduling, procurement, and all the execution and tracking related activities. Project teams can leverage the PMO’s knowledge of Project Portfolio Management standards and practices and its expertise to avoid execution pitfalls and make sure projects stay on track. Even for professional project management teams, the advice, insight and support of a PMO can still be an invaluable source of continuous learning and improvement. Lastly, PMOs can support project managers by executing advanced, specialized tasks for them or on their behalf.

PMO Function #2: Development of Project Management Methodologies

The creation of a Project Management Office is usually the starting point of a PPM structuration process in an organization. PMOs define and implement methodologies to standardize project management activities and processes within the firm. Basically, they will issue guidelines governing how a project should be managed throughout its cycle — from the creation of initial business cases to the management of delivery.

The best practices, standard metrics and repeatable processes implemented by the PMO will drive increased consistency across project management teams, make different projects in different areas comparable, and improve overall project performance. Wherever this is possible, the Project Management Office will standardize those processes across all business units and departments at the level of the organization.

As the guardian of Project Portfolio Management processes, the PMO formalizes these sets of methods and practices into a coherent Project Charter that should be made readily available to all the populations involved in project activity and evolved over time to reflect changes in the business environment, market conditions, or organizational strategy. Depending on the shape, line of business and culture of the organization, a PMO may favor linear delivery methodologies such as the Waterfall approach or the Vee model, or prefer a more Agile delivery framework. More and more PMOs elect to get the best of both worlds by crafting their own tailor-made hybrid process.

PMO Function #3: Implementation of Professional PPM Tools

At the instigation of the Project Management Office, the organization usually selects, procures and implements professional software to speed up and facilitate Project Portfolio Management activities.

Contrary to a common misconception, PPM tools are not reserved for big firms and mega-projects. Even smaller-scale businesses can benefit vastly from the implementation of such solution tools, which are purposely designed to consolidate data and automate tasks. No business can afford to pass on the opportunity to increase productivity, improve data quality and optimize resource utilization!

PPM software will break down projects into a series of phases and tasks in order to improve management, make tracking more granular, and leverage data intelligence. Robust tools feature a number of management and analysis capabilities, including simulation functionality and advanced analytics.

With its PPM expertise, your PMO will be instrumental in choosing the right tool for your organization, assessing the requirements for configuration, carrying through the implementation, and championing user adoption. As such tools usually require at least a modicum of training — especially for non-professional project managers — the Project Management Office also spearheads the skill development effort through an array of more or less formal training programs and initiatives.

PMO Function #4: Program and Portfolio Management

A Project Management Office usually proves to be extremely useful when it comes to multi-project management. Because of shared resources, assets and equipment, the various projects that are being run within a company are always somewhat interdependent. With its cross-department view of project activity, the Project Management Office is able to ensure that such dependencies and constraints are anticipated, understood and managed in a timely manner in order to support the success of individual projects and to ensure overall optimization.

PMOs also are in a perfect position to improve the management of programs — collections of related projects that are bundled together in order to maximize efficiency — and project portfolios. Unlike regular project managers, who typically have to stay focused on their operational delivery responsibilities, a PMO enjoys a bigger-picture view and is enabled to take a step back to gauge the balance and health of the organization’s programs and portfolios, performing or recommending adjustments where necessary.

Managing programs and portfolios involves making investment decisions. It is all about making sure that the available funds are being utilized optimally, taking into account a wealth of parameters such as risk, probability for successful completion, strategic outcomes, market factors, implementation-related considerations, and so on. The PMO will help by collecting, maintaining and analyzing relevant data across multiple areas of the business. Armed with this knowledge, experienced PMO leaders are enabled to act as key advisors to senior executives. They can provide insight in order to assist business leaders in making informed, smart investment decisions regarding the organization’s portfolios. This is in fact one of the ways your Project Management Office will be able to demonstrate its usefulness and value to the C-suite.

PMO Function #5: Strategic Project Management

Managing the realization of business benefits is one of the most important functions of a Project Management Office. Your PMO will score and rank project ideas based on pre-established criteria in order to strategize the selection of potential projects. It will be able to analyze candidate projects so as to identify the ideas that are best aligned with the organization’s strategic objectives, to build sound, strong business cases with compelling cost/benefit ratios, and then manage outputs and track benefits throughout the project execution cycle to ensure realization of the expected outcomes.

In order to facilitate and standardize project selection and prioritization, the Project Management Office will implement dedicated processes and governance systems. It will ensure that tools are properly used to gather the data and track project progress, set and maintain standard criteria and selection process, and define collaboration and decision-making mechanisms to clarify ownership of management and control responsibilities across stakeholders.

PMO Function #6: Optimization of Resource Allocation

Unless you are blessed to be working in an organization with boundless resources, optimizing the utilization of limited talent, funds and means of production is probably an everyday headache for your company. Project Management Offices help manage resources more effectively and improve the process for allocating and assigning resources across all projects. Visibility over schedules, budgets, project requirements, resource availability and workload enables them to define and manage priorities in order to provide the right resources for the right projects at the right time.

This is particularly useful when it comes to critical resources — whether people, equipment, software — that have to be shared across projects. The Project Management Office ensures their availability and sees to it that resource specifications are met for each and every project.

It is of equal importance to ensure that the pool of resources is utilized at optimum capacity to prevent financial waste and maintain team engagement. Computer-based simulations and what-if analyses will make it possible for your project Management Office to plan ahead and make sure that the allocation and utilization of resources are optimized over time.

PMO Function #7: Collaboration-Conducive Work Environments

In addition to improving the distribution of resources across activities, the PMO will ensure the quality of the work environment and encourage interactions. It will disseminate common culture, language and mindset across the organization’s employees and departments in order to help harmonize work practices and facilitate collaboration. Shared KPIs and metrics, collaborative tools, common processes and best practices for intra- and inter-project collaboration will improve synchronization and productivity. Increased interactions between diverse teams also boosts creativity and versatility — as people get the chance to learn from one another — and tend to improve employee experience. The effort of the Project Management Office should help create a conducive work environment permeated by a culture of trust and constructive feedback.

The importance of communication around project activities is often underestimated. Yet, as companies typically run similar projects, teams can benefit from the experience of their counterparts from other areas of the business. A Project Management Office will go a long way towards heightening and improving communication within the business by leveraging a number of communication tools and channels: Project Management tools with communication and collaboration-oriented features, community forums, etc. The PMO may also be very useful in preventing miscommunications or conflicting messages between teams.

Last but not least the PMO can be instrumental in bridging the gap between strategic decision-makers and operations by relaying C-level decisions and orientations to project management teams.

PMO Function #8: Information and Training for Institutional Improvement

Project Management Offices also provide ongoing communications to teams and employees in order to inform them about industry best practices, emerging methodologies or management techniques. The PMO has a duty to stay abreast of project management-related innovation and new developments. By attending trade shows, professional conferences and events, it can be exposed to fresh ideas, or get inspired by the experience of other organizations. Then, it will pass on this knowledge and make sure it is assimilated and put into practice in the business.

Project Management Offices also provide training services to project managers and project teams in order to ensure that their skills are and stay up to date. To optimize the fitness of human resources, they can encourage key individuals to engage in specific Project Portfolio Management certification programs like the Project Management Institute’s. PMOs will organize workshops, conferences or other learning modules on a regular basis, and provide ongoing support and coaching to the teams. The mentoring and training effort should ideally go beyond project teams to include project owners and senior sponsors, who might not always be fully aware of the requirements of project management activity.

Generally speaking, a Project Management Office has a key role to play in institutional learning and memory. It will capture and disseminate the lessons learned from the past, archiving all the documentation around completed projects into a repository for future reference and analyzing it to extract actionable takeaways that can be used to make sure the firm doesn’t make the same recurring mistake over and over again.

The functions and missions outlined above can be described as the core activities of a majority of PMOs. However, every Project Management Office is different. The size, the shape, the line of activity of your business, your organizational culture and management style are a few of the factors that will combine to help define the place and role that your PMO should have in order to maximize its value for your enterprise.

 

Key Takeaways

  • A Project Management Office is a multi-purpose organizational entity which may assume a variety of roles and functions in an organization.
  • Among the most common PMO functions are: ensuring Monitoring and Control of Project Execution Performance; developing Project Management Methodologies; implementing Professional PPM Tools; coordinating Program and Portfolio Management; facilitating and improving Strategic Project Management; optimizing Resource Allocation and maximizing Resource Utilization; creating and maintaining Collaboration-Conducive Work Environments; and providing Information and Training for Institutional Improvement.
  • This list of core functions should not be considered as comprehensive. At the end of the day, your PMO’s functions should be tailored to your organization’s unique needs and capabilities.

 

To learn more about the role of a PMO, consider reading:

Camélia Docquin

Camélia is Sciforma’s Marketing Manager for Europe and enjoys learning different perspectives of the current business environment and project management challenges that enterprises and individuals face daily. Main interests include : innovation, digital transformation, and strategy execution.