- A Project Management Office is a multi-purpose organizational entity which may assume a variety of roles and functions.
- 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 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.
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 Controlling Project Execution Performance
It should come as no surprise that the key functions of the Project Management Office include project monitoring and tracking. In fact, establishing a PMO is more often than not motivated by needing to improve the speed, quality, and reliability of project execution. For better execution results, a PMO will oversee the delivery cycle to ensure projects deliver within schedule, budget, and scope. The PMO’s oversight also ensures primary and secondary stakeholder satisfaction, and any other requirement tied to project performance.
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. By doing so, they make activity and work more dependable. Some hands-on PMOs will actively involve themselves in execution and delivery tracking, while others focus on providing support to PMs.
Additionally, a PMO 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. After all, it isn’t uncommon to see projects run by technical/operational staff with no specific PM training/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 PPM standards and practices to avoid execution and planning pitfalls. Even for professional project management teams, a PMO’s advice, insight, and support can support continuous learning and improvement. Lastly, PMOs can support project managers by executing advanced, specialized tasks for them or on their behalf.
PMO Function #2: Developing 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 issue guidelines governing project management throughout its life cycle — from initial business case creation to delivery management.
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 operationalized PPM processes, the PMO formalizes these sets of methods into a coherent Project Charter. This charter must be readily available to all stakeholders, and should evolve with 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. This serves the purpose of facilitating PPM 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 implementing these 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, the PMO also spearheads the skill development effort.
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, a company’s projects are always somewhat interdependent. With its cross-department view of project activity, the Project Management Office ensures the anticipation, understanding, and timely management of such dependencies. Unsurprisingly, by doing so, they support the success of individual projects and ensure overall optimization.
PMOs also are in a perfect position to improve the management of programs and portfolios. Unlike regular PMs, who typically have to stay focused on their operational delivery responsibilities, a PMO enjoys a bigger-picture view. In turn, they are 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 ensuring optimal utilization of all available funds. This takes into account a wealth of parameters, including risk, probability for success, strategic outcomes, market factors, and implementation-related considerations. The PMO will help by collecting, maintaining and analyzing relevant data across multiple areas of the business. Armed with this knowledge, experienced PMO leaders 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 PMO can 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, to strategize the selection of potential projects. It is able to analyze candidate projects to better identify the most strategically-aligned. Consequently, they build sound, strong business cases with compelling cost/benefit ratios, and then manage outputs and track benefits throughout the project execution cycle.
In order to facilitate and standardize project selection and prioritization, the Project Management Office will implement dedicated processes and governance systems. It will ensure the proper use of tools for gathering data and tracking 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 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. Consequently, they can provide the right resources for the right projects at the right time.
This is particularly useful when it comes to shared critical resources — whether people, equipment, software. The Project Management Office ensures their availability and that resource specifications are met for each and every project.
It is of equal importance to ensure the optimal utilization of your pool of resources. This is to prevent financial waste and maintain team engagement. Computer-based simulations and what-if analyses enable your PMO to plan ahead and ensure the optimal allocation of resources 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 to harmonize work practices and facilitate collaboration. This will in turn improve synchronization, productivity, creativity, and versatility, and overall improve employee experience. The effort of the PMO should help create a work environment permeated by a culture of trust and constructive feedback.
People often underestimate the importance of communication around project activities. 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 on 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, conferences, and events, it can be exposed to fresh ideas or get inspired by 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 PMs and teams to ensure their skills remain up to date. To optimize the fitness of human resources, they can encourage key individuals to engage in PPM certification programs like PMI. PMOs will organize regular workshops, conferences, or other learning modules, 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 past lessons learned by archiving all completed project documentation for analysis/actionable takeaways. By doing so, you can 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, shape, and line of activity of your business, as well as your organizational culture and management style, all help define the place and role of your PMO. And hopefully, in doing so, you’ll maximize its value for your enterprise.
To learn more about the role of a PMO, consider reading:
- How a PMO can boost the performance of Project Management?
- The Role of the PMO in Project Portfolio Management
- Should you set up a PMO?