Project One’s ultimate guide to PMO

04 June 2024 5 min. read
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A Programme Management Office is a key part of the delivery function of an organisation with responsibility for overseeing and governing projects, standardising delivery approaches and practices and ensuring that there is clarity on the status of each project in a portfolio. Experts from Project One explain how firms can get the most from the function.

Programme Management Office (PMO) encompasses a range of key responsibilities in a business. These include project governance, defining and implementing project management standards, policies and procedures; stakeholder management, ensuring that there is excellent communication and collaboration across the project, stakeholders and wider impacted community; and risk and issue management, helping to identify, analyse and mitigate risks associated with the project, and to devise risk management strategies and plans.

There are many other fronts PMO helps, including support for project and programme managers, quality assurance, resource management – and possibly most importantly, financial reporting and budgeting.

Elaborating on this, Project One’s experts note, “While the project manager needs to own the budget and the actuals against the plan, the PMO can assist in the budgeting processes ensuring consistency across the portfolio. Additionally, the PMO can control budget reporting and updates needed, ensuring that the communication around the budget is provided to the correct stakeholders at the right time.”

Different types of PMO

Project One offers a range of services for PMO functions, including providing management of delivery plans, milestones, risks, issues, dependencies, costs and changes.​ The firm regularly helps clients with staying in control of delivery, and optimising plans and resourcing. As such, the firm is well acquainted with the many different kinds of PMO – which differ in size and scale according to each company’s needs.

Outlining one example, the experts point to project or programme PMO. This type of PMO offers “tactical services to support delivery and execution on a project, including consistent reporting, risk and issue management, and an integrated delivery plan”. This means it focuses more heavily on one programme and is good to employ for small organisations or those engaged in a small amount of change – and offers “real oversight over the programme but has no interaction with other programmes or dependencies between them.”

“At the same time, there is also portfolio PMO,” they continue. “Sometimes known as a Centralised PMO, it is responsible for oversight of all or most of the projects within an organisation. This PMO provides key project metrics to enable management to make informed decisions about resource utilisation, optimisation, and conflicts. It has a high level of authority and visibility and aligns projects with the organisational strategy and goals.”

A third system is enterprise PMO (ePMO). A fully resourced ePMO can “deploy flexible and scalable PMO capability throughout a project or programme lifecycle”. This allows for “better management of time, cost and scope and coordination between different initiatives, as the number and complexity of initiatives increase”, because it can enable continuous improvement and cross-department collaboration to achieve strategic goals.

Four steps to a high performing PMO

With the stakes so high, and so much choice available, how do companies get the most from their PMO efforts? And how do they even know where to begin?

While each company’s PMO will be different and vary in terms of scope of service (typically based on their industry, company size, complexity of projects and level of delivery maturity), there are four common steps to achieving a high performing PMO, according to Project One’s professionals.

Vision and strategy

Quickly mobilise to understand your ambition for your PMO. How do the services that the PMO provides underpin the company’s vision and strategy; are there changes that need to be made? It is vital that all key stakeholders sign up to this vision and strategy.

Maturity assessment

An organisation may have a PMO or may be starting from scratch. For those with a Programme Management Office, you need to understand your current capability maturity, agree where you want it to be and work out with you the action plan to make it happen.

Design, build and implement

Once you understand the current maturity and the target state for your PMO you can then start to implement the changes needed. This is typically done in sprints to deliver value early rather than waiting until everything is ready to go. Agreeing key design principles and then incrementally building and implementing the PMO capability will see greater value delivered early.

Transition to business as usual

This is typically done concurrently with the third step, and ensures that the embedding of the PMO processes and methodology is done in a timely way. By becoming part of business as usual, it will be the approach that all the delivery team start to use naturally and will ensure capability across people, process, information and technology.

Moving forward

The experts note that the key to implementation and maturing of a PMO function is to be “very clear on the services that your PMO is going to provide”, and ensuring that it has full stakeholder buy-in. Vital to this is making sure that a firm hires the right person to work in a specialist PMO role. While some PMO experts have come through the project management route, many more have chosen PMO from the start of their careers.

To that end, Project One concludes, “Make sure that you have the right skilled people in place throughout your PMO, including a PMO Director, PMO Manager and PMO analysts. Finally, by having a senior executive as the sponsor or owner of the PMO, it will demonstrate the importance of the PMO to the organisation and give it further credibility.”