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What is a PMO?

What is a PMO?

5 minutes

September 30, 2021

When leaders are ready to up their structure and increase delivery quality of complex initiatives, the Program Management Office (PMO) is ready to answer the call.

Enterprise leaders know when they need a program management office (PMO). It starts with a feeling of unease, a sense of disorganization with multiple dependent projects competing for shared resources. Risks of delays and quality concerns haunt their dreams. Every day may feel as if the wheels on the project management bus may fly off at any moment, sending their goals and aspirations careening into a river.

These are all signs it’s time to consider creating a PMO, where the primary purpose is to provide a top layer of governance to orchestrate multiple projects or an expansive portfolio of delivery objectives.

What is a PMO?

A Project Management Office, or PMO, is a formal entity in charge of managing a portfolio of projects in an organization. It’s typically made up of senior program managers, experienced project managers and support staff.

PMOs can hold responsibility for planning projects that they in turn deliver, or they can serve a less hands-on role by standardizing the methodology of project delivery and reporting Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the organization. The objective of a PMO is to increase the success of large-scale programs. They are typically used in larger enterprise organizations, and almost always used when business or technology transformation initiatives are underway.  The PMO’s role does not include managing the details of a specific project’s delivery plan. That is the role of a project manager. The PMO sits “on top of” multiple projects, with individual project managers reporting status, delivery milestones, risks and issues to the PMO on a regular basis.

What Roles Does the PMO Play?

The Project Management Institute ( defines the primary role of the PMO as setting and monitoring project KPIs. But the work of a PMO includes:

  • Creating and deploying project management standards and methodologies
  • Tracking project progress
  • Training and supporting project managers
  • Managing resource - employees and capital - allocation across a portfolio of projects
  • Helping resolve escalated issues and risks from individual projects

What About Project KPIs?

Key Performance Indicators are measurable items the track the progress of projects, allowing leadership and stakeholders to readily monitor delivery. Examples include:

  • Milestone Completion Rate (or % Complete)
  • Planned vs. Actual Budget (work hours or $ budget)
  • On-time Completion Rate
  • Number of Errors (to measure quality)
  • Issue Resolution Rate

If you want to get a PMO leader excited, just start talking about methodologies. They may be the only people in the world who love hearing that word. Deploying a process, set of standards, and instilling structure make them behave like kids in a candy store. Their real objective is to provide delivery structure for projects to make it easy to get work done while also promoting collaboration. They understand that communication is like oil in their project delivery machine. 

Leading Companies Use PMOs

Top organizations invest in how work gets done and use PMOs to increase their delivery capabilities. In fact, PMOs often live at the center of the company with everyday visibility by key senior leaders to focus on performance. 

PMOs may use different management approaches, including: 

  • Supportive PMO: focuses on standardization, high-level guidance, and facilitation
  • Controlling PMO: provides project management guidance and ensures standards are implemented
  • Directive PMO: actively trains project managers who are then assigned to different projects throughout the company

Regardless of the management approach, it’s critical to staff PMOs with experienced or qualified program managers and supporting team members.

Leading PMOs Use Leading Tools

PMOs need sophisticated software to implement standards, gain visibility and proactively manage risks. Historically, multiple software tools have been needed to support the entire breadth of the PMOs scope, and also the project teams they govern. This piecemeal approach creates friction and important information can get missed.

SmartSuite was designed from the ground up to relieve organizations of this system friction. Our work management platform is designed to support PMOs and the programs or projects they manage - all in one flexible system. PMOs can customize SmartSuite to support any standard they choose while enjoying the real-time collaboration tools built into the fabric of the platform.

Make Project Management more effective today. Click here to learn more!

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