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Project Management 101: What is a PMO?

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If you’re just getting into project management, you’ve probably come across the acronym, PMO a few times already and have no idea what it is. In your mind, it’s like the Illuminati of project management…Which is sort of true.



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There is this project management joke: “Any task, no matter how complex, can be estimated accurately, once it’s completed.” In order to avoid this scenario, a company introduces a PMO.


According to Oracle, up to 19% of the projects fail and up to 46% of them run with difficulties of all sorts, starting from choosing a wrong methodology to inexpert resource allocation . If the number of the projects is rapidly growing or is initially big enough, they can quickly go out of control without proper centralization. That’s when senior management of a company introduces a PMO as a way of “supporting” the project portfolio to ensure the organization is as safe from failure as possible.


What exactly is a PMO and what are its main responsibilities?


The important thing to understand about a PMO is that it basically controls the portfolios of all company projects. A PMO is a group of people (or a whole department) that is responsible for centralizing all the projects of a business/agency/enterprise and for collecting and coordinating all the related information helping to define the most effective strategy for the organization.

A PMO defines the best project management methods, policies and processes, and ensures the people involved are following these and know how to apply them.


What are the objectives of a PMO?


Simply put, the main objective of a PMO is organize the work of an organization in such a way that all the projects progress smoothly, on time and on budget  (internal projects) and the stakeholders are as satisfied as possible (external projects), ideally – with an increase in ROI.

However impossible it may sound, a PMO is actually capable of such things (mostly).

The PMO staff achieve this by:

  • Choosing the suitable project management methodology and finding the best ways to apply it in this particular organization
  • Making sure the projects are executed while adhering to the company/industry best practices and the general strategy of the company (also defining this strategy
  • Predicting and eliminating the issues that may occur (or at least being in control of them)
  • Gathering and clarifying the requirements of the stakeholders to all the parties involved, maintaining the contract liabilities, etc.
  • Coordinating the work of project and portfolio managers, providing them with the necessary tools, education and training, thus ensuring everyone’s activities are arranged in the most effective way
  • Measuring the success, organizing and analyzing the metrics, providing extensive and detailed progress reports
  • Improving the processes based on the knowledge acquired (simplification and standardization of processes that eliminates work overlap and repetition, etc.)


Is a PMO a cure-all solution?


Even the best methodology can fail if applied to the wrong project.  A good PMO should consist of the people who have the  expertise to multitask, and manage a lot at one time without losing their heads. This may cost you more in the short-term but the long term benefits are huge.

A well-established project management office guarantees clarity inside an organization managing a portfolio of projects. It gives a clear vision of how exactly the projects flow, what the profits and losses are, subsequently ensuring sustainability and achieving better results with fewer resources; it provides the company with an opportunity to influence the potentially dangerous situations and allows to plan the business according to the actual conditions, not the hypothesized ones – which, as you may have guessed, is the #1 reason for failure in project management.


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Does your organization have a PMO? Share some of your best practices with us by commenting!

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