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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 the wrong methodology to inexpert resource allocation. If the number of 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 to 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, and 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 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, and 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 potentially dangerous situations and allows it 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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