Project Management Office (PMO)

The Project Management Office (PMO) is an explicit department or unit of an organization, enterprise or business that defines and maintains standards of the project management.  This department governance the process and facilitates the sharing of resources, methodologies, tools and techniques.

PMO plays different role in different organization, based on the complexity and organizational needs.   The degree of control and influence that PMO has on different project depends on what type of PMO structure within the company.  There are variety of PMO structures in a company such as:

  • Supportive:  Such PMOs plays consultative role in the company,  they do not play major roles in the projects, however, they facilitate projects by providing templates, best practices, etc.
  • Controlling: In this type of PMO, they provide guidelines to the projects which they have to adhere to.  This PMO ensures that projects are complying to the methodologies and framework using specific template, forms and tools.
  • Directive: Such PMO takes control of all the projects.   They directly manage all the projects in the company.

Why do Organizations have PMOs?

The cost of executing project and programs are huge and it is increasing day by day.  Managing changes successfully is becoming critical factor of the success of the project.   However, many organization still struggles to achieve success with majority of the project and programs.   One of the reason behind this is, every project in the organization has been executed differently based on the knowledge, skills of the project manager.   There are no standardization and commonality amongst the projects, they do not follow standard practices and there is no governing body who dictates how project should have been executed.   Overall, it appears organization have PMOs for one or more below reasons

  • To reduce risk of delivering project within time, cost and quality deliverables
  • To standardize project management frameworks and adherence to the framework
  • To make more efficient use of project resources
  • To increase success rate of project/programs in achieving organizational objectives

Functions of PMO

PMO captures data from various projects and evaluates how strategic objectives are being met.   Depending on the type of a PMO within the organization, a PMO may act as a internal stakeholder and a key decision maker throughout the life cycle of the project.  In addition, the PMO may be involved in the selection, management and deployment of shared or dedicated project resources.

Major functions of a PMO which may include

  • Managing shared/dedicated resources across all projects
  • Identify, develop and implement project management standards and best practices, and ensures these standards and best practices are followed.
  • Developing and managing project policies, procedures, templates and other shared documentations
  • coordinating communication across projects
  • Reporting to governance group on project performance and resource utilization

So what difference do PMOs make?

Frankly speaking, there is no correlation between having a PMO and success of the project in terms of meeting time, cost and quality.  However,  having a PMO increases the adoption of standard project management practices and policies.  PMO contributes to success of the project with they involved in the project activities. In this way the PMO plays a role in project governance and influences demand side as well as supply side activities by enabling the organisation to learn from its experiences and develop its “recipe for success”, in project selection and delivery. In the less successful organizations the PMOs are rarely involved in the activities and so make a more limited contribution.


Portfolios, Programs and Project Management Interactions

Portfolio-Program-Project Management Interactions
Figure 1. Portfolio-Program-Project Management Interactions

When it comes to Project Management, it’s imperative that you cognizant about these terms. The relationship among Portfolio, Program and Project is such that, a Portfolio is a collection of sub portfolio, programs and projects.  Programs are part of portfolio, these comprise of sub programs, projects and other activities that are managed in coordinated fashion.   Individual projects or other activities are still called a part of entire portfolio.

Different activities takes place at different level

  • Portfolio
    • Strategies and Priorities
    • Progressive elaboration
    • Governance
    • Disposition on requested changes
    • Impact analysis of changes in other portfolios, programs or projects.
  • Subportfolio/Programs/Projects
    • Performance Report
    • Change requests and its impact on portfolio, programs or projects.

Figure 1 illustrates, Portfolio, Program and project management are aligned with or driven by organizational strategies.

To understand these disciplines better it is imperative to distinguish the similarity and differences amongst these disciplines. Portfolio, program and projects are intended to contribute towards achievement of strategic organizational goals.

Portfolio management align with organization strategy by selecting appropriate programs and/or projects, whereas, Program Management control interdependencies amongst the projects and other program related activities.   Project Management ensures that all objectives are achieved such that portfolio and programs objectives are met.

Organizational Project Management
Project Programs Portfolios
 Scope  Projects have defined objectives.  Scope is progressively elaborated throughout the project life cycle  Programs have a larger scope and provide more significant benefits.  Portfolios have an organizational scope that changes with the strategic objectives of the organization.
 Change  Project managers expect change and implement process to keep change managed and controlled.  Program managers expect change from both inside and outside the program and are prepared to manage it.  Portfolio managers continuously monitor changes in the border internal and external environment.
 Planning  Project managers progressively elaborate high level information into detailed plans throughout the project life cycle.  Program managers develop the overall program plan and create high level plans to guide detailed planning at the component level.  Portfolio managers create and maintain necessary processes and communication relative to the aggregate portfolio
 Management  Project managers manage the project team to meet the project objectives.  Program managers manage the program staff and the project managers; they provide vision and overall leadership.  Portfolio managers may manage or coordinate portfolio management staff or program and project staff that may have reporting responsibilities into the aggregate portfolio.
 Success  Success is measured by product and project quality, timeliness, budget compliance and degree of customer satisfaction.  Success is measured by the degree to which the program satisfies the needs and benefits for which it was undertaken.  Success is measured in the terms of the aggregate investment performance and benefit realization of the portfolio.
 Monitoring  Project managers monitor and control the work of producing the products, services or results that the project was undertaken to produce.  Program managers monitor the progress of program components to ensure the overall goals, schedules, budget, and benefits of the program will be met.  Portfolio managers monitor strategic changes and aggregate resource allocation, performance results and risk of the portfolio.

 Table 1 – Comparative overview of Project, Program and Portfolio management

Table 1 – shows the comparison of project, program and portfolio views across several dimensions within the organization

What is Project Management?

Project Management is a systematic approach to complete project activities to meet the project goal.  Understanding of what is a project is very important.  Please go through this link  to clear understanding of term “Project”.  One has to apply knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to ensure that all activities accomplished successfully.   According to Project Management Institute, Project Management is accomplished through appropriate application and integration of 47 logically grouped project management process, which are categorized into five process groups.  These five process groups are:

  • Initiating
  • Planning
  • Executing
  • Monitoring and Controlling
  • Closing

Project Management methodology can be applied to any type of project and is widely used in the software development process.

Typically project management includes, but it is not limited to:

  • Requirement gathering and analysis
  • Identify and management the expectation of various stakeholders throughout project execution.
  • Very importantly, having a right balance in project constraints, which includes but not limited to:
    • Scope,
    • Quality
    • Schedule
    • Risk
    • Cost and
    • Resource

Project constraints are very important part of any project.   A project manager has to maintain these constraints manageable throughout the project.   These factors are interdependent such that, if one factor changes, it would affect one or more factors.  For example,  if client asks for releasing a component before scheduled date then it would affect on Cost factor because manager has to add additional resource to complete remaining tasks.  It could also affect on Scope factor because completing all tasks might not be possible so client might have to reduce the scope of the release.

A good project manager needs to be able to assess the situation proactively and make the right balance in the project factors to ensure delivery of a successful project.

What is a Project?

PMBOK says

“A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.”

hhmmm… lets try to simplify this by breaking it down.

There two very important words in the above statement you should understand.

temporary – it means, to qualify to be called a project it must have defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined scope and resources.

Temporary does not mean the duration of a project is short.  It means that project would start at a specified date and it is going to end at a particular time in the future.   There are various ways project ends.  A project ends when project’s objectives have been achieved or it could happen that project has been terminated because end objectives will not or cannot be met.

One point to remember that Temporary does not applies to the product, services or result created by a project;  these are supposed to last longer.

unique – operation has to be unique in nature to termed it as a project.   A project has to be a set of non routine operation designed to accomplished a singular goal.  Outcome of the project may be tangible or intangible.   Even though activities or elements in the process are repetitive in nature, this repetition does not change the fundamental, unit characteristics of the project work.

so with this a simplified definition of a project is

“A unique set of activity(ies) which can be accomplished withing a specified time-frame.”

Example of projects include, but not limited to:

  • Developing a new product, service or result.
  • Improving, implementing any existing process, style or structure of an organization
  • Developing or acquiring software/hardware system
  • Any research activities
  • Any construction activities