The Future of PMOs

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By popular definition, a PMO (Project Management Office) defines and maintains standards for Project Management within the organization. PMOs are most often established to standardize & introduce economies of repetition for project execution. Based on the PMI’s PMBOK 6 (Project Management Body of Knowledge), there are three types of PMOs established varying based on organizational need or perceived desired outcome of forming a PMO.

  1. Supportive – This PMO is more consultative, providing templates, best practices, training and access to Lessons Learned. This type of a PMO is a project repository. The degree of control provided by this type of PMO is low.
  2. Controlling – This PMO provides support but also requires compliance.  This type of PMO will impose frameworks, methodologies, templates and have a full mechanism to audit if these standards are adhered to. The degree of control provided by this type of PMO is moderate.
  3. Directive – This PMO has full control through directly managing the projects. The degree of control provided by this type of PMO is high.

What does a PMO do?

What PMOs do is very broadly defined. There is no consensus or standardization. PMOs tend to emerge in response to different crisis’ to be solved or addressed. It is not uncommon to see varying degrees or forms of PMOs within a single organization. Typically, PMOs are established as intercession with an underlying desired outcome. However, there is a lack of clarity & detail as to the level of authority and power the PMO will have. Fully defined outcomes associated with the creation of a PMO are also not well defined. The average life of a PMO is about two years, which poses the question as to what is the perceived value of a PMO and how effective could a PMO possibly be?

Perceptions of a PMO

Currently there are a lot of negative perceptions of the value of the PMO. Here are some very common perceptions:

  • “Slow ramp-up” – It takes too long for the PMO to show value.
  • Inability to drive significant meaningful change
  • Inability to sustain significant meaningful change
  • Issues of Identity – issues relating to the fundamental lack of a clear purpose of a PMO

These perceptions are a result of the lack of clarity and agreement on PMO responsibilities, the types of projects to be managed by PMOs, too large an emphasis on standards, the lack of properly positioning a PMO, level of authority given, and not doing a thorough job of defining the expected outcomes of forming a PMO. PMOs are usually implemented as a reaction to solving some organizational issue and normally is implemented very formally. This gives the community the perception that project management is about “Forms & Templates.” Acceptance of the role of the PMO is challenged, resulting in weak buy-in. Resources engaged with the PMO need to see themselves as becoming more successful because of implemented standards and practices.

  • Statistical data shows:
    • Only 24% of Senior Management perceive a PMO as delivering significant contribution to the organization.
    • Only 26% of Project Managers perceive a PMO as delivering significant contribution to the organization.
    • PMOs are perceived to only contribute to the success of a project at a rate of 32%.

What is trending with PMOs today?

Organizations are focusing on consistency and repeatability; individuals tend to focus on distinctive skills and abilities. Individuals tend to resist processes that appear formal and cumbersome. The current emphasis of a PMO is greater on the process used vs. the results delivered by the project. The role of the PMO needs to shift to be more based upon delivery and project results and less upon enforcing practices and procedures. There is a need to shift PMOs and Project Managers from requiring process adherence and tool adoption to facilitators of adaption of processes/practices and supporting “what works.” The role instead needs to focus upon the value added as a result of the implemented project. Did we achieve what we set out to accomplish? Did we exceed our desired goals/plans? Did the organization realize the benefits proposed? Will ROI be attained?

There are two trends that I have seen consistently regarding PMOs:

  1. Strategic PMOs (SPMO) –  A Strategic PMO reports directly to Senior Management (usually C level) and manages the enterprise-wide strategic portfolio for the entire organization. More and more activities that require management (from SW implementations to a marketing campaign, to planning a departmental event) are being performed utilizing Project Management oversight and Project Management is used in almost all corporate sectors. Interdependencies amongst projects and departments are on the rise, and resources are scarce. All project data converge and are analyzed within the PMO. This suggests that a PMO has a say in strategic decisions, as the central hub of the enterprise.
  2. PMO as a Service – Project Management services can include planning, execution, and control of a single project or a set of projects. It is a growing business for consulting companies and project management IT providers (those that provide platforms, templates, and methodology for managing projects). Outsourced project management is propelling PMO as a Service since projects are defined as “temporary endeavors to produce unique results.” Why not use experts to assist with major organizational changes and strategic activities?

Tell us about your project management challenges. Have questions? Sikich is here to help. 

This publication contains general information only and Sikich is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or any other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should you use it as a basis for any decision, action or omission that may affect you or your business. Before making any decision, taking any action or omitting an action that may affect you or your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. In addition, this publication may contain certain content generated by an artificial intelligence (AI) language model. You acknowledge that Sikich shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by you or any person who relies on this publication.


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