The Role of the Project Management Office (PMO)

According to a study conducted by Dr. Brain Hobbs, at the University of Quebec at Montreal, Canada, 58% of project management offices (PMOs) are valued by their organizations, while the other 42% are questioned.  Obviously, there are contradictory opinions regarding the relevance and legitimacy of the PMO in organizations. The roles and responsibilities of a PMO may vary depending upon the policy of an organization. Organizations usually follow one of the two popular PMO models, with one stressing on the supportive and the other on the supervisory role of a PMO. While both models have their own strengths and drawbacks, a balance between the two is often recommended as the best policy for organizations. In this article, we will take a look at some general roles and responsibilities of the project management office.

Responsibilities of Project Management Office

There are times when it becomes nearly impossible for the management team, chief information officer (CIO) or General Manager to manage entire project portfolios single handedly. Thus, many acclaimed organizations incorporate a project management office (PMO) to manage the organization’s project portfolio more effectively. Typically under the supervision of the CIO however in more mature organisations reporting directly to the CEO. The following are the major responsibilities of a PMO:

  1. Evaluation of new projects – It is important for organizations to prioritize new and upcoming projects on the basis of the organization’s strategic goals. The PMO plays a major role in this project evaluation process. Before releasing funds for a project, the PMO often assesses a project’s technical architecture, budget, benefits to the organization, as well as risks associated with it.
  2. Cost reduction and maintaining project standards – Another major role of the project management office is to develop and integrate a standard process for project management. They often generate useful tools for this. By setting a standard for project management, the PMO makes it easy to for project managers to develop and maintain quality of production consistently. Moreover, through centralization of service, the PMO also helps to reduce implementation costs of projects.
    It is important that the PMO implement project governance and methodology that is fit for purpose. That has an appropriate level of flexibility so that smaller or less complex projects are not burdened with documentation that adds no value.
  3. Train project professionals – New projects may come with new challenges. Although project professionals are generally qualified and experienced professionals, they may need to improve their skills or learn new things in order to handle a complicated project successfully. The role of the PMO is to make sure that the project professionals can get proper training in their field of expertise before handling new projects. This helps to improve the overall quality of the project as well as enhance the skills of team.
  4. Assessing ongoing projects – The project management office is also responsible for reviewing ongoing projects. The purpose of the evaluation is to maintain the quality standards in existing projects. Sometimes, project managers may fail to track potential risks, or may be unable to recognize the level of dependency for a certain project. The PMO can take on a major role in resolving this. It keeps in touch with the status of existing projects, and communicates with the leadership team of the company whenever required.
  5. Benefits tracking – No project should be undertaken in an organisation that does not provide a benefit for the business. A project that is just ‘someone’s good idea’ is not money well spent.  The project must ultimately deliver business outcomes such as increased revenue, reduction in operating costs, increased brand awareness and the list goes on.  The PMO is responsible for ensuring that the project and the impacted business realize the benefits they set out to achieve through investing in the project.

Unlike a project manager, the PMO can view the bigger picture of the organization. It is often well-informed about the specific problems of each and every project. In a situation where a project manager faces problems with allocation of tasks, the PMO can help because it is aware of who the right person would be for the task.

Although a PMO is often viewed as purely a governing body for projects, they should also be seen as a helping hand and often a lifeline.


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