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Project governance and Project Management Office (PMO)
Project governance and Project Management Office (PMO)

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2.1 To have a PMO or not

To have a PMO or not depends on the size and type of the projects, the available resource pool within the organisation and the skills of those resources. Routine administration is required on all projects, programmes and portfolios. On small projects this may be performed by the project manager, possibly supported by a deputy project manager, but on medium to large projects and all programmes and portfolios, a project manager (and the programme and portfolio manager) needs support in handling day-to-day administration. There may also be a need for specialist knowledge, for example, in risk, quality or finance. These skills may be beyond the skills of the project manager, especially early in their career, and may therefore need to be resourced from elsewhere, either inside or outside of the organisation.

Additional support for the project manager may be available from the operational functions of an organisation, for example in finance or procurement. Alternatively, a support office may be set up for the specific project and then disbanded when that project is completed. A permanent PMO is likely to be established when a role is recognised that exists beyond the lifetime of an individual project. An example of this would be where there are organisational requirements for standard documentation. This may be time consuming for a project manager, who might need to familiarise themselves with each type of documentation as the project progresses, whereas a PMO that handles the documentation for several or many projects would build experience in completing the documentation.

There is also a need for a PMO where there are programmes and portfolios of projects (so that the support for a project is provided by the programme or portfolio office) or where there is a group of independent projects that can benefit from sharing the expertise and resources of a PMO. This is common in large government contracts, such as the armed forces, or the larger government departments, such as the Department of Environment. The construction and utility supply (electricity, oil and gas) industries are two other examples of the type of project that requires dedicated support facilities with specialist skills, experience, expertise, tools and techniques to help in their management. Experience in a PMO can be accumulated in many aspects of project work within the organisation so the PMO may develop over time to become a Centre of Excellence.

A permanent PMO has a place within the development of project management skills for the organisation, not just for individual projects. As well as supporting organisational and project governance it may also act as the knowledge broker for learning from projects and coordinate training and staff development for projects.

Without a PMO, the project manager will need to ensure that the necessary support services are in place for the particular project. The project manager may take on these activities themselves or make sure team members are available. For a small standalone project, there may not be sufficient resource for a specific support function. The APM recommends that in this case the project manager should seek as much support as possible with the project administration, and that the project sponsor should support the project manager in this (APM, 2012a).

When a PMO or other support function is decided upon, its purpose, roles and responsibilities need to be clearly defined and be communicated effectively to the support function and the project, or projects, they are supporting. The scope needs to be clearly understood by all so that the relationship between the support function and the projects has the opportunity to be mutually beneficial. PMO relationships with the project manager, the project and the organisation are discussed later.