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

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2.5 Designing a PMO

Organisations with a history of undertaking projects probably already have a PMO or an equivalent. This section initially takes the approach of designing a PMO, so we can think about what project managers and project teams want from the PMO. The PMO also has responsibilities to the organisation, which should not be dismissed.

The first question is whether a PMO is needed at all. A PMO is probably not needed if the organisation is small, deals mainly with smaller projects, and the departments in the organisation interface effectively with projects. In such a case it might increase the bureaucracy of projects without adding value.

Activity 2

You are an experienced project manager in a large and mature organisation. To encourage the sharing of good practice between the PMO and project managers, project managers work for a period of two to six months within the PMO at least once every three years. You are currently working within the PMO and have been invited to give a talk at the local university to project management students. The topic you have been invited to talk on is: ‘How to establish a PMO in an organisation’. What do you think you would say in your talk?


Does your organisation need a PMO? When considering the support needed for projects within an organisation the following questions need to be asked:

  • What is the size of the organisation − large, medium or small?
  • What type of organisation is it? Does it only do one thing or many different things?
  • What does the organisation do? In particular, what types of projects and of what scale?
  • How are projects supported now? Is this from the rest of the organisation or is support embedded in the projects themselves? Or perhaps support is bought in from elsewhere (i.e. some service provision).

If the organisation is considering setting up a PMO then firstly you need to look at what is ‘the big picture’ for this organisation and its interest in PMO?

  • Do you need a PMO?
  • Why do you need a PMO?
  • What sort of PMO do the project managers need?
  • What does the PMO need to do to provide support to the organisation?

All these different attributes, conditions and criteria will determine the need for a PMO and the shape that the PMO needs to take. If your organisation already has a PMO then similar questions can be asked to review whether the PMO provides the support needed and identify any changes which might be required.

Whether setting up an new PMO or reviewing an existing PMO it will be important to look at two key aspects:

  • Who does it need to employ within itself to provide the support that the organisation has identified is needed for its’ projects? What skills, expertise and experience do its people need and what is the extent of its remit?
  • How is,or does, the PMO going to interact with project managers and with the rest of the organisation?

This is a high level approach. The stakeholders would all need to be consulted and an approach agreed by all major stakeholders. Without this commitment the introduction of a PMO, or changes to an existing PMO, might be resisted and the opportunities to add value would be reduced.

Advantages and disadvantages of a PMO within an organisation

Advantages have been explained so far and there is the potential for many:

  • strong governance processes and support
  • routine and specialist support for the project manager
  • consistency of approach across an organisation, commonality of documentation
  • focus of reference to standards, methods, tools, etc.
  • development of skills and sharing of best practice.

Disadvantages might relate to:

  • the PMO will not necessarily have the support services available to deal with potential difficulties of projects that do not fit the organisational pattern and require new skills and processes
  • the specific needs of particular projects might be compromised by employing standard practices across an organisation, for example, it might be difficult to prioritise smaller projects.