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Project Management Office (PMO) – Frequently Asked Questions

Project Management Office (PMO) – Frequently Asked Questions

I started managing PMOs in the early 2000s and after writing two books on the topic and speaking around the world, and I often get asked a lot of the same questions about PMOs so I figured I would put them on my site to allow everyone to go to them. If you are interested in my latest book that covers building, running and shutting down a PMO check it out here. The book is called “The PMO Lifecycle: Building, Running and Shutting Down” and for sale now on Amazon.

PMO FAQ

Here are the top questions I get asked:

PMO FAQs

What is a project management office (PMO)?

A project management office is a centralized organization that controls the companies, portfolios, programs, and projects. Just because the title says “Project” that is often a misnomer and it can also include portfolio and program management as well. Project Management offices report to many areas of a company, sometimes in IT, sometimes outside of IT, which is one of the unique things about PMOs.

Is a project management office a luxury or a necessity?

That depends on how many programs and projects your company is running and how serious are you around running them? See, if you are running one or two minor projects a year, say a dental office, then yes, a PMO would be considered a luxury, but for larger companies that are running hundreds of projects a year, not it is not a luxury.

Is project management necessary?

See my answer above, I would say no, but remember I have spent 30 years in this business and I have seen projects ran without the discipline of project management and most times they do not turn out well.

Is project management going away?

No, that is a ridiculous question that comes up every year. It is not going away. Do we need project management when building bridges, homes, skyscrapers? No, stop, it is not going away.

How can project management offices support effective project management?

That is exactly what they do. PMOs support project management with the tools, processes, methodologies, and training. I large part of what PMOs do is support the methodologies used in the organizations, ranging from Agile, Waterfall, DevOps…etc.

Where can project management take you?

To the moon, no seriously, do you think that the space missions/NASA uses formal project management? Of course it does, and you can only imagine how structured and formal those project management processes would be to launch a rocket into space. Project Management can take you very far in your career.

What does the project management office do?

That’s a brilliant question and I am going to write much deeper articles on this topic and actually wrote a whole eBook on the topic. It is called “PMO Service Offerings – How do I select the right services for my PMO?” and sold on Amazon today and why I wrote it for this very question. See “what” PMOs depend on the business problems you are asking the PMO to solve and what Services you need the PMO to do. Check the book on Amazon today.

How to establish a project management office?

That’s a great question as well, but be clear “you” don’t establish a project management office yourself. You are not randomly walking around the office and think I should create a PMO. No, in most cases, your executives are experiencing significant pain points in their program or project execution and they need someone to come and create the rigor and structure around program/project execution.

What are the different project management offices models?

There are many PMO models—so many, in fact, that it’s difficult to determine which model is right for your organization. These models include:

Supportive PMO: The supportive PMO model provides support as on-demand expertise, templates, best practices, and access to information. This PMO model works in organizations where projects are loosely controlled—that is, management deems project rigor and enforcement unnecessary—and the emphasis is on supporting program and project managers.

Controlling PMO: In companies that seek to rein in activities, processes, procedures, and documentation, use a controlling PMO model. Besides providing support, this type of PMO requires that PMO employees adhere to the rigor and processes established by the PMO—for example, adopting specific methodologies, templates, or forms; conforming to governance; and following other PMO-related rules. In addition, they might be subject to regular reviews of their efforts, both in terms of project management and adherence to rigor and processes.

Directive PMO: The directive PMO model goes beyond the controlling PMO to actually take over programs and projects. That is, PMO employees manage these efforts. This injects a great deal of professionalism into the management of these programs and projects. Because each PMO employee originates from and reports to the directive PMO, it guarantees a high level of consistency across all efforts.

Managing PMO: The managing PMO model focuses on governing programs and projects and is heavy on training, standardized processes and procedures, and centralized reporting. This PMO model receives a lot of management support, which removes challenges and obstacles, improving PMO employee job satisfaction.

Consulting/supporting/coaching PMO: This PMO model focuses on mentoring and coaching PMO employees and their project teams. It defines many best practices, processes, and procedures for project teams. Indeed, PMOs that use this model often establish successful mentoring or coaching programs that last for years. Training programs for both program and project managers range from PM 101‒ to PM 301‒level courses. The PMO manager for this PMO model keeps abreast of where the project-management industry is heading and shares project-management best practices across multiple functional areas.

Project-repository PMO: The project-repository PMO model focuses on maintaining a large centralized repository of templates, methodologies, standards, procedures, tools, and best practices for use by PMO employees, including project teams. In this model, the PMO manager consistently looks for new materials for the repository; tests existing ones; refines them; and works with project teams to ensure they are effective.

Enterprise PMO: Unlike the preceding models, in which a single PMO serves an entire organization, the enterprise PMO model often comprises multiple PMOs for varying departments—say, a Finance PMO, a Marketing PMO, an ITO PMO, and so on—which report to a larger PMO, the enterprise PMO. Typically, each department-specific PMO has its own PMO manager, who usually (though not always) reports to the enterprise PMO manager.

Lean-Agile PMO: If you plan to build a pure Agile PMO, the Lean-Agile PMO model will be most applicable. Agile PMO is still a relatively new concept that has been gaining traction in recent years. Most Agile PMOs support the Agile process within an organization, and helping to ensure that agile practices are being followed. We see most Agile PMOs being responsible for training, mentoring, and coaching teams on how to use Agile effectively.

Other PMO models: besides the models I’ve already mentioned, there are center-of-excellence PMOs, managerial PMOs, and delivery PMOs. Research these models on your own to see if they’re a good fit.

How do I setup a PMO?

I believe after building and running ten PMOs in my career, there are twelve key steps including:

  • Start with a Plan
  • Obtain Executive Support
  • Create PMO Staples
  • Select 4 P’s of PMO (including Methodologies)
  • Select PMO Model
  • Create PMO Maturity Model (Categories and Measurement)
  • Obtain PMO Resources
  • Select PMO Training
  • Implement PMO Methodologies
  • Select PMO Reporting
  • Select PMO Tools and Processes
  • PMO Complete

Here is the full article I wrote on that topic: How to Build a Project Management Office(PMO) Checklist in 12 Steps!

Who manages project managers?

Most times, when there is a PMO, the managers that lead/manage project managers are called PMO Managers. If there are PMO Managers in a PMO, you are going to most likely have a PMO Director in place.

How do you run a project management office?

Is that really the question, or does it focus more on what do PMO Managers do every day? See, I get this question a lot and when I unpack the question with the person they are asking me specifically what do I do everyday in the role. So, I got with my top ten processes for running a PMO including:

  1. Define Color Definitions
  2. Setup CR Process
  3. Develop Program/Project Playbooks
  4. Define PMO Priority List
  5. Define PMO Weekly Checklist
  6. Setup Project Transition Plans
  7. Develop PMO Templates
  8. Execute PMO Reports
  9. Review and Select PMO Tools
  10. Continue to support Management and Value Discussions

I wrote a detailed article on this same topic called “How to Run a Successful Project Management Office (PMO)”. Check it out today.

Do you need a project management office in an Agile environment?

Yes, Yes, Yes. It is important to understand that Agile is a development environment and does not cover the end-to-end project lifecycle. For example, most times organizational change management, which is a major part of releasing a project to production and getting users to adopt, is outside the Agile development process.

Are there project management offices in construction?

Yes, there sure are, and one of the core components of running a construction project. You can imagine building a bridge over a course of several years, millions of dollars, safety and government issues that you would need a project management office to keep everything centralized and controlled. The construction industry has been using project management offices (PMOs) for many-many years.

What are the challenges of a project management office?

That is a great question because when you think of challenges of a PMO, my immediate focus is on what value is the PMO bringing and if it is not bringing that value then the biggest challenge you are going to have is to keep the PMO going and alive. I have written a series of PMO value questions that you can ask to determine if you are offering the value you think you are with your PMO. Those value questions include:

  • Does the PMO increase the chances of meeting company goals?
  • Are there clear links in the PMO to the company’s executive strategies?
  • How is the PMO’s performance measured?
  • Does measuring the PMO’s performance improve it?
  • How is the PMO perceived in the organization?
  • To what level in the organizational structure does the PMO manager report?
  • What level is the PMO in the organization?
  • Does the PMO affect the bottom line? If so, by how much?
  • Do executives see the benefits of the PMO?

That’s all I got for now, I could keep going, this was actually quite fun and although I know I never answered every question I answered a lot of the key ones that most people ask me.

What do you think?

If you like this article, you will love this one on “How to Build a People Based PMO”, or even my article on how to “Shutdown a PMO”. Check them both out today.

If you got down to this part of the article and you are serious about learning about PMOs, then I think you should seriously consider about my PMO Coaching Program. If you want to check out the details, check them out here. Bill Dow’s PMO and PM Coaching Program. 

Thanks!

Bill Dow, PMP

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