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Typical Project Management Office (PMO)

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Not so long ago I wrote about OGC plans to create the P3O standard, whose goal is to describe work conducted by project management offices. But what does the modern project management office look like? On behalf of PMI, Brain Hobbs from the University of Quebec did research on project management offices.

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500 project management offices in the U.S., Canada and Europe were examined. The most common thing was… their name, actually. 59% of them are named “Project Management Office,” another 13% contains the word “project” in their names, but my favorite “center of excellence” scored only 2%.

In most organizations, PMOs are very young, most of them are not older than 5 years, taking into account that PMO’s hayday was in the late 90’s, one can come to the conclusion that the current PMOs are not usually the first approach to this function.

What do PMOs look like? They employ only a few people (project leaders not included), there are typically 2-3 person employed. Most often it is also the only PMO in the organization, or it is independent from other PMOs (there is a lack of the parent PMO for the entire organization).


What typically PMOs have to deal with? PMOs functions are closely associated with the organization, but the author was able to report 27 separate functions, of which 21 can be placed in 5 groups:

  •  Monitoring and Controlling Project Performance
  • Development of the Project Management Competencies and Methodologies
  • Multi-Project Management,
  • Strategic Management,
  • Organizational Learning.

What is the biggest problem faced by PMOs? In almost half of the cases PMOs are questioned for that they are too expensive (cause of expert staff) and do not provide value for the organization. Interestingly, it happens practically irrespective of functions performed by PMOs. If PMOs have responsibility for project management, the perception of the value of PMOs is positively correlated with the number of managed or supervised projects.

What is the cause? It seems that the PMOs are very young bodies, research shows that many of them is terminated before the period, which is needed for full development (lack of patience in awaiting for results). Often they are attacked because they attempt to reorganize, streamline various areas within the organization, which is not always ‘profitable’ for other units (but of course it is profitable for the company as the whole), so the PMO must be set very high in the organization.


Taking PMOs structure, function, power, etc.. into consideration, it seems that there aren’t two identical ones, because they strongly depend on organizations in which they exist. So, can the idea of PMO standardization (OGC – P3O standrad) be successful?

More details can be found in the full version of the report: “The Multi-PMO Project: A Global Analysis of the Current State of Practice

Below you can find more links that are in the topic of the post.

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