Published May 9, 2018  in Project Management

What is Project Management Office (PMO) [Top 10 Benefits]

What is project management office PMO header image

A project management office (PMO) is a group that provides project management to your organization. At the project level, a project management office provides a project manager to help ensure everything stays on schedule and in line with stakeholder goals.

On a more holistic, organizational level, a PMO owns and maintains standards and methods. They might work on optimizing efficiency, documenting processes and reporting project progress. This can help leaders make strategic decisions about which projects to continue to invest in.

If you’ve worked with a project manager (PM) on a project, you probably know the difference they can make. You’re better able to focus on your work while they’re keeping track of deadlines, next steps, and deliverables. In a survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers, 74% of organizations with a PMO set up for six years or more reported better performance and quality.

A PMO is kind of a no-brainer – they keep projects on track, you get better insight into performance, etc. – but that doesn’t make it any easier to take the initiative to start one. To help you assess whether a PMO is worth investing the time and energy in, we’ve put together a list of reasons of why it’s worth it.

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Why You Need a PMO – Top 10 Benefits

Every company is different, but the benefits of project management are universal. There are benefits to having someone who owns project management best practices for the organization. Even if it’s an office of one, a PMO can help…

Increase Consistency

By owning and maintaining best practices, the PMO helps ensure procedures are maintained. That way, teams don’t have to reinvent the wheel with each project. They have a standing approach to leverage, and if they’re at a loss for how to move forward they can refer to the PMO for guidance.

Hold Teams Accountable

Someone from the PMO can provide a needed outside perspective to keep teams on track. This is both in terms of project goals, timeline, and deliverables. They’re there to make sure the project stays on schedule. Depending on the type of PMO you have set up, they might also make strategic decisions to help a struggling project.

A PMO can also help maintain company strategy and culture in projects. They can hold teams’ work and behaviors to company standards. For instance, if company values state to communicate candidly about issues, they might mediate a discussion with the team.

Stay Nimble

When you want to seize a new opportunity or go in a different direction, you may need to change course on the fly. In that situation, it helps to know the status of different projects and identify which one should be put on hold. A PMO’s regular reporting on project progress can help inform strategic decisions.

Share Knowledge

Very often teams will learn something new as they work through a problem. A few hundred feet away, another team may be struggling with a similar challenge. With a PMO, you can centralize your teams’ learnings in one place. This makes it easier to share and distribute knowledge, as well as new tools, industry insights, techniques and process steps.

Analyze Performance Data

Leverage the PMO’s data on projects’ success to tap into enterprise-wide performance insights. You could track project types, teams, time of year, project length and more to start to identify performance trends. For instance, you might notice some teams are better with certain project types and decide to make them more specialized.

You can also identify areas where your organization might improve. If your average project time is high, you might investigate why and work with your PMO to streamline processes or bring in a new project management framework altogether.

Educate Others

You can tap the knowledge of your project management office to promote best practices in the organization. For instance, a member of your PMO could present on project management topics or write a simple project management newsletter with tips and reminders.

Stay Up to Date on Best Practices

Part of the PMO’s responsibility should be to stay up on PM best practices. They could attend conferences, read the latest industry publications and network with peers. They should then inform the organization’s PM standards with the latest and greatest from the project management community.

Tap an External Vendor’s Knowledge

Your PMO doesn’t have to be internal. You can work with an external company to handle the duties a project management office would. This affords even more of an outsider’s perspective, which can help counteract groupthink and blind spots. They’re also especially insulated from internal politics.

Break Down Silos

Projects often pull together people from different areas of the organization. They may have different priorities, managers, and working styles. A project manager’s job is to keep everyone communicating and mediate those different perspectives to keep everyone moving forward.

Every company is different, and the decision to start a PMO needs to be carefully considered. Assess your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to project management. Frankly evaluate whether you have issues with silos, hitting dates or remaining nimble. You could probably benefit from project management office. Or, if you’re about to make a significant change or kick off a big project, you should also consider getting a PMO up and running.

Setting Up a Project Management Office

Now that you’re more familiar with what a PMO does, it’s time to implement one. Your company may be hesitant to change, but the good news is you can start simple. A PMO should be tailored to fit your organization. There are different types of PMOs, including supportive, which provides suggestions and guidance, controlling for holding teams accountable to deadlines, and directive for actively managing projects. The type you choose should depend on your culture, goals, and how intensely you need a project management office to intervene.

Once you determine the best type for your team, keep in mind best practices as you build your PMO.  Gartner recommends seven best practices, including starting with the right people, identifying the PMO’s objectives and defining a framework to structure what success looks like.

If you need a refresher on why project management is important or what a project manager does, read our guide on “What is Project Management?”

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