What Is a PMO? (With Importance, Benefits, and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated June 16, 2022

Published January 3, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Most businesses are constantly looking for methods to become more efficient and effective. One strategy is to implement a project management office (PMO), which is an internal or external group that establishes standards for project management within an organization and works to ensure compliance with those standards. Understanding what a PMO is and why it's important is critical for businesses aiming to improve their efficiency.

In this article, we answer the question, “What is a PMO?”, discuss the benefits of having a PMO, review how to become a project management officer, explain how to organize a PMO, and offer tips to manage a PMO.

What is a PMO?

To answer the question, “What is a PMO?”, it's important to define project management and what it entails. Project management is often necessary for planning and organizing the many activities that a team may perform to complete a specific task. Project management involves applying specific processes to organize and control a project from inception to completion. It can also require effective communication with team members at all levels and with stakeholders who might not be part of the project's core team.

A PMO is an office that establishes standards for project management within an organization. The PMO helps ensure compliance with project management best practices and develops guidance to support organizational objectives tied to strategic goals. A PMO can be standalone, reporting directly to the highest level of executive leadership, or part of another area, such as human resources or information technology.

Related: How to Become a Project Manager (With Salary Expectations)

Benefits of a PMO

There are many benefits to having a PMO in an organization, including:

Improved efficiency and effectiveness

One of the primary benefits of having a PMO is that it can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of an organization by helping to standardize project management processes and practices. This can lead to improved communication, coordination, and collaboration among team members, which can help ensure the team completes projects on time and within budget. A PMO can also reduce waste and increase value by providing oversight of project management to align with organizational goals.

Related: How to Write a Project Manager Resume (With Template and Example)

Increased accountability for project success

A PMO can help increase an organization's accountability because it provides clear guidance on the definition of a successful outcome for any project. This increased accountability can also lead to an improved work environment and increased job satisfaction for team members. For example, a PMO can develop guidance for project managers about what it takes for a successful outcome. This can include measurements for project progress to determine whether the team is meeting milestones along the way.

Improved project visibility

A PMO can also improve the visibility of projects within an organization. By establishing and enforcing standard reporting formats, a PMO can help ensure that all stakeholders have access to the same information about each project, minimizing the risk of missed deadlines and other project delays. It can also provide a centralized location for project documentation and be an official archive of completed projects. This can reduce the administrative burden on project teams because it removes the responsibility for maintaining accurate project records for team members.

Reduced project failure rates

A PMO can also help reduce the number of project failures within an organization. The project management office may evaluate the team's plan thoroughly, ensure that they allocate resources effectively, and check that they're following best practices throughout the project. In addition, a PMO can provide guidance on how to respond to unexpected challenges, further increasing the team's chance of success.

How to become a project management officer

Becoming a project management officer is a multi-step process that includes taking on specific project management responsibilities, obtaining the right education, and earning professional certifications. Here's a list of steps you can follow to become one:

  1. Gain experience and education. One strategy to become a project management officer is to start as a project manager within the organization, then progress to larger projects and team leadership roles as your experience increases. It's also beneficial to get a degree in a relevant field or take a related course of study at a university to help distinguish yourself from other candidates.

  2. Earn certifications. Project management officers may require certain knowledge and skills to perform their jobs well. Earning project management certifications or other applicable credentials can show your expertise to potential employers and prove that you have the skills and experience needed to fill the role.

  3. Advance your career. It's common for a business to hire a project management officer who has the experience and can work on a contract basis, helping improve processes and procedures until the organization is ready to hire a project management as a member of staff. This position can allow you to gain experience at the same time that you advance your career.

How to structure a PMO

You can follow these steps to organize a PMO:

1. Establish the need

The first step in structuring a PMO is to ensure a business need. A PMO can provide many benefits, but it's important for the team to use it strategically to get the full benefit of the project management office's expertise. There may be specific problems with project management that the team might address before the business case for a PMO is fully justified.

2. Choose clear goals and objectives

Once you have proof that there's a business need for a PMO, it's important to establish clear goals and objectives for how teams can use it within an organization. These can include improving collaboration among team members and ensuring effective use of resources and time. You can establish formal goals and objectives, or you can list what you might like to accomplish with the PMO.

3. Create an organizational structure

After the team establishes its goals and objectives, they can create an organizational structure that allows a PMO to function properly within an organization. It's important to define clear roles and responsibilities for any employees involved in managing projects within the PMO. This can help to ensure that everyone understands their individual tasks and expectations so they can work together effectively.

4. Develop project management processes

One of the primary functions of a PMO is to develop and enforce standardized project management processes. This can include defining what's required to complete a project successfully, designing reporting formats, and establishing guidelines for how teams may interact with each other. By creating these processes, a PMO can help to ensure that the team completes projects efficiently and on time.

5. Train team members

A PMO can also provide training for team members who may use its processes. This can include teaching them how to use the tools required for the project, how to interpret the project management software, and how to follow the specific processes the PMO sets in place. You may also provide training on dealing with unexpected challenges that can arise during a project.

6. Measure performance

It's important to measure the performance of a PMO to check that it's meeting its goals and objectives. The team can accomplish this by reviewing project status reports, interviewing team members, and assessing how well the project management processes are working. By taking this proactive approach, a PMO can make any necessary adjustments to help ensure that it continues to be effective.

Related: 10 Common Leadership Styles

Tips to manage a PMO

Implementing a PMO is often just the first step toward project completion within an organization. To ensure that you're getting a sufficient return on investment, it's important to manage the PMO effectively throughout a project's duration. The following tips can help employers manage a PMO:

Ensure adequate staffing

To make sure that the PMO can manage complex projects, it's important to allocate enough staff members to the team. This may include assigning individuals with adequate skills and experience and ensuring that there are enough team members to fulfil all aspects of project management. To further improve your chances of success, you can also outsource certain activities to allow the team to focus on more critical project tasks.

Create and enforce project management policies

Once the team establishes its project management procedures, it's important to create and enforce related policies so that employees follow them. This can include creating guidelines for your colleagues, like establishing a chargeback structure for allocating costs of projects. It's also helpful to establish a policy for project managers to keep team members updated. Promoting these policies can help ensure that PMO staff are acting in the organization's interests.

Create a centralized repository for project management knowledge

As the team completes projects, it's important to document best practices and lessons learned in a central repository. This can help other project managers review key details quickly and ensure that the organization has access to this information for future projects. The more documentation an organization has available, the better prepared a team may be to complete new projects successfully.

Hold regular PMO meetings

Holding regular PMO meetings with every project manager in the organization can help to ensure the team carries out all projects according to its processes. This can also increase engagement among teams in the organization, as they may communicate with each other more often about project goals or other priorities. By holding these meetings, you can help ensure that teams are constantly aware of project statuses and that there are no surprises when it comes time to deliver the final product.

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