Project Management Offices (PMOs) are growing ubiquitous in business spheres. Yet the tasks, roles, and responsibilities of this increasingly prevalent business function often go unrecognized or under-recognized. Once limited to administrative tasks and functions, PMOs today perform a very wide array of activities to support successful project delivery. Actually, the diversity of the roles and responsibilities that a PMO can hold within an organization is quite dazzling.

Here is a comprehensive list of the key tasks a PMO can perform. Whether you are considering setting up a Project Management Office or repurposing an existing one, this post should help you understand what to expect from a PMO.

A PMO Establishes Guidelines and Processes

Among the key responsibilities or tasks of a PMO is, first and foremost, that of establishing guidelines and processes for all project-related activities. Traditionally, and in most organizations, the Project Management Office will develop common sets of project management systems, practices, methodologies, procedures, standards, and policies designed to maximize the performance and impact of project activity.

Based on audits and evaluations of the company’s specific challenges and requirements, it will identify and implement best practices. Such a framework ensures that leaders and teams:

  • select and prioritize the right projects
  • stay within deadline and budget
  • use resources optimally
  • make insightful and timely decisions through reliable information

Your PMO can opt for one of the popular, commonly accepted project management methodologies (Waterfall, Agile, PRINCE2, etc.) or develop its own hybrid, tailor-made model.

This project management framework should be maintained and continuously improved over time to support the organization’s transformation, reflect changes in market forces, and include emerging industry best practices.

A PMO Defines Roles and Responsibilities

PMOs typically establish a governance framework for the projects. Your Project Management Office will identify various stakeholders involved in project activity (project managers, resource managers, project sponsors and owners, team members, financial controllers, etc.) and clearly define their respective responsibilities, duties, roles, and decision-making capacities.

The goal is to coordinate action and clearly determine:

  • who makes which decisions
  • who is responsible for what
  • how to communicate information across the various stakeholders and populations
  • how to report that information

The governance framework should place particular focus on risk assessment and conflict resolution.

A PMO Ensures a Healthy, Balanced Portfolio

Another key task of a Project Management Office is to make sure that the company’s project portfolios are healthy and optimally balanced. After defining a set of rules and conditions for including projects into a portfolio, together with company-specific selection and weighting criteria, the PMO will help select and prioritize projects and programs, incorporating them in the right portfolios. PMOs support those decisions with appropriate documentation for board review and approval purposes.

The resulting combination of projects should meet mission-critical business needs and maximize the return on investment for the company while ensuring strategic utilization of resources.

Project portfolio optimization is a dynamic process: as conditions evolve, portfolios need adjustment to stay relevant. The PMO will engage in ongoing tracking and review of portfolio health and performance, reporting progress and recommending changes (for example postponing or cancelling a project) when required.

A PMO Enforces Standards

The PMO tracks project-related work, overseeing the application of established procedures and practices, enforcing compliance with the standards when necessary. It monitors the effectiveness of delivery to ensure efficient and rapid execution on all projects and programs. By doing so, your PMO will identify performance gaps in teams or workflows and take corrective action. It will regularly perform assessments of project health, identifying potential issues early on, anticipating roadblocks and offering solutions. Some hands-on PMOs will also manage projects or programs directly.

A PMO Provides a Framework for Project Activity

A Project Management Office will offer ongoing support to project managers and other practitioners involved in project work, providing information, guidance, advice and help to ensure project success. It passes on its experience and knowledge, providing project populations across the company with a one-stop-shop for all project-related queries, questions and problems. The PMO’s administrative and operational support will cover all areas of PPM, from scheduling to quality management, from resource conflicts to risk management, from procurement and sourcing to investor relations. It delivers expert advice on technical matters or on Project Management fundamentals, standards and techniques.

As part of this support role, the PMO will also mentor and train Project Managers. It provides mentoring support and coaching to project teams to help develop their competencies, updating technical skills and enhancing leadership capabilities in order to increase the overall potential of the organization. It can also offer focused or across-the-board training programs to ensure that all team members have the right skills, or encourage targeted individuals to engage in PPM certification programs for project management professionals. This is particularly useful for organizations where non-project professionals run the projects.

A PMO Consolidates and Disseminates Organizational Knowledge

An integral part of most PMOs’ role is the creation of a comprehensive body of knowledge and resources to guide Project Portfolio Management activity. A Project Management Office facilitates organization-wide communication and the transfer of knowledge across different teams and departments. It centralizes information and makes resources widely available to all stakeholders: lessons learned from past projects, standard metrics and templates, tips and tricks, how-tos, educational material, and inspirational content such as case studies.

The PMO will publicize and promote this resource center to make sure that everyone concerned benefits from the sharing of organizational knowledge, and that the lessons learned from prior experiences are leveraged in order to avoid making the same mistakes twice. Another objective is to shorten the learning curve for project teams, and to re-use past achievements, getting more work off the ground.

Knowledge dissemination through collaborative teams

Your Project Management Office has a responsibility to ensure seamless collaboration and communication between project teams and team members. It will manage team dynamics — making sure that everyone stays on the same page, preventing or managing conflicts and differences. It will foster and cultivate a team-oriented mindset, helping team members grow aware of their respective strengths or potential weaknesses so that the right skills can be used at the right place, at the right time, and so that team members can help one another out. This will improve coordination, helping complete work faster and more efficiently, address issues more rapidly and more effectively, and enhance worker productivity and engagement.

Successful team building is of key importance with the rise and spread of remote working. Some businesses are remote by design and have been working remotely for a while. But many others were recently forced to switch to remote working overnight. Against this backdrop, a Project Management Office is a significant asset: it will help build and maintain virtual project teams, encouraging interactions and ensuring clear communication and collaboration across geographically-distributed workers.

A PMO Procures and Maintains the Right PPM Tools

It is now a critical PMO responsibility to ensure that appropriate tools and software are in place to support project management work. Industry-grade project management software and solutions are designed to make Project Portfolio Management activities much easier, automating a number of processes and tasks that used to be performed manually in order to speed up and improve delivery.

A good PMO information technology tool should offer a centralized system to break down data silos and enable real-time visibility across projects and portfolios. It should make it possible for the PMO to collect data at the source at the push of a button and perform advanced analysis. It should also provide capabilities to break down a project into various phases and activities and to manage all aspects (schedule, budget, resources, and so on) with great granularity. All in all, proper project management and PMO tools will improve organizational performance, help the enterprise respond faster to changing business environments.

In addition to selecting, procuring and implementing the appropriate toolset, the PMO will support adoption and use of the digital systems, managing the change and providing training to help users make the most of their new tools.

A PMO Optimizes Resource Efficiency

Planning and scheduling resources in the most efficient way is one of the most important tasks of a successful, value-driven PMO. The rules of the game are simple. On the one hand, the PMO needs to make sure that the right resources with the right skills are assigned to the right project or task, and at the right time. On the other hand, it needs to maximize the utilization of the organization’s resource pool, seeing to it that strategic and critical resources are not overburdened, and that everyone works at full capacity. This will minimize resource wastage and contribute towards greater productivity and reduced project resource costs, but also improved effectiveness and project quality. In a word, resource optimization is critical for a company to be successful.

To achieve resource efficiency, a Project Management Office will collect and consolidate up-to-date information about the skills, roles, and experience of employees and establish a single, shared resource base in order to provide all stakeholders with clear visibility over resource capacity, availability and competency. It will establish a real-time, responsive system for resource scheduling and management, including a clear process and workflow for resource demand, allocation and assignment. It is of great importance that the resource management system implemented by the PMO should allow for management of the key resources that must be shared across projects and teams.

When it comes to resource management, PMOs should take a proactive approach and perform forward capacity planning, tracking future resource demand across projects and portfolios in order to forecast resource excess or shortage and adjust accordingly ahead of time. This will optimize the workforce and help the organization cope with business or market uncertainties.

A PMO Prepares the Business for the Future

A future-oriented mindset is actually a key requirement for PMOs. In addition to resource demand and capacity projections, your Project Management Office will actively engage in a variety of forecasting activities. In an increasingly dynamic business environment, it is mission-critical for PMOs to leverage predictive analytics in order to get foresight into the possible futures of the organization’s projects and portfolios. As part of its tool environment, the PMO will implement and use technology capabilities to create multiple scenarios, helping predict the consequences of decisions and identify the best course of action.

A PMO Ensures Reliable Executive Reporting

Yet another core task of the PMO, the provision of project management reports to executive business leaders and decision-makers ensures that the top management is enabled to make timely and informed decisions. As it centralizes all project- and portfolio-related information, the Project Management Office is in charge of consolidating and formatting it for delivery to the right stakeholders. Reports may include data about the health and progress of various projects, with focus on milestones; detailed information about the projected and actual financials and resource utilization; alerts about project risks, issues or shifts; overviews and analyses at the portfolio level. To achieve consistent and clear reporting, most PMOs establish and maintain sets of KPIs and use standard report templates.

A PMO Helps Realize Organizational Strategy

Last but not least, a PMO is an invaluable and indispensable asset to make sure that project-related activities are aligned with the enterprise’s strategic goals. With a clear line of sight to the company’s directions, a Project Management Office can select and prioritize those projects that are most likely to help achieve tactical and strategic business objectives and create long-term business value.

This overview of the various tasks and responsibilities that may fall under the purview of a Project Management Office has demonstrated the business value and benefits of having a PMO.

The PMO identifies and implements industry best practices, helps manage and reduce costs, maximizes resource utilization, improves collaboration and productivity, disseminates valuable information, assists in strategic decision-making and aligns projects and portfolios with business goals… In other words, a PMO can actually be defined as a value center: while it may engage in all kinds of activities, they are all aimed at generating direct benefits for the business.

 

Key takeaways

  • A PMO is a multi-faceted function that may take on a great variety a tasks and responsibilities
  • The PMO’s action can make significant contributions to project success, cost and resource efficiency, work effectiveness and productivity, and the realization of the strategic objectives of the business.

 

To learn more about the role of a PMO, consider reading:

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Benoît Boitard

Benoît has multiple professional experiences, working in particular as a digital strategy consultant, both in emerging start-ups and in large companies. These diverse experiences have imbued him with a global vision of project management in traditional and agile working environments.