What does a PMO do?
Project, programme, and portfolio management offices (PMO) are found in organisations that manage a lot of change. These changes, whether they are to the business infrastructure, products, services, or customer satisfaction, are often managed through projects, programmes, or portfolios.
PMOs support the business in ensuring that these changes are delivered successfully. They do this in a variety of ways, including:
- Providing guidance and best practices: PMOs can provide guidance on project management best practices, such as the use of project management tools and techniques. They can also help to develop and implement project management processes and procedures.
- Supporting portfolio management: this includes prioritisation of projects, tracking the progress, identifying risks, resource capacity and ensuring that projects are aligned with the organisation's strategic goals.
- Providing training and education: PMOs can provide training and education on project management topics to project managers, team members, and other stakeholders. This helps to ensure that everyone involved in a project has the knowledge and skills they need to be successful.
The variety of support that a PMO offers depends on two things:
- The amount, size, and complexity of changes that are happening within the business: PMOs that support organisations with a lot of change will need to offer a wider range of services than PMOs that support organisations with less change.
- The maturity level of the organisation in terms of project management: Organisations that have a mature project management culture will need different types of support from a PMO than organisations that are just starting to adopt project management practices.
Due to the fact that there are many different types of PMOs that also means there are many different types of roles found within PMOs.
In this article we will focus on what some of those roles are and what types of tasks and activities are performed. We will look at the PMO roles that are aligned to project, programme and portfolio management offices.
PMO roles that support projects
Typical roles found within a project management office include Project Administrators, Project Co-ordinators, Project (PMO) Analysts and a Project Office Manager.
There are two different types of PMOs which support projects. The first is a PMO which has been set up to provide support for one large project. The second, a PMO which has been set up to support multiple projects across the organisation.
What you will see in many organisations is that the PMO which supports the single large project will only be a temporary PMO, it will close down when the project ends. The other type of PMO which is supporting multiple projects is a permanent PMO. It is always there when new projects start and others end.
Supporting a large project
1. Project Office Manager
In the first instance, a Project Office Manager will be responsible for setting up the PMO, that usually includes:
- Putting in place the required governance structure
- Understanding what project management methods will be used and providing supporting processes, tools, templates etc
- Agreeing which services are required from the PMO throughout the project.
- Planning, implementing and providing oversight of the services
- Managing and directing the PMO team
The more complex the project, the more experienced the Project Office Manager needs to be.
Let’s take a look at some of the roles within this project management office.
2. Project Administrator
This tends to be the entry-level role into the PMO and they are responsible for the administrative support for the project. Their tasks will include things like keeping the registers and logs up to date; organising the project meetings; formatting reports and documents; providing support for the team members and so on.
3. Project (PMO) Analyst
A more experienced role within the project management office, the PMO Analyst is responsible for delivering the PMO services for example, maintaining the schedules and plans, financial monitoring, decision-support, benefits tracking, resource management and maintaining the risk, issue and change registers. They are also focused on providing analysis and insights through reporting and use their experience to help educate and train team members.
4. Supporting projects across an organisation
Project management offices that support all projects across an organisation are typically found in organisations with a lower level of project management maturity. These organisations may be struggling to keep track of their many projects, understand their status, and make timely decisions.
In this instance, the PMO's focus is twofold:
- Helping to increase the organisation's project management maturity: This includes developing and implementing project management processes and procedures, training project managers and teams, and providing guidance and support.
- Providing oversight on all projects: This helps senior management to understand what is happening across the organisation and make decisions when needed.
The roles within this PMO will still consist of a Project Office Manager, PMO Analyst and Project Administrator.
These roles are responsible for providing services and support to multiple projects, as well as building a permanent office that will help to build up the organisation's capabilities in delivering projects and increase its maturity levels.
PMO roles that support programmes
Typical roles found within a programme management office include Programme Office Administrators, Analysts and Manager. In these types of PMOs you can also expect to see some specialist roles – such as programme planners, benefits managers, resource planners, risk managers and project data analysts.
Programmes tend to be large, complex and complicated. Consisting of multiple interrelated projects with many people working with each, it needs tighter control, frequent communication and oversight on all the dependent parts.
Let’s look at how the role changes for our Programme Office Manager, Analysts and Administrators.
1. Programme Office Manager
Programmes tend to be temporary endeavours so the Programme Office Manager is focused on setting up the structure, frameworks, methods, processes, tools and templates for the duration of the programme (some can last many years!)
Aside from the difference in levels of size and complexity from operating a project management office, the Programme Office Manager also has to put services in place that capture dependencies between each project operating in the programme. With more plans and more people involved, the services offered by the PMO have to be scalable as the programme moves through the lifecycle.
2. Programme (PMO) Analyst
The PMO Analyst role, much like the one supporting projects, is focused on delivering the services which are in place – such as planning, risk, change, benefits, schedules etc. With so many interdependencies between all the projects in the programme it becomes a real challenge to keep communication channels open, tracking what’s happening at all levels and making sure the reporting is accurate and timely.
3. PMO Administrator
The role remains similar to the one in a project management office. The Administrator role can also be working to support the PMO Analyst in their tasks or alternatively they can be providing support to any one of the more specialised roles within the PMO such as the benefits manager, risk manager or resource planner.
PMO roles that support the portfolio
The Portfolio Management Office is a permanent structure within an organisation. Portfolio offices have become more popular in recent years which is a reflection on the increased amount of change that organisations are managing today.
The portfolio is the sum of all the change activities happening in the business – that will include all the projects and programmes, it will also include smaller initiatives (less formal projects) found in different departments.
The PMO roles in a portfolio management office will vary due to the size and complexity of the portfolio. Consider that a portfolio could include hundreds of projects with budgets in the billions and you can start to appreciate just how many PMO staff may be required with particular expertise in finance, risk, planning, strategy and so on.
1. Portfolio Office Manager
This tends to be a senior management role, someone in this position will have both project management and senior business management experience. They’re operating towards the highest levels in the organisation. Their role focuses on deciding which projects and programmes will get delivered based on the organisation’s capability and capacity to deliver.
Their role will also include deciding how these programmes and projects will be delivered – with responsibilities for ensuring the organisation has the right people with the right skills and experience to deliver. It is a role which combines a deep technical understanding of project, programme and portfolios as well as people and leadership management.
2. (PMO) Analyst
With this role, the focus is on providing the right services, processes, procedures, standards, tools and techniques to support the Portfolio Office Manager in their remit. The individual tasks and activities will largely depend on how the portfolio is structured and what key reporting and decision-making is required. Needless to say, it is a role that combines excellent analysis skills with stakeholder engagement and communication.
3. Portfolio Administrator
With any portfolio it is a busy and demanding environment with many people requiring support or access to information. The Portfolio Administrator will be both supporting their own team members as well as interfacing with the many stakeholders across the organisation. You can expect lots of meetings, action-tracking, documentation, requests for information and generally being the ‘go-to’ person for the team.
PMO roles are varied and can be found in different types of PMOs. The roles and responsibilities of PMOs can also vary depending on the size and complexity of the organisation, as well as the type of PMO.
In this article, we looked at the roles that are typically found within PMOs that support projects, programmes, and portfolios. We also looked at the different types of PMOs and how they can be used to support organisations.
If you are interested in a career in PMO, it is important to understand the different types of PMOs and the roles that are typically found within them. You should seek to develop your skills in PMO, project management, as well as communication and stakeholder management.
At the House of PMO, the professional membership body for people working in PMOs today, there are four qualifications which are focused on the roles commonly found in PMO:
- Essentials for PMO Administrators
- Essentials for PMO Analysts
- Essentials for PMO Managers
- Essentials for PMO Directors
Learn more by visiting the House of PMO website.