30 June 2022

What is a PMO?

You are here:
What is a PMO?

I often get asked what PMO stands for (especially by baffled members of my family!).

Well the ‘P’ can stand for project, programme or portfolio, the ‘M’ stands for management, and the ‘O’ stands for office – or officeR – because let’s face it how can a person like me be an office?

…so PMO means project, programme or portfolio management office or officeR

Still none the wiser?

OK, let’s dig a bit deeper…

When organisations need to significantly change the way that they do their day-to-day business operations, they typically run something called a project, using an approach called project management.

A programme is a set of projects that are all coordinated to  deliver a single large outcome, and a portfolio most often is all of the projects that are being run by an organisation or entity.

Most project management approaches try to increase the predictability of change by reducing the number of surprises.

On projects and programmes this means planning out what’s going to happen (or scheduling), whilst keeping a lookout for things that could affect the project’s output (or risk and issue management), and making sure that the project or programme spends roughly the amount of money that it was supposed to (or cost management).

For portfolios it means keeping track of:

  • when projects are scheduled to start and finish;  
  • who will be affected by the outcomes;  
  • whether there are enough resources in place to support all the projects that are supposed to be delivering at the same time; and
  • how they’re all doing, both in terms of what they’re spending and what they’re delivering.

A project or programme PMO is especially useful when the person leading a change is well versed in the organisation’s day-to-day operations but not necessarily in delivering change.

In this scenario, a project or programme PMO supports the project or program manager by applying project or programme management tools and techniques. 

A portfolio PMO is especially useful in making sure that the executives responsible for organisational change are well informed so they can make good decisions, and that the projects are abiding by any organisational rules that have been set up to make sure the organisation’s money gets spent wisely.

So a portfolio PMO supports the organisation by:

  • Providing executives with an overview of how the organisation is currently changing and how that’s affecting the organisation;
  • Helping executives to balance change activity with business as usual, and making sure there are enough resources in place to do both;
  • Prioritising the projects in a portfolio so that they fit inside an organisational change budget;
  • Helping to make sure the projects that get implemented are the ones that are most aligned with organisational strategy  (that’s how the organisation’s going to get to where it wants to be).

So in a nutshell

A PMO is one or more service oriented people (like The PMO Professionals!) who help organisations to change, BETTER.

Sometimes by supporting the delivery of change projects and programmes, and sometimes by supporting executives to create and maintain balanced project portfolios to deliver organisational strategy.

And in a slightly smaller nutshell, a PMO makes sure that an organisation is doing the right projects, at the right time, in the right way.

Does that help?