Project management office

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A project management office, abbreviated to PMO, is a group or department within a business, agency or enterprise that defines and maintains standards for project management within the organization. The PMO strives to standardize and introduce economies of repetition in the execution of projects. The PMO is the source of documentation, guidance and metrics on the practice of project management and execution.

Darling & Whitty (2016) identify the definition of the PMO's function has evolved over time:

  • The 1800's project office was a type of national governance of the agricultural industry
  • 1939 appears as the earliest instance of the term 'project management office' being published
  • The 1950's concept of the PMO is representative of what a contemporary PMO looks like
  • Today the PMO is a dynamic entity used to solve specific issues[1]

Often PMOs base project management principles on industry-standard methodologies such as PRINCE2 or guidelines such as PMBOK.


According to the Standish CHAOS Report (2009),[2] 68% of software projects do not meet time/cost/scope targets. Only 32% of projects were completed on time, within budget and delivered measurable business and stakeholder benefits.

There are many reasons for such failures. As per a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey [3] of 1,524 organizations, inadequate project estimating and planning constitutes 30% of project failures, lack of executive sponsorship constitutes 16% and poorly defined goals and objectives constitutes 12%. It also found that using established project management approaches increased success as measured by a project's key performance indicators of quality, scope, schedule, budgets and benefits. The survey indicates that operating an established PMO is one of the top three reasons that drives successful project delivery.[3]

Darling & Whitty (2016) found there is complexity of interconnections in PMO intellectual capital and though often the rationale for PMO establishment is to enhance stakeholder satisfaction with projects often the establishment of the PMO leads to significant dissatisfaction by senior management. [1]


PMOs may take other functions beyond standards and methodology, and participate in Strategic project management either as facilitator or actively as owner of the Portfolio Management process. Tasks[4] may include monitoring and reporting on active projects and portfolios (following up project until completion), and reporting progress to top management for strategic decisions on what projects to continue or cancel.

The degree of control and influence that PMOs have on projects depend on the type of PMO structure within the enterprise; it can be:

  • Supportive, with a consultative role
  • Controlling, by requiring compliance for example
  • Directive, by taking control and managing the projects

There are many opinions and practices some say PMO's must fulfill, The PMBoK 5th edition dedicates a page and a half to such discussion identifying 6 PMO functions. (Hobbs & Aubry 2010) identified 27 distinct functions of PMO's highlighting a number of these were found to not correlate to enhanced project performance. Darling & Whitty (2016) state there is a need for evidence-based management practice, that consultants and practitioners are providing unproven solutions which organisations both public and private are investing enormous quantities of finance to without assured outcome, further the publication of opinions without scientific basis in the field of science, medicine or law would not be tolerated, and it is equally important for justification to be presented in the management field. [1]


A PMO can be one of three types from an organizational exposure perspective:

  • enterprise PMO,
  • organizational (departmental) PMO, or
  • special–purpose PMO.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) Program Management Office Community of Practice (CoP), describes the PMO as a strategic driver for organizational excellence, which seeks to enhance the practices of execution management, organizational governance, and strategic change leadership.[5]

Darling & Whitty (2016) highlight many PMO typologies exist from the early 1800's as a collective for running government strategy in the agricultural sector, to the civil infrastructure projects of the early 20th century to the early 2000's when the PMO became a commodity to be traded and traded upon. It would be impossible to group PMO's into specific types (Darling & Whitty, 2016).[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Eric John Darling; Stephen Jonathan Whitty. "The project management office: it's just not what it used to be". International Journal of Managing Projects in Business. Emerald Publishing. 9 (2). doi:10.1108/IJMPB-08-2015-0083. 
  2. ^ Domingues, Jorge (1 July 2009). "The Curious Case of the CHAOS Report 2009". Standish. 
  3. ^ a b "The third global survey on the current state of project management" (PDF). PriceWaterhouseCoopers. 2013. 
  4. ^ "Funding for Government Olympic Executive / Olympic Programme Programme Office" (PDF). Greater London Authority. 2012. 
  5. ^ "PMI's Program Management Office (PMO Symposium): Asking Tough Questions, Identifying Solutions" (Press release). PMI. 13 November 2012.