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What To Do With PMO?

That was the blog title from a recent post on the APM website which was written in response to the current work being undertaken to refresh APM’s Body of Knowledge (BoK) (from version 6 to 7). The post – you can read it here – talks about how PMOs are not really mentioned in the BoK at all, instead they’ll get a mention in the area that covers off the different types of roles that exist in project management.(take a look at the proposed contents)

And that – from the Chartered Body for the Project Profession –  dear PMO colleagues is your lot. Trying to get PMO recognised in APM’s BoK goes back to when the current edition was being created back in 2010 (it was later published in 2012). Back then, I was part of the APM PMOSIG and as a group, passionate about PMO, we thought, well APM wanted a PMO specialist interest group as part of their group of SIGs, so surely now is the right time to make sure PMO is mentioned in the Body of Knowledge.

The committee at that time got their heads together and started to create the response (you can see it at the end of the post). If you take a look at the current edition of the BoK you’ll see that each section is written with a focus on project, programme and portfolio. One approach was to consider adding a PMO focus too. That didn’t get legs but to be honest I still think it’s a very good idea (well I would say that, not biased at all!)

Back then, APM wanted to include a section called ‘Support’ which would in effect cover off anything related to the support of projects, programmes and portfolios. It was already in the previous version (v5) so it was a case of just carrying it over into the new edition. The PMO SIG at that time wanted to move away from the PMOs being synonymous with the support word – a word that still conjures up administrative and secretariat. The other argument was that PMO as a term is widely recognised enough so why not just change it from Support to PMO and have done with it.

The PMO SIG decided that it would be prudent to at least write the Support section – we owned it to the members of the PMO SIG group to at least get PMOs in the BoK – better as Support than nothing at all.

I think the final nail in the coffin was when the PMOSIG found out that in the final review and what was subsequently published, was a section called “Infrastructure”. That’s the term APM decided to go with for PMOs – that well-known term for PMOs – infrastructure! I guess that makes you all Infrastructure Analysts or Infrastructure Managers 🙂

You won’t be surprised to learn that none of the words the PMOSIG had created were used in the final published version.

So yeah, you could say that I’m not surprised by that recent post from APM. Nothing seems to have changed, they still don’t know what to do with PMOs other than give them a slot in the roles section of the BoK and an award once a year.

Hopefully the current members of the PMOSIG committee are giving it their best shot now, time for someone else to fight the good fight:) or if you’ve got it in you, you can still take part in the consultation and add your thoughts – it closes 20th April.

You can add your comments here too if you like.

I’ll sign off with ‘no one puts PMO in the corner’ well not quite true, just the Chartered Body does.

The support section was written by the PMOSIG group back in 2011 with a definition, a general overview and then in context against project, programme and portfolio. We were quite proud with the effort, and a lot of it still stands the test of time:



A project management office serves the organisation’s project management needs. The functions can range from administration support, assurance and best practice. These functions may be extended to support the needs of a programme or a portfolio.


A project management office(s)1 functions are designed to support and assist the project sponsor and project manager in carrying out their duties in directing and managing a project. The mandate for provision of functions are often linked to the project management maturity of the organization, frameworks used, authority vested, governance arrangements, ownership of resource, competencies of support staff, and reporting lines of the office. The project support office can operate in centralised or de-centralised manner, be physically or virtually located and take a permanent or temporary form. It may have working relationships with other functions and departments in the organisation as required, e.g. audit, business planning, finance, human resources, procurement and IT. In a complex organisation or change, the project support office may be connected to other support offices (programme support office and portfolio support office). In some mature organisations the functions may have been extended to increase organisation project management capability by providing a centre of excellence. Not all organisations or projects will have a project support office. Where a project support office does not exist the function it provides must be undertaken by project managers.

The following functions could be provided:

  • administrative support and assistance, including:
    • planning (scope, schedule, cost, risk, quality and communications)
    • risk and issue management and change control
    • stakeholder and benefits management
    • information management and configuration management
    • quality review process and standards
    • contracts and procurement
    • secretariat for steering group and arranging logistics/facilities
  • monitoring and control support and assistance, including
    • collecting and analysing project data in a consistent form
    • maintaining plans and managing interdependencies
    • measuring and predicting project, programme and portfolio performance
    • reporting of project progress and escalating exceptions
  • assurance of standard project management practice via project audits

  A project management office may also have the following responsibilities:

  • Developing a centre of excellence allowing the organisation to learn, lead, grow and develop its project management capability, by acting as custodian and developer of standard practices (methods and procedures, standards, policies and templates).
  • Assuring that standard practices are used consistently and are compliant to improve project performance. By conducting assurance audits and health checks.
  • Providing subject matter expertise to ensure that the project has the right governance, tools, techniques and information needed. This can be in the form of assuring training, coaching and mentoring the project management team or doing the support work for them.
  • Providing the infrastructure and momentum / drive to support communities of practice. These may be networks of individuals within the organisation who are interested in disseminating experience, knowledge, lessons learning and best practice, or external industry bodies.
  • Seeking and logging lessons throughout the project life cycle to improve future performance and the execution of future projects.
  • Improving process, tool and organisational capability. By defining and developing the improvement, embedding the improvement and measuring its effectiveness.

Footnote1 Project management office (PMO has been used as a generic term. Specific terms include project office, project support office, portfolio management office and enterprise project management office (EPMO). The provision of functions provided will vary significantly depending on the orga
nisations context and the mandate.


The programme management office functions are designed to support and assist the programme manager in carrying out their duties in managing an initiative which is being delivered as a programme. The PMO can be a temporary endeavour to support one programme of work or a more permanent fixture designed to support ongoing programme management activity across an organisation.

The programme management office carries out similar functions to the project office but with the focus switched to programme management elements. Planning activities, for example, concentrate on the high level programme plan and independencies between projects within the programme; secretariat support is to the programme board; monitoring and reporting concentrates on the programme level view using the reports from project level. Functions can vary due to the size and nature of the programme.

Greater focus is placed on two specific functions within programme support; resource management and benefits management. The programme management office monitors and supports the resource management requirements across the programme; co-ordinating demand management, resource allocation, resource utilisation and capacity planning. With benefits management, the programme management office will facilitate and support the benefits plan and provide the means to track benefits realisation throughout the programme lifecycle.


A Portfolio Management Office differs from Project and Programme offices as they are usually permanent and have integrated relationships with other corporate departments’ processes and the organisational governance structure. It may be a physical office or a virtual office and its domain may cover the entire organisation, geography or business unit. Information is collected from the portfolio’s initiatives and reviewed, collated, summarised and interpreted before presentation to the board. Programme and Project Offices are subordinate to the Portfolio Management Office and are mainly focused on supporting the delivery of individual initiatives in a consistent and efficient manner.

Relationships with other Offices and departments and their respective responsibilities need to be endorsed by the board. Consideration being given to what is done at a portfolio level, what is delegated to programmes and projects, what is retained by the board and what are the responsibilities of other departments, i.e. business planning, finance, HR.

The functions of the Portfolio Management Office are focused at enabling the relevant governance bodies to make better and more informed investment decisions ensuring the right initiatives are undertaken. The Office works with the board to build a portfolio register that is representative of the organisations strategy, ensuring that the initiatives are aligned and contribute to its achievement. The register comprises key information on prioritised programmes, projects, important business-as-usual activities and initiatives in the pipe-line and is used as a baseline to measure the performance of delivering the initiatives.

The key functions include:

  • Portfolio build, prioritisation, analysis and reporting
  • Planning and estimating (capacity and resource)
  • Monitoring progress against plans and conflicting priorities, reporting through management dashboards
  • Resource management
  • Benefits realisation management of each portfolio
  • Escalation of risks, issues, changes and information
  • Centre of Excellence

A portfolio management office may also have the following responsibilities:

  • Translating strategy into portfolio register and delivery plan (programme, project and key business-as-usual activity mandates, etc.)
  • Recommending options/decisions to board on changing priorities, programmes, projects and resources
  • Providing an assurance to board on effective and efficient management and delivery of initiatives;
  • Provision of oversight, scrutiny and challenge on the progress of the portfolio delivery
  • Providing support, advice and guidance to individual initiatives – whilst ensuring that this does not compromise the Portfolio Office’s independence from the delivery functions by, for example, ensuring different staff provide the support and assurance/challenge functions;;
  • Coordinating and participating in stage/phase gate, investment appraisal, portfolio-level prioritisation and progress reviews;
  • Improving the links and feedback loop between strategy formulation and delivery.
  • Defining portfolio management standards, processes and templates – to ensure consistent practices are applied across the portfolio

Some of the responsibilities that reside within the portfolio management office with respect to component projects and activities within a large programme may be delegated to a Programme Management Office dedicated to that specific programme portfolio of projects and activities.


Buttrick, R. (2009) The Project Workout 4th Edition,  Pearson Education Ltd, TSO, ISBN 978-0–273–72389-9 Office of Government Commerce (2008) Portfolio, Programme and Project Offices, TSO, London, ISBN 978-0-113-311248 Office of Government Commerce (2007) Managing Successful Programmes, TSO, London, ISBN 978-0-11 3310401 Hatfield, M (2008) Things your PMO is Doing Wrong, Project Management Institute Inc., ISBN 978-1-933890-55-5 Hobbs, B and Aubry, M (2010) The Project Management Office (PMO) A Quest for Understanding, Project Management Institute Inc., ISBN 979-1-933890-97-5 Letavec, C (2006) The Program Management Office J.Ross Publishing Inc., ISBN1-932159-59-2 Jenner, S (2010) Transforming Government and Public Services Realising Benefits through Project Portfolio Management, Gower, ISBN 978-1-4094-0163-6 Reiss, G; Anthony  M, Chapman, J; Leigh, G; Pyne, A and Rayner, P (2006) Gower Handbook of Programme Management, Gower, ISBN 0 566 080603 4 Aubrey, M., Hobbs, B. & Thuillier, T. Organizational Project Management: An Historical Approach to the Study of PMOs, International Journal of Project Management, 2008;26:38-43 Hobbs, B. (2007) The Multi-Project PMO: A Global Analysis of the Current State of Practice, Project Management Institute Inc, Kent Crawford, J (2002) The Strategic Project Office, Taylor and Francis, Florida, ISBN 978-0-8247-0750-7 Hill, G.M (2008) The Complete Project Office Handbook, Taylor and Francis, Florida ISBN 978-1-4200-4680-9 Rad, P.F, Levin, G (2002) The Advanced Project Management Office, CRC Press, Florida ISBN 1-57444-340-2


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