It is the host organization context and needs that will determine what the PMO needs to help with. Both the PMO and the organization may go through re-structuring and co-evolving overtime, re-defining the success factors for the PMO.

The PMO functions should take account of the current conditions (tensions or needs, for example the economic tension from projects overrun, or resource/skills tensions from the lack of qualified Project Managers) so that the design of the PMO allows for delivery on those objectives (better budgeting and cost control; and training for Project Managers in our examples) and thus positioning itself for success.

Andersen et al benchmark study[1] gives this list of CSFs:

  • Design the PMO (centralized, decentralized, virtual) based on the objectives.
  • Cover the true needs of the organization, as identified from the PMO stakeholders.
  • Ensure top management support.
  • PMO services should be free of charge to the projects.
  • Do not develop the PMO into a bureaucratic control unit.
  • Resource the PMO with experienced senior Project Managers with broad skills.
  • Focus on improved project management practices.
  • Allow the PMO to progress at the right speed, starting at core needs (methods and tools) and only moving to Governance and Portfolio Management when the organization maturity is higher and Senior Management sees value in the PMO assisting in those other functions.

Desouza et al [2] provides similar CSFs for PMOs:

  • PMO to fit in the organization culture. If there is a centralized structure, the PMO should be designed top-down. If it is a decentralized one, a bottom-up design with the voluntary collaboration of Project Managers would be best. Management support for the PMO is in all cases required.
  • Focus on the drivers or background that PMO stakeholders see as important.
  • Segmentation of Project Managers in two groups: Business oriented PMs for strategic, large projects; and Technical oriented PMs for technology specific projects.
  • Clear reporting lines
  • PMO charter and related docs
  • Metrics to evaluate PMOs. Scores compared to past performance; and compared to outside benchmarks



[1] Andersen, B., Henriksen, B. and Aarseth, W. (2007) Benchmarking of Project Management Office Establishment: Extracting Best Practices.  Journal of Management in Engineering, Vol. 23 Issue 2, p97-104

[2] Desouza, K.C. and Evaristo, J.R. (2006) Project management offices: A case of knowledge-based archetypes, International Journal of Information Management Volume 26, Issue 5, Pages 414-423.