Dai and Wells research[1] is one of the earliest and more extensive attempts (234 certified PMPs respondents covering 96 PMOs) to define the functions of the PMO and the links to improved project performance. The research found a close alignment among most PMOs on six main functions:

  • Creation and maintenance of standards and methods;
  • Centralized archive of lessons learned;
  • Project administration support –facilitation of project web site, special meetings, war room, PM software support, etc;
  • Providing HR and staffing assistance such as identification of proper person for the project;
  • PM consulting and mentoring on methodology, and dealing with exceptions;
  • Providing or arranging PM training.

All 96 PMOs had responsibility on standards and methods -and four other functions were present in more than 2/3rds of PMOs-. They also presented a facilitator role rather than directly interfering with the Project Manager’s authority.

 Andersen, Henriksen and Aarseth research[2] similarly suggest a set of six functions or responsibilities that good PMOs should have, according to their benchmark from companies with an excellent project management record. The core PMO tasks are:

  • Managing shared methodology and processes;
  • Training and competence development;
  • Offering support for projects, acting as consultants on demand;
  • Contributing with recommendations only to project governance –selection of projects-
  • Contributing with recommendations only to project quality assurance
  • Offering support to project owner –support those in charge of portfolio management-

Although Andersen suggests a role of the PMO as a facilitator or consultant in line with Dai’s research, it introduces new roles in areas such as project governance, portfolio management and support to senior management. The PMO is presented as being able to function at different levels: For individual projects; At divisional level for portfolios; And at corporate level for strategy or prioritization. At each level the PMO has a different focus, from offering services to the individual projects to supporting senior manager for strategic alignment. One single list of features or functions does not reflect this new dimension.  The reviewed researches prove that there is no consensus in the role or exact functions a PMO should have.

There isn’t a single template for “the” PMO. One may question if there could be consensus on functions and structure of the PMO for smaller groups. For example, if there is a common PMO type for the IT industry, and another for Pharmaceuticals; or if there are commonalities by geographic regions. Hobbs survey[3] of 500 PMOs worldwide doesn’t show any variation by economic sector, by region, by organizational size or between public and private organizations. Within each group, organizations present different PMO structures and performances.

Although there is no single formula for a standard PMO, there are some initial hints of the variation one may encounter between PMOs focusing in supporting projects, and PMOs supporting strategic management. The next pages explores this variation and its reasons in more detail.


References:

[1] Dai, C.X. and Wells, W.G (2004) An exploration of project management office features and their relationship to project performance, International Journal of Project Management Volume 22, Issue 7, October 2004, Pages 523-532

[2] 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,

[3] Hobbs, B. and Aubry, M. (2007) A multi-phase research program investigating project management offices (PMOS): The results of phase 1. Project Management Journal, Vol. 38 Issue 1, p74-86