PMOs were found to have a lot of variety in structure, roles and accountability to be able to define one “best” PMO. The search for a PMO model to simplify the complex reality moves onto categorization, defining a spectrum of organizational styles rather than assuming that there is a one size fits all PMO.  

 The PMO type and evolution goes hand in hand with what has been called “Organizational Project Management Maturity” (OPMM). OPMM models allow assessing the level of project management capability from the basic project level, to the strategic portfolio level. As the PMI states in its web site, “Companies with greater maturity should expect to see tangible benefits that include better-performing project portfolios, efficiencies that come with better resource allocation, and increased process stability and repeatability”.

There are various popular models for OPMM, such as the UK OCG’s P3M3 and PMI’s own OPM3 (Organizational Project Management Maturity Model) but they all share the a common purpose for assessing where the organization is, and what the natural next steps are to progress or evolve to a higher maturity level.

Consistent with the concept of maturity and competency evolution, the Gartner Group[1] identified a growth in PMO functions overtime, through three stages of maturity or PMO models:

  1. The “Lite” PMO model. This is where most PMOs start. Responsibilities are limited to the repository of information on methods and standards.
  2. The “Coach” model. The PMO coordinates communication, monitors and actively supports projects and people with consulting services or training.
  3. The “Manager” model. Where the PMO has overall enterprise responsibility for all projects, their governance and in some cases may run projects directly.

Andersen et al[2] report the observed development of the PMO like a classic life cycle model, at the same time that the maturity increases in the PMO and in the organization. They propose a model which consists of three phases:

  1. Development of common approach and tools for project management.
  2. Introduction of governance processes and quality assurance.
  3. Implementing true project portfolio management.

At each of those three phases the PMO functions and focus are different. As project management maturity increases the PMO moves to a higher phase, from supporting individual projects with standards and methods, to supporting senior management in alignment to strategic objectives, project selection and prioritization.


References:

[1] Gartner Group. Light, M., Hotle, M., Stang, D.B. and Heine, J. (2005) The Project Management Office: The IT Control Tower. [Online with subscription]. (URL http://www.gartner.com)

[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,