Project Management

What Should a PMO Actually Do?

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

The head of a PMO recently came up to me after a presentation and said, “I’ve heard and read a lot about how PMOs need to fit within an organization and how they need to be focused on business value, but no one ever tells me what I should be doing every day. Can you tell me what it is I’m actually supposed to do when I come to work?”

That sounded like a cry for help to me. It made me think: There has been a lot of focus on PMO purpose and value recently, and that has come at the expense of practical advice on daily activities. I’m as guilty of that as anyone, so let me try and make it right. Let’s spend some time looking at what a PMO should do—and perhaps more importantly, what it shouldn’t do.

Purpose drives function
It may seem obvious, but the foundation of what the PMO does has to be based on why it exists. If the organization has created a PMO as a governance function, then PMO staff should be spending their time reviewing projects, performing audits, sitting on steering and oversight committees, etc.

The problem is that as PMOs evolve to a role that is supposed to “increase business value,” that connection between work and purpose becomes harder to define. What exactly can you do each day to improve value? How do you know that the work you are doing is achieving the right results and that it is the …

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"Truth comes out of error more readily than out of confusion."

- Francis Bacon