The current version of PMI’s Standard for Program Management (the fourth edition) says this about PMOs: “Program management offices may be established within an individual program to provide specific support to that program, or independent of an individual program to provide support to one or more of an organization’s programs.”
I can’t argue with that statement, but it’s not exactly limiting, is it? You can have a program management office in your program, or it can be outside, or you can just not have one at all. Well, yes. But when should it be inside, and when outside? More fundamentally, when should you have one, and when shouldn’t you?
I’ll get to when I think you should have a program management office, but I need to start with this idea of inside or outside a program because I think it has the potential for confusion—especially with that other PMO acronym, the project management office. In my experience, when most organizations refer to a “PMO,” they mean project management office in terms of the name, but they expect that function to support projects and programs (and in some cases, the portfolio…but that’s a different article). In other words, they don’t make a distinction between support for projects in general and support for programs in general.
I agree with that; I don&
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