Is the era of the Project Management Office at an end?



By Chris Vandersluis

HMS Software, USA

Tampa, Florida, USA


The concept of the Project Management Office has been around for every part of my career stretching back to the early 1980s, but its history goes back much further. For offices where the concepts of project management are now ubiquitous, how is it possible that some firms are eliminating or scaling down their project management offices? Is the era of the PMO over or is it just evolving into something else?

Over the coming pages we’ll take a brief look back at how we got to where the project management office is today and then look more in depth at PMOs that are in multi-project/multi-project manager organizations to see how they might be being evaluated internally and whether that is an appropriate response to a changing world.

Where did the PMO get its start?

The term “Project Management Office” dates back to the 1930s but project management offices have probably been around for as there have been projects.  The PMO term was invented by the US Air Corps who wanted to corral their projects and enable better decision making, specifically around finances. Project Management Offices for the longest time referred to the office that the overall project manager and his team worked out of. The notion of multi-project project management offices with multiple project managers working on multiple projects and shared or contended for a pool of resources came much later.

In the 1970s Ken Olsen and Digital Equipment Corporation took the Matrix Management Concept that had been invented in the US aerospace industry and popularized the concept[1]. DEC would move on from the concept in the 1990s, but the expansion of high tech and the project management industry took to matrix management in a big way.

Now a project management office made a lot of sense. It could be the clearinghouse where many projects and their project managers and many resource managers could share and collaborate.

There are certainly issues with the notion of matrix management but it is, by far, the most common project structure I encounter in high tech, pharmaceutical, defense, and aerospace, even though the words matrix management might not be used to describe it internally.

What type of PMO are we discussing here?

Project Management Offices for a single project certainly still exist and are plentiful. If you think of creating a construction project such as a high-rise building then the PMO might well be in a prefab trailer shack on the site.  These days the only thing that would separate the same office from 100 years ago is probably the internet and Wi-Fi connections inside.  In this discussion, I’m going to leave those PMOs aside.


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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally presented at the 15th UT Dallas PM Symposium in May 2023.  It is republished here with the permission of the author and conference organizers.

How to cite this paper: Vandersluis, C. (2023). Is the era of the Project Management Office at an end? presented at the 15th University of Texas at Dallas Project Management Symposium in Richardson, TX, USA in May 2023; republished in the PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue XII, December. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/pmwj136-Dec2023-Vandersluis-is-the-ere-of-the-pmo-at-an-end.pdf

About the Author

Chris Vandersluis

Tampa, Florida


Chris Vandersluis is the president of EPMGuidance based in Tampa, Florida, and HMS Software based in Montreal. HMS Software has been a leading provider of project management and enterprise timesheet systems and services since 1984. HMS Software’s TimeControl is recognized around the world as the most flexible project-oriented timesheet system.

Mr. Vandersluis is an economist with a degree from McGill University and over 35 years of experience implementing enterprise timesheet and project management systems. He spent five years on Microsoft’s Enterprise Project Management Partner Advisory Council and has worked with Oracle-Primavera and Deltek on their project management systems.

Mr. Vandersluis has been published in a number of publications including Fortune Magazine, PMNetwork magazine, Microsoft’s TechNet and is the author of the popular project management blog EPMGuidance.com.

Mr. Vandersluis has taught Advanced Project Management at Montreal’s McGill University and has been a member of PMI since 1986.

Mr. Vandersluis can be reached at: chris.vandersluis@epmguidance.com .

[1] Edgar H. Schein (2010). DEC Is Dead, Long Live DEC: The Lasting Legacy of Digital Equipment Corporation.



  1. […] I confess that I’m old enough to have used such a typewriter to get my papers done in college.  But perhaps that helps make it still a bit of a thrill to see my words in print.  This week, the PMWorld Journal had an article I’d written called Is the era of the Project Management Office at an end? […]