What Should a PMO Be?


The Sequel



By Jeff Oltmann

Oregon, USA

Six services on the menu

Several years ago, I wrote an article on the various forms that a Project Management Office (PMO) can take. Since then, I have continued to work with new clients to implement PMO’s.  The time seems ripe for an update.

A PMO can coordinate project activity across an organization, thus increasing efficiency, project success rates, and bottom-line results.   However, a PMO is not “one size fits all.”  Each one is as unique as the problems it is trying to solve for its organization.  Here are six services a PMO may choose to offer.

  1. Set standards

A PMO can set standards for how projects are run and ensure those standards are followed.  PMO’s that provide this function own the organization’s project management system.  They may require the use of standardized processes, tools, gates, and phases.

“The PMO builds up a common set of practices, principles and templates for managing projects. Standardization means project managers can move more easily between different projects and new project managers get up to speed faster. Creating project management templates means standard components can be reused which saves time and money as they are not created for each project fresh …

While the PMO sets project management standards, it also must ensure they are followed by performing regular assessments of projects. This process can feed back into the standards definition.”

  1. Be a center of excellence for project management

A PMO that is a center of excellence is the organization’s repository for best practices and advice.  Primary customers are the people inside or outside the PMO who work on projects.

  • Make available common processes and language, common data repositories, standard estimating methods, and templates related to projects.
  • Manage organizational knowledge about projects, such as lessons learned.
  • Provide support that allows project managers to be more productive. For example, be the home for a few people who specialize in project tools and analytics – people who “make Microsoft Project sing”, or who collect, analyze and distribute metrics.  These specialties require skills and interests that many good project managers don’t have and don’t really want to learn.  Specialists in a center of excellence PMO free up project managers outside the PMO to run projects, increasing their productivity.


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Editor’s note: This article was adapted from Oltmann, J., “What Should a Project Management Office (PMO) Be?”, www.spspro.com, retrieved 10/15/17, and “Mix and Match Roles of a PMO”, internal communication; quotes retrieved 10/15/17 from www.iplanware.com)

How to cite this article: Oltmann, J. (2024).  What Should a PMO Be? – The Sequel, PM World Journal, Vol. XIII, Issue VII, July. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2024/06/pmwj143-Jul2024-Oltmann-what-should-a-pmo-be-the-sequel.pdf

About the Author

Jeff Oltmann

Oregon, USA


Jeff Oltmann is a seasoned leader with over 30 years of experience advising clients, managing successful technology programs, and developing new products. His specialties include strategy deployment, operational and project excellence, and project portfolio management. As principal consultant at Synergy Professional Services, Jeff advises leaders and teams in diverse sectors including healthcare, research, bioscience, and technology product development.

Jeff is the founder of the Portfolio and Project Leaders Forum.  He is also on the graduate faculty of the Division of Management at Oregon Health and Science University and was previously on executive staff at IBM.    He teaches portfolio, program, and project management and is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP®).

Jeff welcomes your questions and ideas.  You can contact him at jeff@spspro.com or read previous articles at www.spspro.com/article-library.