4 Types of Project Management Offices That Deliver Value

PPM leaders should consider multiple styles of product portfolio and program management.

During conversations with clients, Gartner analysts discovered organizations designed project management offices (PMOs) in a variety of setups. But does an ideal set up exist?

“Often, large organizations have multiple PMOs, all of which can be very different,” says Mbula Schoen, Senior Principal Analyst, Gartner. “This makes it hard for program and portfolio management (PPM) leaders to determine the type of PMO best suited to their organization.”

There is no standard or template for determining the type of PMO PPM leaders should set up. The best type of PMO is one that is tailored to support organizational needs at a level the organization can embrace and from which it can realize benefit.

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Schoen adds that PPM leaders should engage the business and key PMO stakeholders to identify the critical needs and challenges of the organization, to establish a PMO that will best meet those needs and resolve those challenges.

This must take into account the PPM maturity of the organization, which will determine what a PMO can do and when it can be done. The most effective way to support the management of projects, programs and portfolios will differ depending on the organization’s maturity level.

Although there is no “one size fits all” PMO, Gartner has identified four types of PMOs.

PMO_ActivistThe activist PMO

Popular in organizations with distributed, business-centric project ownership, the activist PMO takes a broad view and enabling approach as opposed to a controlling approach. Typically, it has a view of incoming project demand, and supports decision makers by analyzing business cases for alignment and risk. Essentially, the PMO vets business cases and project proposals. This broad view provides a project portfolio dashboard of the status of all projects that it maintains, and oversight so that when projects in the dashboard go “red,” it might suggest or solicit remedies.

PMO_deliveryThe delivery PMO

The delivery PMO — also known as the project delivery PMO — is perhaps the most commonly found style. Gartner estimates that at least 40% of PMOs are mainly delivery PMOs charged with planning and controlling the tactical execution of projects to business expectations. Project managers are encouraged to manage their projects, proactively make decisions and escalate problems. The goal is also to build repeatable processes and techniques that will work to build a culture focused on results.

PMO_ComplianceThe compliance PMO

The compliance PMO is often the most suitable style for organizations where documentation, processes, procedures and methodologies are lacking or inconsistent. In this scenario, the compliance PMO tends to be tasked with establishing standard practices for measuring project performance and the development of a capability for understanding the status of key initiatives.

PMO_centralizedThe centralized PMO

When PPM maturity levels are low, organizations depend on the skills and abilities of key performers to get work done. At higher levels, efficiency is key, and management seeks to reduce this dependency and establish reliable processes for project tracking and reporting. A centralized PMO is therefore formed as a place where new hires can be quickly brought up to speed on how best to get project work done in the organization. In the centralized PMO, representatives from the various project support organizations get together to share their practices in a best-practices council.

This article has been updated from the original, published on June 1, 2017, to reflect new events, conditions or research.

Gartner clients can learn more in “Four Types of PMOs That Deliver Value" by Mbula Schoen.

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