Designing a PMO

SECOND EDITION                                                         

Dan Vickers, PMP

Texas, USA

The design of a Project Management Office (PMO) is varied across industries, organizations and departments. But what if you were able to design your own PMO? What if you got to decide how the PMO would be structured, how it would be organized, and what services it would offer? Imagine yourself as the sponsor of your own PMO. What would you do differently? Would you add staff, change processes, or close it down?

The PMO in various settings has various purposes. How would you define the purpose of your PMO? What are the general guidelines for any PMO?

The PMO can be a highly effective means of focusing a department, an organization or an industry on the best way to conduct projects in its environment. Let’s spend some time imagining the ideal PMO for our organization and then determining some steps that we can take to influence the change needed within our PMO.

Types of PMO

There are several types of a PMO. Below is a general list of these types from Ricardo Viana Vargas, at Macro Solutions.

  • A Self-Contained PMO is used to manage an independent project or program
  • A Project Support Office provides
    • Project Tools (documents, workspaces, sharable sites, etc.)
    • Resource Management (availability, capacity, etc.)
    • Project Methodology (workflows, best practices, etc.)
    • Knowledge Management (document repository, lessons learned, etc.)
  • An Excellence Center provides
    • Sponsorship (support from corporate management)
    • Leadership (awareness and ability to manage and influence stakeholders)
    • Earned Value (demonstrates the benefits of adopting PM best practices)
    • Professional Development (develop competent PMs)
  • An Enterprise or Strategic PMO provides
    • Strategic planning of projects
    • Management of projects across business units
    • Corporate knowledge management
    • Carl Souchereau, of SNC Lavalin Transmission & Distribution says this about a Strategic PMO, “PMOs are being asked to master the important, yet tactical aspects of project management as well as take strategic responsibility for managing investment decisions to optimize spend and maximize return across the portfolio.”

Validating Assumptions of an Ideal PMO

An ideal PMO is as varied as there are people and as there are needs for a PMO. At the most basic level the purpose of a PMO could include things like: positive impact to the organization, increased project throughput, competitive edge in the marketplace, and increased project efficiency. With some assumptions (that should be validated in any organization) I presume that each of these could be a valid goal of any PMO.

Presuming these are valid starting points, let’s review how we can reach these goals in our individual PMOs.


To read entire paper (click here)

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 8th Annual UT Dallas Project Management Symposium in Richardson, Texas, USA in August 2014. It is republished here with permission of the author and symposium organizers. For more about the annual UT Dallas PM Symposium, click here.

About the Author

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Senior Project Manager

STARS (a Marsh Company)

Texas, USA

Dan Vickers, a project leader at STARS, has worked with a variety of clients in multiple industries: Banking, Insurance, Staffing and Manufacturing. He graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas in 1992, began in project management in 1996, was certified as a PMP in 2003, and has led hundreds of projects from start to finish. He works in a fast-moving, multi-client, multi-team environment delivering risk management software solutions to clients across the U.S. He has led project management webinars to other project managers from around the world, authored numerous blogs and has been published in several online trade journals. He has a passion for continuous improvement in all areas of project management. Dan can be contacted at [email protected].