The Role of the PMO in Advancing Project Managers’ skills to Sustain Organizational Value



By Waffa Karkukly, PhD, PMP, ACP, CM





Project Management Offices (PMOs) have proved their importance and significance in organizations especially in project based organizations in terms of advancing project delivery and improving project management standardization. There are higher expectations of PMOs in terms of strategy execution through portfolio management and alignment with organizational change management. When speaking of PMO functions, project portfolio management is at the top of the list of PMO functions, then project delivery, followed by project methodology, project reporting, and finally in that long list project/ program managers (PMs) development. The (PMs) development function does not attract a prominent attention in the listing of PMOs functions as other functions do. Therefore, the aim of this paper is to first, highlight the role of the PMO in advancing (PMs) skills. Second, to list the benefits organizations achieve as a result on PMs’ skills advancement.


Project Management, Project Manager, Program Manager, PMs, PMO, benefits, Sustainability


A project management office (PMO) is an organizational body or entity assigned various responsibilities related to the centralized and coordinated management of those projects under its domain. The responsibilities of a PMO can range from providing project management support functions to actually being responsible for the direct management of a project (PMI 2008).

PMOs existed initially as a means of collecting and distributing project management practices and project knowledge throughout an organization. While the success rate of Y2K transitions created the initial opportunity, many organizations continued with PMOs and extended their mandate and increased their activities to include analysis, communication, and decision-making support (Desouza and Evaristo 2006).

The project management office acts as the guardian of the project management intellectual property. Other organizations established PMOs initially to cut costs, but then they evolved into organizations to manage a single large project, provide guidance, methodologies, tools and techniques, and (most recently) become centers of excellence that manage groups of projects (Kerzner 2004).

The PMO is a critical organizational entity that adopts a variety of roles and structures but which should focus on adding value to an organization and its customers to achieve the desired organizational performance (Karkukly, 2011).

PM solutions report for 2014 identified top five PMO priorities and top five PMO challenges. The number one priority was implementing resource planning and forecasting, while one of the top five challenges was inadequate resource management and capacity (Pmsolutions/state-of-the-pmo-2014-research-report-final). The report provides the statistics of top priorities and top challenges, but does not suggest improvements that organizations need to embrace to achieve these priorities and address these challenges.

Overall views on project management resource inadequacy are not being discussed, nor the capacity planning. While organizations struggle to allocate staff and require processes for forecasting, they are overlooking the first step and that is the evaluation of their human resource (HR) assets (i.e. employees’ skills). To achieve success in evaluating (PMs) skills, organizations need to look at various areas: project complexity in terms of size, money, scope complexity, etc. Resource competency levels, resource interest and progression and finally match the right skill to the right project. Just having extra resources to throw in on projects is not the solution. In some organizations, demand management and capacity planning show immaturity in managing project resources. While some resources are over allocated, others would be hardly allocated. The imbalance is due to the lack of assessment of number of projects to resources. Second, would be matching the right resource skill set to the right type of project.

Many PMOs are guilty of neglecting the PMs’ development function and turning it into a pool of resources without paying attention to leveraging that function for organizational benefit. Some PMOs are guilty with one or more of the following: too many templates, no time allocated for training, too many departmental/ administrate meeting, working on the same type of projects, staff are stuck in their level and no progression. These PMOs need to take active steps towards improvement and plan to operate differently to focus on their people side.


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About the Author


Waffa Karkukly, PhD

Ontario, Canada


Waffa Karkukly
is currently the President and Managing Director for the http://www.globalpmosolutions.ca/. During her career, she has been involved in managing technology and project management offices for fortune 100 as well as small size organizations. She is a strategist and change agent transforming organizations through alignment between strategy and operation and delivering through projects, programs and portfolios.   Waffa is an author of two books, coach, and a frequent speaker and panelist at the various project events globaly. Waffa has a BSC in Information Systems from DePaul University and an MIT from Northwestern University in the United States, and a PhD from SKEMA School of Business in France. She is a (PMP) and (ACP) by the Project Management Institute (PMI®), as well as a Change Management Practitioner (CMP). Waffa is dedicated to improving the understanding and standards of project management practices, especially in the value proposition of building and sustaining successful PMOs. Waffa Karkukly can be contacted at [email protected]