Project Managers deliver projects. The PMO delivers PMO Services.

Imagine turning up at a restaurant only to find there are no menus. Your waiter comes over and asks what you would like to eat.

You “What do you have?”

Waiter “We are a restaurant, so y’know, we do the usual restaurant stuff”

You “Okay, how about pasta”

Waiter “I’m sorry but we don’t do pasta. We’re not that kind of restaurant”

You “….”

Or imagine a slightly different scenario where they were able to deliver you some plain penne, but the person you are dining with is delivered a sumptuous feast, purely because he happened to have insider knowledge of what this particular restaurant was good at cooking.

It sounds absurd, but many PMOs operate in exactly this fashion. They assume that people will understand what it is they do. Worse still, they assume that what they do aligns to the needs of the organization that they operate within.

Project portfolios come in all shapes and sizes, and so do project management offices. Some focus on benefits realization, whereas others may focus more on resource management and staff augmentation. Some may focus on delivering financial analysis in Excel, where others may specialize in generating Gantt charts in Microsoft Project. Some sit alongside delivery, whereas other have direct responsibility for the execution of projects.

All PMOs serve as a catalyst for delivery, but what organizations, program managers and senior management want from their PMOs can vary enormously. The name of the department may be the same, but the structure and outputs of each type of PMO can vary enormously.

Back in 2007, Hobbs and Aubry conducted research with 500 PMO teams, and identified 26 functions that were found frequently in PMOs across different sectors and regions. These functions are delivered as Project Management Office (PMO) services , either to business leaders, or project managers.

MOST FREQUENT FUNCTIONS IN PMOs

  1. Support Project Planning
  2. Execute Specialized Tasks for Project Managers
  3. Manage Resource Allocation Between Projects
  4. Manage Interface with Project Clients
  5. Manage Organizational Changes
  6. Manage People in Projects
  7. Manage Projects or Programs
  8. Manage Stakeholders in Projects
  9. Conduct Audit in Projects
  10. Manage Project Documentation
  11. Manage Lessons Learned Database
  12. Perform Benchmarking
  13. Manage Lessons Learned Meetings
  14. Promote Project Management within the Organization
  15. Provide Mentoring for Project Managers
  16. Provide Training and Project Competency Development
  17. Provide Project Management Tools and Information Systems
  18. Provide Project Management Methodology
  19. Monitor and Control Project Performance
  20. Provide Project or Program Performance Report to Upper Management
  21. Provide a Strategic Project Scoreboard
  22. Support Project Portfolio Definition
  23. Manage Project or Program Benefits
  24. Monitor Portfolio Performance
  25. Participate in Strategic Planning
  26. Provide Advice to Upper Management in Decision-Making

PMO teams are born out of Business Problems

15 years on from Hobbs and Aubry’s research and the PMO function has expanded significantly. We see PMOs operating in Agile environments, providing automation services with tools such as UiPath and PowerBI. And we have PMO teams playing a greater role in improving project performance by providing training and certification, as well as project manager mentoring and agile coaching services.

This expansion has come not so much from PMOs pushing into more areas, but from pull factors. One by one, businesses have recognized challenges and barriers to delivery success and have looked to the PMO as the solution. Understanding that PMOs are conceived out of business challenges in this way is important for PMO Managers, as it affects how PMO teams are structured to enable successful projects. There is little point in setting up a PMO to meet someone’s definition of project management maturity and structuring a team to tick boxes on a maturity assessment. Rather the PMO must be structured to solve the problems that the business actually needs to fix. The way we achieve that is through identifying the right PMO services for the environment and delivering them to a high standard.

What are PMO Services?

PMO consultant and author, Stuart Dixon identified 248 unique PMO services when he wrote his book “PMO Service Catalogue: An insight into what PMOs do”. He confided in me that he had actually surfaced more than that from his conversations with PMO and project portfolios managers – 330 in total, but on closer inspection, some were very similar in nature and outcome, so he rationalized the list down a bit!

A PMO service may be defined as one or more functions performed by the PMO for the benefit of the organization. It is common practice to define these services both for the PMO internally and for the service recipients. Going back to our restaurant metaphor, this would be the equivalent of having a description of the dish on the menu board, while having a recipe defining the ingredients and method available for use by the kitchen team.

I don’t know any Project Management Offices out there who are delivering anything like that number of PMO services, but nor would it be sensible for them to do so. With any PMO it is important to understand the needs of the organization, select the PMO services that can help the organization meet its business goals, and help project and program managers succeed.

Continuous evolution of PMO Services

PMO service catalogues should be living artifacts. As organizations evolve, so to must the services the PMO provides. In our article The PMO Process Purge we explore a common PMO Antipattern where PMOs who fail to continuously evolve become victims of their own success. In the same way that PMOs are born out of business problems, the PMO should continue to explore and understand the challenges their organization is facing with regards to delivery and optimize the service catalogue to solve the challenges the business faces today and will face in the future. 

How HotPMO can help define your PMO Services

At HotPMO we work with organizations to define PMO Service Catalogues that are in step with the needs of the business. We meet with business leaders, program managers and others throughout the organization to build up an understanding of the challenges – and opportunities for the PMO. We explore portfolio management and the project management tool set. Then we look internally at the PMO to assess capabilities and understand how these align to the needs of the business.  We work with you to develop unique PMO services catalogues that address the specific needs of the environment your PMO operates within. Finally, we offer coaching and PMO Manager mentoring as well as staff augmentation to help you deliver the services the business needs.

No two PMOs are the same, because no two organizations are the same. Different situations require different services. HotPMO understand this and can help your PMO build the services that will help you improve project delivery and benefit your business.