What you should know is that they all influence your project to a certain extent when used in a company. Also, if you want to bring your project to life, you most likely need one of the departments we’ve expounded on below. And if you answered no to the first questions, then go ahead and read further.
In time, large organizations make the switch from simple departments (like PMOs) to complex ones (such as EPMOs or PPMOs). The way in which a business handles its projects is dynamic. You can modify processes and structures whenever a change happens either internally or externally. The key to achieving project success lies in the capability of adapting to change and being able to adjust your company’s organizational structure as you go.
TL;DR: A company can have none, one, some, or all of these departments. Choosing one over the other depends on the degree of help you need and the complexity of your projects. They all fulfill different roles and are placed in distinct hierarchical spots.
According to their influence and strength in a company’s hierarchy, these project departments are:
PMO – Project Management Office
What is PMO?
Simply, the Project Management Office (PMO) is a company department that has the purpose of creating project management standards and making sure they’re being followed during project execution.
The PMO tells project managers how they should manage every project by setting best practice standards and baselines. They are the rule-makers that ensure the execution of projects is done according to the established guidelines.
First used in the 1800s, project management offices have evolved from being a part of agriculture projects to what they are today: an integral part of every project-based organization regardless of industry.
Having a PMO as part of your business is not always a necessity. The increased cost and number of resources needed to maintain them is making companies hesitate when it comes to using them. In fact, a 2017 KMPG study on business performance states that only 56% of the participating organizations used PMOs. And their number is dropping each year. Not to mention that only 25% were effective when it came to supporting change.
Do you need a PMO? If you’re debating the need for a PMO in your organization, take a look at this list of benefits and services that Neal Whitten has put down in 2000.
The truth is most PMO members require training to work efficiently. Like project managers, members of the project management office should acquire the right experience and knowledge before moving into a managing position. They are accountable for any issues that occur. Also, they take full control of the project if the project manager has nothing else to do to fix the situation. Compared to a project manager who focuses on individual projects, project management officers hold higher authority that is used for any of a company’s project groups.
Take a closer look at the context in which you find this acronym. It’s sometimes used for Project Management Officer and Program Management Office. However, the correct meaning of PMO remains Project Management Office.
What does a PMO do?
- provides expert mentoring and PM training to project managers
- sets the criteria and metrics needed to analyze the efficiency of projects
- supports transparency and communication
- directs projects according to best practices
- offers the right information to support decision-making
- controls compliance with the issued standards
- manages all documentation and projects history
- tracks projects and sends alerts whenever something is not going according to the plan
- conducts project-level reviews during a project and after its completion
- supports the delivery of a project.
PMO team members:
PMO Director/Manager – oversees the execution of each project to ensure that these comply with the client requirements and main objectives
Project Managers – in charge of execution, they should also have the right knowledge to apply project management best practices and ensure their completion
Project Analysts – work closely with Project Managers, monitor and analyze their work, and report to PMO Directors and Managers to update them on a project’s status using accurate documented data
Resource Managers/Project Coordinators – provide support to Project Managers by coordinating resources, schedules, meetings, information, and equipment to ensure that they meet all client requirements
Although the most commonly used structure in a company, the project management office is not the only one. Complex businesses that involve several different programs and portfolios require additional departments that specialize in these fields.
EPMO – Enterprise Project/Program/Portfolio Management Office
What is EPMO?
The Enterprise PMO (EPMO) is a department placed at the executive level of a company’s hierarchy used mostly by companies with a global reach.
The EPMO is essentially a type of project management office. It’s needed for larger projects to improve their project management techniques and processes. It also ensures the alignment of general business objectives with your projects, programs, and portfolios.
Simply put, an Enterprise Project Management Office does what a Project Management Office can’t. It manages more PMO departments at the same time to ensure they all follow the enterprise standards. EPMOs are used when the restricted PMOs fail to fix an issue. These problems often occur because the simple PMOs focus on departments rather than on the general enterprise field that reunites them all.
As a matter of fact, according to PMI’s Pulse of the Profession 2017 report, half of the organizations that have a PMO also have an EPMO. As a result, they’ve seen a decrease of 33% in their project failure rate. Why? Because companies are starting to prefer enterprise project management offices that can impact the corporate level of the business.
Not all companies, teams, or projects need enterprise project management. Still, some of the reasons why you might want to use EPMOs include: high-complexity projects, multiple projects at the same time with quickly approaching deadlines, more departments and teams working on the same projects, repeatedly failing projects and frequent development errors, missed or late deadlines, a constantly growing portfolio, and more.
Despite different degrees of involvement in projects, PMOs and EPMOs have something in common: they support each other. Large companies could find it beneficial to use both at the same time. That is if they can afford to have two separate departments. If they do, they can separate and distribute roles among teams to ensure that all aspects of a project are fully covered. The path is easy: The EPMO chooses a project and the PMO manages it to its completion.
You might sometimes come across the term EPM (Enterprise Project Management). Compared to EPMO which represents a department, EPM stands for a collaborative method in which companies manage their projects, resources, and work.
What does an EPMO do?
- ensures that all projects, programs, and portfolios are aligned with the company’s standards, methods, policies, and agreed-upon strategy
- standardizes metrics, tools, procedures, and techniques
- initiates and controls all project management processes
- monitors progress and creates reports on management and on the company’s programs
- optimizes methods and strategy delivery
- manages project management talent-
- helps achieve objectives
- makes decisions related to investments and the distribution of resources on an enterprise level
EPMO team members:
Enterprise PMO Director/Manager – oversees the execution of all projects to make sure that these follow the client’s requirements and enterprise-level objectives
PPMO – Project Portfolio Management Office
What is PPMO?
Moving on to a larger scale, the Project Portfolio Management Office (PPMO) brings together project, program, or portfolio management advice and tools.
By definition, portfolios are a collection of projects, programs, and operations. This is why the PPMO is in charge of ensuring that all of these meet the business objectives. A PPMO can select, assess, and prioritize the projects that go into a portfolio. All this without losing clients or projects in the large amount of work.
PPMOs are chosen by the executive leadership of a company. Their primary role is to cater to senior management. A Project Portfolio Management Office’s main priorities when employed include analyzing the company’s objectives, taking notice of the current number of projects and of the possibility of working on new ones, and setting the order in which they should be completed. They also look at what resources are available and what the obstacles preventing their use are.
Not all organizations have portfolios or a significant number of projects to work on. Therefore, companies who handle a few projects yearly might not find any use for a PPMO. On the other hand, if you’re loading yourself with portfolios you’re not managing, PPMO could help you avoid any problems due to lack of supervision and improve your return on investment.
What does a PPMO do?
- makes decisions regarding the duties that should be executed including their timing and delivery
- reduces workflow by carefully choosing to work only with projects that match business objectives and needs
- helps plan, build, and monitor a strategic project portfolio
- analyzes opportunities with existing portfolios according to execution capacities
- establishes portfolio assets and goals within resource limits
- manages risks and rewards
- issues consistent progress reporting
- communicates the approved projects and their priorities
- collects and distributes the data that needs further review
- analyzes and improves portfolio performance
- ensures the organization is capable of handling its portfolios and accepting more projects
- offers portfolio management guidance, training, and assessments
PPMO team members:
Project Portfolio Management Office Director/Manager – develops and coordinates portfolio strategies, handles complex portfolio-related issues, and supervises other Portfolio Managers
Project Portfolio Managers – lead multiple projects, programs, and portfolios according to a company’s overall goals
PgMO – Program Management Office
What is PgMO?
Program Management Offices (PgMO) have similar duties to Project Management Offices but extend their role from simple projects to complete programs and other varied aspects of businesses.
PMOs usually report and are part of a PgMO. Meanwhile, the latter reports at a higher level in the organization and holds greater decisional authority. Their duties might be similar, but their focus is different, Program Management Offices centering around the overall success of programs, not just individual projects. PgMOs are also more strategic than PMOs that deal only with project execution.
PgMOs are support groups that become involved in a company’s affairs once their programs go awry. Such a team is critical to ensuring the compliance of programs to business, local, national, and global standards. This is done by managing the entire lifecycle of a program.
An effective PgMO can be a solid source of initiative for any company. Program Management Officers are the subject matter experts needed to put a program on the right path when failure happens. For this reason, PgMO practitioners should be flexible enough to adapt their work manner and existing knowledge to the internal needs of their clients.
Although not among the most commonly used business abbreviations, Program Management Offices are sometimes referred to as PMOs. However, the accurate abbreviation is PgMO, with PMO being reserved for Project Management Office.
What does a PgMO do?
- oversees the overall management of a number of projects that are part of a single larger program
- defines roles and responsibilities
- manages collaboration and information distribution between similarly related projects and within the whole program
- establishes processes, methods, and tools to be used for program management
- manages program resources to help businesses reach their objectives
- plans, executes, and monitors a program’s benefits according to expectations and outcomes
- sets measurement methods and assesses program performance according to the chosen metrics-
- manages risks and issues from a program perspective
PgMO team members:
Program Management Office Director/Manager – creates and coordinates program plans, handles complex program-related issues, and supervises other Program Managers
Program Managers – lead multiple projects and programs according to the company’s business goals
PSO – Project Support Office
What is PSO?
The Project Support Office (PSO) is a temporary or permanent administrative support department of a company that offers a series of development and supervision services to project teams and managers on a daily basis.
Project Support Officers are essentially assistants and coordinators. This is why they usually work closely with the rest of your team and even from the same office. Proper and clear communication between the team and the PSO is vital for this department to bring the desired results.
Hiring a PSO team can save costs spent on external services and experts that could help you with different tasks that are currently missing from your company. The PSO’s main role is to fill the gaps in your project team. This will help you achieve great results on time and with fewer costs than you would otherwise spend on outsourcing.
In fact, PSOs don’t have a specific role. Their duties depend entirely on a company’s needs. Let’s say you’re managing two different projects at the same time. However, those in charge have no formal project management training or experience. The Project Support Office brings official project management methodologies to your team and suggests the use of professional tools in this sense. Similarly, in the case of temporary PSO collaborations, they can train and prepare your project team for your following work when they will no longer be around.
Note: This project management tools list is a comparison of the top professional tools used by project teams and managers on a daily basis.
What does a PSO do?
- provides support for written project management materials such as plans, analyses, and other formal documents
- creates additional paperwork for research, learning, and legal purposes
- monitors and controls all processes around a project
- develops effective communication methods for the project team
- assists project team members during development and maintenance
- ensures the alignment of objectives with each project
- reviews business objectives and possible obstacles
- identifies links and similarities between several projects
- manages risks by avoiding or controlling them
- coaches project managers and sponsors (people primarily accountable for a project) on best practices and relevant software use
- provides the missing skills for your team, be they technical or administrative
PSO team members:
Project Support Officer Team Lead – works closely with Project Coordinators/Resource Managers and leads the PSO team to ensure effective resource acquisition, distribution, and use
Project Support Officers – assist Project Managers and fill in the missing roles in a project management team, be they technical or non-technical
It’s necessary for any organization to establish its own departments that can effectively manage projects, programs, and portfolios. This must be done according to the needs of each company and its projects. If you’re running a single project the PMO might be enough for you. However, if you often work with a larger number of projects and clients, you might want to consider a PSO, PgMO, PPMO, or EPMO as an alternative or as secondary support.
Truth is that these departments do the same important thing. They match changing business objectives to your projects and make sure you reach them. Choosing one over the other depends on your workload, project frequency, time restrictions, company structure, budget, and the number of unresolved problems.
You need to recognize the importance of these structures for your company and if they’ll be of any benefit to you given the severity of the problems you’re dealing with. All this ensures that you can deliver more projects on time and on budget.
Also, read this article if you want to learn the difference between project management vs. product management regarding skill set, team efforts, and how business goals align.
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First published on January 17, 2020.
Alexandra Cote is a SaaS content writer and strategist with a passion for workplace productivity, social media marketing wonders, conversion rate optimization, artificial intelligence, and keyword research. Reach out to her via LinkedIn.