Towards PMO Maturity (Part 1)

PMO Maturity

The first of two posts covering the evolving role of the Project Management Office (PMO). Part 1 presents a typology of PMOs. Part 2 discusses the growing maturity and strategic role of PMOs as key enablers of change.


As argued in previous blog posts in this series, the PMO is fast becoming the de facto organisational structure for standardising project management best-practice, ensuring that projects and programmes are delivered on time, on budget, with agreed outcomes achieved.

Worldwide, it is estimated that 85 per cent of mid-to-large sized enterprises have a PMO in place. Thirty per cent of those with no PMO plan on implementing one very soon.

Similar results have been reported for the UK with the number of organisations having a PMO increasing from 71 per cent in 2016 to 85 per cent this year.

While these are impressive statistics, PMOs come in many different shapes and sizes. Roles, responsibilities and strategic importance vary considerably between different organisations.

A Typology of PMOs

Various classifications of PMOs have been developed over the years depending on domains of work i.e. the things that PMOs do.

Three broad types of PMO have been identified as summarised below:

Figure 1: Types of PMO

Source: Bridgeall

Administrative/Supporting PMOs

Sometimes referred to as the Project Support Office (PSO), this type of PMO has little direct control over projects or project management within the organisation. It acts mainly as a project repository responsible for progress reporting (but not review or evaluation); distributing reports to key stakeholders; capturing and consolidating risks, assumptions, issues and dependencies (RAIDs); document storage; training; supply of templates; and the dissemination of lessons learned.

The main role of the Administrative/Supporting PMO is to collect, document and store project data. Control of projects resides with functional/departmental managers.

Controlling/Compliance PMOs

In addition to the activities listed above, the Controlling/Compliance PMO acts as a project auditor, ensuring that best-practice tools, processes and standards are being followed across all programmes and projects.  Compliance and project governance are key responsibilities.

This type of PMO does have a degree of control over projects, sharing responsibilities with functional/departmental managers. Controlling/Compliance PMOs have the power to implement corrective actions if something goes wrong. Their primary focus is ensuring that all projects are delivered successfully, on-time, within budget.

A range of advisory, governance and consultancy services are provided to the rest of the organisation ensuring that projects conform to best practice and are successfully delivered. Regular project health checks and post-implementation reviews are conducted. The Controlling/Compliance PMO also has responsibility for resource management activities including forecasting, multi-project scheduling and planning.

Directive/Strategic PMOs

As discussed in Part 2 to follow, the importance of this third type of PMO has grown significantly in recent years with increasing project complexity combined with the urgent need to improve project execution and delivery within the wider context of business transformation and change management.

Being the ultimate project authority within the organisation, the Directive/Strategic PMO exerts a high degree of control over programmes and projects. Responsible for managing the overall change programme, there is a strong focus on strategy and investment. A key task is to optimise resource allocation to match overall business priorities.

The Directive/Strategic PMO has complete visibility of all projects across the organisation, both current and planned. They provide forecasting on overall business value across the project portfolio, providing wide ranging strategic consultancy and governance services to optimise portfolio benefits and resource use.

Journey of Maturity

Successful transformation and change management programmes require effective, enterprise-wide project portfolio management. According to a recent study by McKinsey, an empowered PMO is critical to leading the change effort, maintaining the ownership and commitment necessary for major transformations to succeed.

In Part 2, we will examine whether there is a ‘natural path of PMO maturity’ towards a higher level, more strategic role, responsible for aligning project and programme governance with overall strategy.