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A project management office, also called a PMO, is the department or team within a company or organization that sets forth the guidelines and processes by which projects are managed. The purposes of the project management office are to ensure that projects are completed on time and on budget, that projects are managed and documented consistently throughout the organization and that any and all applicable regulatory requirements are met for each project. A project management office often provides training and mentoring for project managers throughout the company as well, regardless of whether or not those individuals report to the project management office.
One main function of a project management office is to develop standard forms and documentation procedures. A company or organization may have several project managers working in a number of areas throughout the company. Each of these professionals will have his own ideas about what information should be written down and what information can be committed to memory. Lack of proper documentation, however, can lead to human error and may create a liability situation in the event of an audit or lawsuit. Creation of standard project documents, such as change control forms, project information folders and risk management analysis matrices, help ensure that all necessary information will be complete and available at any time it is needed.
The project management office may also analyze successful and unsuccessful projects in order to identify process weaknesses. This may include a review of specification creation, estimating, purchasing, design, sales, customer service and manufacturing. It will often create best practices documents to address issues that do not require a formal procedure as well.
Depending on the size and structure of the organization, the project management office may be a separate department or it may be a cross-functional team. It may also be referred to as a program management office. Regardless of the structure or terminology, the goals of the office are consistency, efficiency and decreased errors. Ultimately, these things combine to create both a better customer experience and more profitable projects.
Development of an effective project management office is an investment of time, labor and, often, money. Companies forming such an office should not expect to see immediate results. Members of the project management office will need time to study the existing processes, analyze past data and interview project managers and other employees before they can identify needs and develop solutions. They may need to determine whether project management software will be beneficial to the organization and, if so, decide which software to purchase. The most successful project management offices are those that have both adequate financial backing and the support of upper-level management.
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