5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Chapter 1: The Project Management Office or PMO

This is a topic which caused confusion in our study group for the following reason: when I asked people what their Project Management Office or PMO did in their organization, I got three different answers.  One person said their PMO directed all the projects, another person said their PMO audited all of their projects to see if they were following the proper methodology, and the third one said their PMO was just a document control center. This caused quite a bit of discussion as to what should be the “true” function of a PMO. To see which one was correct, I looked at the PMBOK® Guide, and guess what? They ALL were correct.

According to the definition in the PMBOK® Guide,

“Project Management Office (PMO). An organization structure that standardizes the project-related governance processes and facilitates the sharing of resources, methodologies, tools, and techniques.”

This is the common feature of a PMO no matter what organization it is in. However, PMOs fall in three broad categories based on the degree of control over which the PMO has over individual projects. The following figure shows the three different types of PMO, with the rightward direction representing an increasing amount of control.

Figure 1. Three Types of PMO

PMO Type

Degree of Control





Consultative role for projects. Supplies templates, best practices, training, access to lessons learned on previous projects.




Support and compliance role for projects. Supplies templates, best practices, etc. and assures compliance through audits.




Managing role to projects. Supplies templates, best practices, assures compliance through audits, and directs completion of projects.

You will notice that some of the duties overlap, so the best representation of these three categories would be the following, with the innermost circle representing what Supportive PMOs do in providing templates and best practices, the middle circle representing what Controlling PMOs do in assuring that projects comply with those templates and best practices, and the outermost circle representing what Directive PMOs do in utilizing templates and best practices to direct projects to their successful conclusion.

If you keep these relationships in mind between the potential functions that an PMO can serve, then you will do well on questions involving the PMO. Just remember, which function a PMO will have is up to the organization, and as my three colleagues from our study group showed, each organization may decide differently what that function should be.

The next topic is that of the relationship between the project and the organization structure. This is really the introduction to a topic which is covered much more thoroughly in Chapter 2 when this relationship is described in detail with respect to different kinds of organizations.

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