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Most people will argue that there are lots of different PMOs but when you boil it down, there is really only Enterprise/Divisional PMOs (‘Ivory Towers’) and Delivery PMOs (‘The Coalface’).  The Ivory towers being largely removed from Delivery teams; the coalface working directly with the Delivery teams.

Enterprise PMOs (The Ivory Tower)

The Enterprise PMO (EPMO) team makes the rules, providing frameworks, standards, methods, templates, and tools.  These guys don't generate Delivery data.  Instead, they receive and consolidate data that is generated at the coalface, to provide reporting and insight at the portfolio level.

The other key function the EPMO should be involved in – emphasis on the should because it doesn't happen in every organisation - is the portfolio build and prioritisation.  Depending on the level of clout that the EPMO has, it will either drive the entire portfolio building prioritisation, or it will act as a facilitator for that piece of work.

EPMO might also be involved in capacity planning, resource management and practice-management for Delivery roles (e.g.  Project and Change Managers, Business Analysts, Testing).


Delivery PMOs

The focus for Delivery PMOs is to safeguard delivery of projects – it’s normally about giving bandwidth back to project and program managers so they can give maximum focus to delivery.

On small initiatives, the project manager is unlikely to have support, so covers all sorts of tasks like finance, risks, issues, dependencies, scheduling – the whole lot - on their own.  On larger, more complex initiatives, Coalface PMOs facilitate those tasks, ensuring:

  • Flow of data and insight to provide feedback to the Delivery team (internal focus) and support reporting outcomes (external focus)

  • Minimum footprint on the Delivery team through optimised data capture

When Delivery PMOs do their job well, they save a lot of time and distraction for the Delivery team on the ground, which ultimately contributes to delivery success.

You're probably wondering why I'm telling you the basics when anyone that's worked in a PMO, even for a short amount of time, would surely know the difference between Ivory Tower and Coalface?  Of course, you know that….  but are you then able to think about how these roles might be impacted by Agile?  How your current role must change to overcome the challenges PMOs are faced with today.

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