What are the different types of Project Management Offices in IT?

By Robert Half on 23 January 2023
Estimated Read Time: 4 minutes

A project management office (PMO) is a department within an organisation that structures guidelines and standards for project management for that organisation. If it sounds straightforward, that’s because it can be!

IT, specifically, thrives through organised, streamlined projects — which is what PMOs aid or provide. An increasing number of Singaporean universities offer project management courses, and the Project Management Institute — a leading authority and project management certification body — even has a Singapore chapter with over 2,000 members. All this is to say: there’s an overwhelming talent pool, and a range of PMOs to chose from.

So, how does one pick a PMO in IT and which ones are suited to your organisation?

What is a project management office (PMO)?

As we mentioned earlier, a PMO provides standards for project management for your organisation. Different types of project management offices do this in different ways, ranging from providing guidance and documentation to creating a strict set of procedures, templates, and practices.

Another important point to note is that PMOs can be both internal or external, as well as internal-facing or external-facing. This means that you can outsource them if needed, or they can act as liaisons internally — between teams — or externally, between your customers and your organisation

What are the different types of project management offices?

It is difficult to name different types of project management offices in a finite sense, since different organisational authorities classify them differently. The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), a set of standardised terminology and guidelines for project management by The Project Management Institute (PMI) outlines 3 types of PMOs:

Supportive PMO

A supportive PMO, as the name suggests, provides support to the organisation where necessary. Their role is a lot less involved, and, in some ways, they are similar to consultants, in that they can provide expertise, standard operating procedures, and access to information when needed.

Controlling PMO

A controlling PMO has a more active involvement, and a higher realm of control than a supportive PMO. They might, for instance, ensure projects are following best practices and sticking to existing guidelines. Additionally, they might carry out regular reviews, ensuring projects are conforming and complying to necessary framework, to minimise any potential risk associated with the projects in question.

Directive PMO

Directive PMOs are the highest level of PMO, and have the most control over projects. It is not uncommon for directive PMOs to hire, train, and supervise project managers while also being heavily involved in resource management, and the planning and management of an organisation’s projects.

Factors to consider when choosing between different types of project management offices

A PMO allows you to optimise project performance in the most efficient way possible. A few questions to ask before settling on a PMO are as follows:

  1. Are different facets of the organisation working together symbiotically?
  2. Are they doing this in the most efficient way possible?
  3. Are there existing templates, guides, operating procedures, and metrics?
  4. Do the different facets of the organisation require more or less overseeing and control?
  5. Is the organisation currently losing money because of a lack of one or more of these questions?

Related: Are you setting unrealistic and conflicting goals in the workplace?

Of the 3 different types of PMOs, here are some considerations to narrow down the PMO best suited to you:

Supportive PMO

This type of PMO is suitable for organisations where projects run with minimal control, and often at a faster pace. Supportive PMOs can often step in where real-time control is required. They might, for example, be suited to smaller IT firms where quality deliverables are more essential compared to bigger firms. Adaptive in their roles, supportive PMOs can also be useful for the training of new staff, and providing organisational overviews through shared templates and metrics.

Controlling PMO

This is the most common type of PMO, since they provide that ideal Goldilocks range of support and control. They can enforce guidelines and carry out routine reviews with a medium degree of control.

Directive PMO

Directive PMOs are ideal for large organisations. The level of control directive PMOs have on projects — including through project managers reporting back to them, and more thorough and frequent reviews — ensures highly consistent project practices. This is especially important in bigger IT firms where there are more stakeholders to answer to; directive PMOs might increase the timeframe for certain projects, however, in ensuring a streamlined process and tight framework, they can save organisations vast sums of money.

At the end of the day, the PMO you choose depends on your goals for your organisation. Hopefully, you are now able to make a confident decision as to which PMO might be suited to your business needs. Additionally, here are some internal recruitment strategies to help find the right person for your team.

If you are looking for PMO talent, contact Robert Half by submitting a job order.

Robert Half specialises in the hiring IT talent in Singapore. If you are looking to hire your next expert, contact us today.

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