Project Office vs PMO: Definition & Purpose

Project office and PMO diagram

If you’ve been involved in construction or other similar businesses, you’ve no doubt heard the term project office. If you’ve been reading the business media, you’ve no doubt heard the term PMO or project management office.

So what is a project office and why is it different from a PMO? In this article, I’m going to explain what each is, how they are related and how they are different.

A project office is typically a trailer or other short-term facility that is used as an office for a project. Normally they are used whenever office facilities are needed near a long-term temporary endeavor. Construction projects such as building a housing tract, or an office building or a bridge often use these offices.

These offices typically are used to house the project manager and any office workers who are needed on site. These can be secretaries, receivers, inventory management staff and even accounting staff. Typically, the site foreman will also be located in the project office. There are three primary variations on a project office.

The first variation is, in fact, the sales office. This facility generally contains a number of pictures, models and drawings. These marketing materials help the salespeople to sell the building units.

The second variation is the off-site project office. In fact, this is simply a situation where the on-site project office is not felt to be appropriate for the majority of the required office staff. As a result, the staff is housed in office facilities typically located in an office building. This is common where multiple projects are being run involving estimators, accountants and other support staff. This often means there are multiple project offices. An on-site one is used for the site manager and similar staff, while an offsite office is used for other staff.

The third variation is sometimes referred to as a war-room. This is a meeting space which has been turned over to the project. It may be used as an office for the project manager. However, its main function is to allow project documents to be displayed. It also serves as the archive for the project documents. It is these last two, which are the source of an alternative meaning to project office.

In some organizations, project office is used to refer to the staff who support the project. This includes the project manager, project accountants, estimators and secretarial staff. A project management office on the other hand, is always an organizational group. Its purpose varies from organization to organization.

In some cases, this can include providing the staff for the project office. It may even include providing the administrative functions for the project. However, generally its primary function is related to project management rather than individual project support. It may provide training to project managers, sponsors and stakeholders. It may also provide standards for performance or for process. It may provide centralized reporting or standardized reporting. It may even serve as the home department for project managers, providing resource management for them.

Glen Ford is an accomplished project management consultant, trainer and writer. He has over 20 years experience as a project manager in such diverse projects as Construction, IT, Software Development, Marketing and Business Startup. He is a serial entrepreneur who quite literally learned to be an entrepreneur at his great-grandfather’s knee.

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1 Response

  1. Avatar Mj says:

    Well explained thanks.

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