The experience for a project manager varies between companies, industries, and which project management methodology is used. Some companies have an entire department, a Project Management Office (PMO), dedicated to organizing and standardizing the best project management techniques.
Read more: Project Management Office (PMO) Meaning
What Does a Typical Day in a PMO Look Like?
A PMO is a very structured organization with many different levels of meetings and processes to enforce and track. A typical day is best described by detailing all of the things that are required over the course of a week. A project manager operating as a key member of a PMO can expect a little bit of all of these things to occur daily.
- Various meetings for planning, managing, reviewing, and reporting on project details. Meetings include one-on-one time with managers and key team members to review progress and blockers on projects, weekly team project check-ins, cross-functional team reviews with presentations, as well as meetings with scrum and technical teams to report on progress and get updates on sprint work and development.
- Collaborating with leadership on scope alignment, resource allocation, and obtaining approvals for project change requests and launch go/no go decisions.
- Reporting project status weekly and monthly to leadership and team leads through presentations, spreadsheets, and project planning software dashboards like Smartsheet.
- Administrative tasks like filling out timesheets, project plan updates, transferring and managing project files, check-ins with vendors, scheduling meetings, and reviewing calendars. This also includes playing detective to find information and the right people to answer questions, or provide input and direction on blockers.
Working in a PMO vs Traditional Project Management
Traditional Project Management
A traditional project management environment can vary depending on the size of the company, the industry, and how many project managers are on staff.
Traditional processes may not include a well-defined method for measuring progress or project success. Different tools can be used for this depending on budget. Project timelines and budgets are subject to change at any time. Everything is planned in detail up front. Then the work begins and can move quickly, but with expected change.
In a traditional setting, the project manager alone is responsible for the success or failure of the project. While teams are engaged, it is the PM who creates the plan with their input, and manages the project to completion.
Endless tools are available for PMs to use as they see fit, as long as they’re approved by management for budget. Alternatively, a simple manual spreadsheet can be used to manage a large effort. Loose and high-level milestone-driven timelines are common in waterfall
, and often resource allocation is left to leadership based on profit and loss.
Read more: Project Office vs PMO: Definition & Purpose
Project Management Office
A PMO environment is a very structured, tight organization that follows pre-determined processes and plans.
The PMO process is an optimized and repeatable one. A governance framework is defined first, which makes delegating tasks and approvals quick, efficient, and unquestionable. KPIs are used to determine process or project success and failure
, so there is low risk of project failure, missed deadlines, and budget slips. It is easy to identify knowledge gaps early on and be proactive in closing them.
In a PMO, project success is a collaboration between the project manager and the project governance. Governance structure details the steering committee and project leadership, including the sponsor, functional owner, and technology owner. Workstream leads, stakeholders, and those providing input, implementation, and approvals are also identified and are expected to weigh in at different points.
As in traditional project management, many tools can be used to support the project — including specialized project management software
and collaboration tools. Different tools enable cross-functional communication and coordination across teams and departments, keep track of the project plan, and provide access to documentation.
How Can Businesses Get the Most Out of a PMO?
Working in or with a PMO can be a very valuable and positive experience for project managers and other company leaders. A project is in good hands in a PMO because of the detailed structure, processes, and planning that go into managing each project from concept to launch. Here are some tips for how businesses can get the most out of a PMO.
- Respect and use the program or project governance as a source of truth for who is responsible for what, and to understand who leads specific parts of the effort.
- Bring the right people into the PMO. Hire experienced leaders with a history of driving a project from discovery to launch and beyond.
- Ensure projects are aligned between leadership and the PMO; the PMO will help bridge the gap between project leads.
- Build trust for the PMO within your organization. Develop a culture of collaboration and let all employees know that the PMO is a department that will provide structure and support for any important project.
Read next: Proof of Concept in Project Management
- Demonstrate PMO value to the organization by keeping an open flow of communication between people; keep everyone informed of processes and roles.