The design of any project management office (PMO) is crucial. The type of PMO you choose is going to dictate the direction of what you create and also perform different tasks.

When choosing the right PMO for a start-up, you need to understand the business and where the PMO will sit within in. On top of that, you need to understand the different types of PMO and how they might play in a start-up.

Here, we’ll explore:

  • The two different frameworks for a PMO
  • How you can choose to focus your PMO
  • Some styles of project management

With an eye on how well they will work for your start-up business and what you need to know to use each successfully.

Which framework should I use for my PMO in a start-up?

There are two overarching conceptual frameworks that you need to choose between to run your PMO. Which one you choose will dictate the overall character of the PMO and will reflect across the business.


The waterfall way to manage projects is sequential and linear; the team will complete one step and move on, with no backtracking. It’s a very focussed and methodical approach to project management.

Using waterfall project management in a start-up will help bring the company under control if it’s been working on duplicate projects or spending too much money to get a project to market.

It’s also a very simple framework to introduce and work within. This will get the PMO rolled out quickly and keep overheads low – important in a cash-poor new business.


For a business that’s struggling to get its product to market, agile project management can be a catalyst. Agile projects focus on being adaptable and getting the project delivered with a focus on the people – individuals and interactions are valuable in agile.

For a start-up, this type of PMO can preserve the flexibility your team value in a fresh set up. It also makes your small and punchy company responsive to market trends and faster than the big players in your market.

What should the focus of my start-up PMO be?

Different start-ups have different pain points. Because of this, there isn’t a clear answer on which PMO style to go for. The strategic goals of the business, as well as the general atmosphere you want to create are important to understand.

Traditional PMO

If your start-up is at the point of scaling up, a traditional PMO can smooth that process along. This PMO style focusses on projects adhering to governance and designing correct protocols, useful in a start-up that needs to work towards a big goal.

A traditional PMO will also introduce structures and help build a business continuity plan. For a start-up looking to grow this will be a plus point for investors.

Business-focussed PMO

To ensure your projects are really showing up in the business bottom line, a business-focussed PMO is what you need. This style of office will make sure that the business goals are the objective of every project and get them delivered on time.

There are a lot of processes that a business-focussed PMO can take on, such as selecting projects and taking care of training. Freeing up project managers to be leaders can drive the creativity that a start-up thrives on.

What method of project management should I choose?

Many different styles of project management are available, and each have their plus points as well as challenges. We’ll take a quick look at two of the most common PMO styles and how they can work in a start-up.


  • Advantages
    • Focussed and fast delivery
    • Very responsive to market changes
  • Disadvantages
    • It’s easy to understand but hard to master, results can take a will to roll in
    • Project teams need expertise and structure, which can be hard to find in a start-up


  • Advantages
    • Removes duplicated work and irons out inconsistencies
    • Kanban boards are visual and bring creativity
  • Disadvantages
    • Well-suited to lean manufacturing, not so great for software delivery
    • Boards need constantly updating which takes up valuable work hours

The take home

To choose the right PMO for a start-up, you need to know what the start-up wants to achieve and what it’s lacking in, in terms of projects. Different combinations of frameworks, focusses, and styles will give you very different looking PMOs. Know your priorities and choose between structure and flow, the bottom line and the process to get there.