A project management office (PMO) isn’t just about looking after the projects, it also has a role to play in managing the managers of these projects. This is an often-overlooked element of PMOs, so how does a PMO manage project managers?

The answer will depend on the type of project management office that you run. Although every project manager (PM) will have KPIs to hit, that’s not the only interaction your office should be having with them – there are more roles that need to be fulfilled.

To help you ensure that you’re working effectively with the PMs in your office, we’re going to look at:

  • How the PMO and PM relationship differs depending on your PMO type
  • What a PM is going to expect from your office
  • The types of support you need to be offering to your PMs

What type of relationship should by PMO have with PMs?

As we’ve recently explored, there are different types of PMOs. The level of control and the functions of your PMO will determine the way your office will interact with and monitor project managers.

There are three broad categories of PMO, and this is how they would work with their PMs:

  • A directive PMO assigns PMs to projects from a pool. PMs report directly into this type of PMO and it’s the office’s responsibility to hold managers accountable and monitor their KPIs. This PMO will exert a lot of control and influence over PMs.
  • A controlling PMO works on compliance and ensure that PMs are following the correct procedures. This PMO usually doesn’t have the managers directly reporting to them, but the office can advise when the project isn’t performing and offer support.
  • A supportive PMO is there to offer guidance to project managers. The office can offer advice and provide documentation and processes but doesn’t generally have the power to enforce change on PMs, the focus is in the project KPIs rather than that of the manager.

What does a PMO need to offer to the PMs working with it?

A PM needs to have a positive environment to work in to be able to complete their role successfully. Giving a set of processes and a project framework isn’t enough, you need to create an atmosphere that will allow them to be productive and work with their team effectively.

As a PMO you need to offer your PMs:

  • Empowerment to do what’s right for their project and team
  • Good communication from your office and between team members
  • A performance-focussed workplace to drive success
  • Clear strategic vision for their role and for the projects they manage
  • A well-defined role within their project and for how they work with your office
  • Standard procedures so they can focus on delivery rather than process design

We will explore deeper definitions and how to give these elements to your PMs in the next post.

What functions does a PMO need to provide to PMs?

Even when your office isn’t the direct report for your PMs, there are times when your office will be the first point of contact for problems or when support may be required. Your office needs to be prepared to fulfil certain roles for your projects.

Some of the key activities you will need to make available to allow your PMs to be effective are:

  • Co-ordination of managers in terms of communications and workloads
  • Programme management to ensure that there is overall co-ordination of projects
  • Conflict management, usually in the form of competing demands for resources
  • Knowledge sharing to make sure best practices are rolled out evenly

These functions will support your PMs and make managing their project easier. Since they are so important, we’ll dive deeper into how you can make them happen in a future post.

The take home

The question of how a PMO manages project managers can be complex since different offices take on different roles. Aside from properly monitoring and reporting on KPIs depending on your office’s arrangements, there are other elements that your office needs to provide or facilitate to ensure your PMs are happy and successfully delivering projects. We’ll look at these elements in more detail in up coming posts.