Any business that runs projects will have a use for a project management office (PMO). Start-ups and corporations have PMOs to serve different purposes and focus on different outcomes.

Although all PMOs will have unique characteristics, there will be similarities in large corporate offices that you’d be unlikely to find in a start-up company. In this article we’re going to look at:

  • What start-up and corporate PMOs have in common
  • Where the differences are in terms of office organisation
  • The different operational functions fulfilled by each PMO type

How are start-up and corporate PMOs similar?

The overall objective of a PMO is to have projects running efficiently in a business. This shouldn’t change, no matter where in the business cycle the company is.

The areas of project implementation and function that a PMO covers will be broadly similar. For example, a PMO will usually:

  • Monitor, allocate, and track human and other resources
  • Design tools for project managers to run their projects
  • Implement training across project teams to maintain skills
  • Track KPIs and monitor other matrices to ensure compliance
  • Ensure projects are delivered on time and on budget

These are the broad strokes of most PMOs, and you’d not expect them to be different in a corporate or start-up setting.

Where the PMO style diverges is when it comes to how these actions are completed. Employee headcount, business location or locations, and company culture are elements that will make a difference.

How are start-up and corporate PMOs different in their organisation?


In a start-up, expect a small and agile office. This will be because the company is going to be rather small, but also because you want to ensure the PMO doesn’t stifle the energy in a start-up.

A corporate PMO will have a bigger workload so needs a bigger team. You’ll generally find analysts and managers working with the data produced to understand how projects are progressing.


Corporations are known for having processes and procedures laid out and monitored. A PMO does this for projects within the company and colleagues will be used to having guidelines to adhere to.

Within a start-up, having a PMO might be the first time that process maps and performance matrices have come up. The PMO will need to work to introduce governance over time and deal with pushback.


Budgets are usually tight within a start-up, but there is also a thirst to use technology. The software and programs used in a new business will likely be off-the-shelf and SaaS with the PMO needing to adapt them to purpose.

In a corporation, a PMO is more likely to have a bespoke system to manage HR, office bookings, and to monitor KPIs and budgets. If not fully bespoke, systems will have been adapted, but may also be old and less agile than modern SaaS systems.

What functions do a start-up and a corporate PMO fulfil?

In a start-up PMO, there will be actions that need to be taken to get it going, which we covered recently. Once a new company has a PMO it will need to work within the remit given by the board.

The types of functions you can expect from a start-up PMO include:

  • Ensuring all projects tightly align with business strategy
  • Managing a scare pool of resources
  • Designing processes when bottlenecks are identified
  • Monitoring markets and adapting projects to respond to change
  • Introducing and running a training and upskilling program

A corporate PMO will likely be more administrative in its function and data driven. That doesn’t mean it won’t also be business focussed; it can use the data and other work to manage projects in line with increasing the bottom line.

Corporate PMO functions should encompass these areas:

  • Monitoring adherence to project delivery targets through reports
  • Planning and allocating resources across areas and locations
  • Tracking performance in the long-term and making multi-year forecasts
  • Accounting for and responding to business needs within projects
  • Commissioning training and skills programs for project teams

The take home

A company at the start of the business cycle will have different project needs than a mature corporate entity. The differences between a start-up and a corporate PMO revolve around their size, structure, and access to technology. These factors make the functions they complete diverge too.