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Comparison of the Different Types of Project Management Office (PMO).

Paul Naybour Paul Naybour

Published: 18th August 2021

The different types of project management office (PMO) is one of the new topics introduced as part of the 7th Edition of the APM Body of Knowledge. These different types of PMO can cause confusion for many candidates for the APM qualifications, most specifically the APM Project Management Qualification (APM PMQ). In this post, I am going to look at the following.

What is a Project Management Office or PMO?

The APM defines a PMO as:

Project (programme or portfolio) management office (PMO): An organisational structure that provides support for projects, programmes and/or portfolios..

Associations for Project Management 7th Edition of the Body of Knowledge

Typical a PMO will provide support to the project management processes, such as change control, information management, risk management, planning. They normally provide support for project control and reporting, updating the project plans and other project trackers. They can provide specialist support such as risk management analysts or planners. Or facilitate core processes such as project kick-off workshops, or lessons learned review. In fact, there is a huge range of different services that PMOs offer in different organisations. What they don’t do is create the project deliverables, or provide desks and chairs. They are experts in setting up and running the administrative processes for projects.

What are the Different Types of PMO

The APM identifies three different types of PMO, however, the content in the Body of Knowledge is quite brief on this topic. In this post, we are going to explore this area in a little more detail. This post should be really useful for anyone taking the APM PMQ Exam. The types of PMO listed in the APM Body of Knowlege are:

  • Embedded PMO
  • Central PMO
  • Hub and Spoke PMO

How are these different types different and what are the reasons for choosing a specific type.

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Embedded PMO

The APM say:

Embeded PMO: Under the control of the project / programme or portfolio manager..

Associations for Project Management 7th Edition of the Body of Knowledge

An embedded PMO is dedicated to one project or programme, reporting to the project or programme manager. They only work on that one project and are not shared outside the project or programme. They typically last for the duration of the project and then move on to a new project once the project is finished. The reason for an embedded PMO is to support a larger and very busy project. Typical they have the following attributes.

  • People: the people in the PMO dedicated to the project. This means thay can stand in for the project and have oenweship and intermate knowlege of the project.
  • Performance: project reporting and control dedicated to one project. So the PMO will co-ordinate or produce the progress report for the different work packages in a project.
  • Systems: The PMO may establish bespoke systems and tools specific to the need of the project. Such as a peoject specific document control system or a work package management systems. These systems can be full blown IT systesm or they can be a simple as excel spreadsheets.
  • Process: The PMO may still have to follow corporate processes but can tailor them to the needs of the project. For example thier may be a corporate reporting systesm or capital funding approval process that has to be used by the project.

These embedded PMOs tend to be expensive so they are really only used on larger projects.

Central PMO

The APM say:

Central PMO: PMO function sits outside of the team, providing services to multiple projects.

Associations for Project Management 7th Edition of the Body of Knowledge

A central shared across several projects. The specialist resources within the PMO will support several projects at the same time. They tend to be based on a department, function or region. As people have to work on several projects at one time so resource management is critical. And inevitably, they are less involved in each project when compared to an embedded PMO. However, they tend to have a longer life because they work on a portfolio of projects to learn from experience. Typical, they have the following attributes.

  • People: the people in the PMO team are shared across several projects. They are less close to each project but can share lessons learned across projects.
  • Performance: project reporting and control tends to be systematic across all the projects supported by the PMO. This can be a beneficial service for senior managers.
  • Systems: The PMO will introduce systems and tools across the collection of projects it organises. However, these are likely to be relatively simple or based on off the shelf systems.
  • Process: A central PMP will typically define its processes and procedures and apply them across projects.

Cental PMOs are most effective as supporting a range of the smaller projects, where overall national integration is not required. Typical might be an IT department.

Hub and Spoke PMO

The APM say:

Hub and Spoke PMO: Hybrid with central enterprise PMP linked to satellite PMOs

Assocations for Project Management 7th Edition of the Body of Knowlege

In a large organisation will many thousands of projects it can be difficult for one central PMO to support all the projects. Especially if the organisation is split over several regions. In this case, a hub and spoke approach can be used. The Hub works with satellite PMOs who support the projects day-to-day. Typical the Hub will define the policy, procedures and systems, whiles the local satellite PMO support the projects. This type of structure can work well, but clarity is needed on what is done in the hub and the spokes.

  • People: in the satellites, work closely with the projects. The hub often includes a Head of Function, for example, there may be a Head of Documents Control or Head of Risk Management. These tend to be an expert on this topic.
  • Performance: project reporting and control is a collaborative effort between the hubs and satellites. Often the hub will set the policy, process and tools for reporting whilst the satellites implement the policy. You can see how this might create tensions.
  • Systems: The hub has the time, effort and resources to invest in business systems to support project management. These can be full blow IT systems developed (or tailored) to the needs of the organisation.
  • Process: The hub will spend a significant time developing and improving project management policy and procedures, in collaboration with the satellite PMOs

Cental PMOs are most effective as supporting a range of the smaller projects, where overall national integration is not required. Typical might be an IT department.

Comparing the three different PMO types. we can see they all have different strengths and weaknesses.

  • People: The embedded PMO give the highest level of support to the project manager and team. Arguably a hub and spoke team could do similar.
  • Reporting effectiveness: again, the embedded team is most likely to provide bespoke reports to meet the needs of the PM. A hub and spoke PMO has the challenges of coordinating approaches across the organisation.
  • Systems implementation: This is where the power of the hub and spoke approach wins out. By having an organisation-wide approach, they can develop systems specific to the needs of the project teams in the organisation. In theory.
  • Process effectiveness: Again, it’s hard to beat the close integration of the embedded PMO for known what is going on in the project.
  • Cost to the project: Here, the embedded PMO turns out thebe too expensive for all but the largest projects.

Overall Comparison of and Embedded, Central and Hub and Spoke PMO

Source: APM Body of Knowlege 7th Edition figure 2.2.1

This figure from the APM Body of Knowledge sums it up. An embedded PMO takes the lead on people, performance and system. It might have to work within the overall corporate processes.

The central PMO is responsible for everything, people, performance, process and systems.

A Hub and spoke PMO shares responsibility with most of the people and performance reporting close to the projects and the hub taking on responsibility for process and systems.

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