What's in a name...it's still PMO, right?

Written by PMO Discipline Lead and Principal Consultant Gary Heath 

As a PMO (Programme Management Office) Leader, I’ve recently been involved in several conversations about the titles given to PMO job roles. Most of these conversations came from an ask to just call the role a; business manager,  analyst or business operations etc., to get us through that challenging procurement or budget process, whilst the activities required remained the same, this isn’t anything new. Throughout my career, I’ve actively had to sell the value add of a PMO because many do not understand the purpose or need for it. This led me to the following question, does the PMO role need a rebrand or is there more to it? 

The Misunderstood PMO 

There are now several PMO advocates, supported by the likes of; House of PMOPMO StrategiesHOTPMO and PMOGA, to name but a few, who help to ensure that knowledge and awareness for the PMO continues to be shared and recognised. The success of their efforts has been showcased this year with the first International PMO Day on 09 May 2023.

However, despite the growing support, the PMO can still largely be perceived by some as little more than an admin function…  

A great PMO can be integral to the successful delivery within an engagement, especially when you consider that the causes of failure in delivery tend to be a lack of executive support, insufficient training, lack of awareness of what is happening elsewhere within the organisation, and a failure to adapt quickly to changing market conditions. This is where the core functions of a PMO can assist. They provide sufficient training and coaching, establish clear metrics and reporting frameworks, add guardrails to ensure executive buy-in and support for initiatives, as well as provide transparency and a central source of knowledge. However, even in organisations that understand the need for a PMO, within recent economic climates, they are often easy pickings to reduce headcount and costs. The main argument being that their activities can easily be picked up by other roles on the engagement. So, are there other reasons the PMO is struggling to get its fair recognition? 

IT engagements and the evolution of Agile and other methods 

Most of my career has been within IT engagements, which could perhaps shed some light on my own experience with the perception of PMO. This is an ever-evolving sphere which has embraced the introduction of Agile ways of working. As well as a leaner delivery framework, there has also been an active shift from a project to more product/outcomes-centric focus within most IT organisations. As a result, the PMO role is often lost to the self-organising team structure. Though is the PMO role redundant in the Agile world, or is the PMO adapting with it?

Evolving with the times… the PMO rebrand  

My response to the above question is that the PMO role is certainly not redundant and is in fact already evolving with the new delivery methodologies... albeit, under a new name. The release of SAFe 6.0 by Scaled Agile, Inc. has seen the rebranding of APMO to VMO, which has also been echoed by the Project Management Institute’s article on The Evolution of PMO’s and xMO’s. Both reinforce the importance of having the core functions of a PMO but highlight the shift to focus on value over process.  

What does it mean to deliver value?  

I would suggest the following areas should be addressed or certainly considered in the first instance: 


1. People and culture - Understanding the culture, behaviours and organisational structure is important for knowing how best to support the organisation. The PMO: 

  • can assist with stakeholder management 
  • can introduce Centres of Excellence to ensure standards, practices, people, and skills are all aligned
  • can proactively help and assist with the monitoring and identification of improvements in the maturity of an organisation

2. Strategy Alignment – Any outcomes considered or delivered, should align with the organisation’s strategic goals.  The PMO: 

  • can help communicate the organisation’s goals across teams and the wider organisation
  • help define the scope, size, and shape of the portfolio
  • report on the progress against objectives, providing the latest data to hand to allow balanced key decisions to be made 

3. Flexibility - An adaptable and flexible mindset is critical to ensure that the structure and organisation moves with the ever-changing customer and market needs, requirements, and objectives of a business. The PMO: 

  • can help provide training and coaching to help with development and adoption  
  • enables the facilitation of services like lean-budgeting, workshops, and governance
  • can communicate key changes, updates, and guidance 

Hopefully, this article has helped to provide just some insights in value of the PMO, as well as showcase its ability to evolve and adapt to work with others to ensure that together value is delivered to the business and stakeholders. The recent rebrand to VMO/xMO is perhaps a further opportunity to revitalise this vital role so that it continues to be recognised for the level of value it provides in support of continuing to deliver successful outcomes. 


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