People sometimes misunderstand or confuse the definitions and work carried out through program management and the project management office (PMO), which is understandable since both deals with helping projects run more efficiently and effectively. However, the biggest difference is that a PMO deals with all projects in an organization. At the same time, program management is focused only on interrelated projects, which are better administered through one program. For example, suppose a college campus has several concurrent construction projects, and these can benefit from sharing resources of various kinds, processes, and other organizational assets. In that case, it makes sense to create a program to manage the various projects, which are then led by a program manager dedicated to this program and the program’s specific projects.
If they are directive, PMOs will provide leadership and management through this entity. However, the projects are run individually and not grouped as a program. Additionally, the PMO coordinates the sharing of resources across projects, similarly to a program, but, as noted earlier, the projects do not need to be interrelated in any way; they have to be part of the organization’s work effort. Also, PMOs are repositories and clearinghouses for standards, guidelines, procedures, lessons learned, and other kinds of organizational process assets, which can make running and executing a project more straightforward and efficient. Finally, the PMO assists projects and programs since the latter is composed of the former.
Regardless of whether you choose to develop a PMO for your organization, group your projects into programs, or do both, the important thing to remember is that upper management provides the right staff and training as needed to run the PMO or programs successfully. For PMOs, a PMO officer with the right experience and training is required to handle the various demands of this entity. Similarly, when grouping projects into programs, the right staff person or persons must manage multiple projects under a particular program.
Another essential thing to consider when it comes to both programs and PMOs is to assess the maturity, knowledge, and experience levels of the project managers (PMs) and their teams. For example, if a project manager and team are less experienced, they may require more assistance and oversight from a program manager and PMO officer. On the other hand, very experienced PMs and teams will require less oversight from the program manager. However, they may still require the organizational process assets contained in the PMO, such as procedures, standards, and perhaps internal inspection, to ensure that quality, permitting, or other compliance is being met. And again, remember that PMOs and program management are not mutually exclusive. They can both be used independently or in collaboration with each other.
If you are interested in learning more about PMOs or program management, or if you need consulting assistance to develop, implement and monitor the progress of either, please feel free to contact us at PM workshops. We would be happy to assist you and your staff in developing the right structure for your organization’s needs.