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The Project Management Office, the Project Support Office and the Project Office: What's the Difference?

meisterplan pmo project management teams Jul 29, 2021
What's the Difference between a PMO, PSO and PO?

It’s no secret that the team at Meisterplan is a huge fan of the Project Management Office (PMO). We see firsthand the value a PMO can bring to its organization, and as a PPM solution, we have the opportunity to help PMOs achieve successful outcomes. We also understand that no two PMOs are alike. Like a tailormade suit, PMOs are cut and trimmed to fit the exact needs of its organization. For large enterprises, this customization sometimes goes further than the PMO to the creation of a Project Support Office (PSO) and a Project Office (PO). While this might just seem like an unnecessary number of acronyms, each office has specific and beneficial purposes. To prove this, I’m going to explain what each one is, what it does and how it works in an organization. 

 

What is a PMO?

If you’re reading this article, you’re likely already familiar with the Project Management Office or PMO, so I won’t bore you with an in-depth definition. However, if you’d like to learn more about the PMO, you can check out our 4-part PMO blog series. In general, a PMO is a group or department within an organization that is responsible for the centralized and coordinated management of all projects. PMO activities can include prioritizing projects, creating processes around project portfolio management and resource management, providing support to project managers and teams and reporting up to senior management. While a PMO can take many shapes, the PMO will also likely take the strategy and corporate goals provided by senior management and translate it into a project portfolio. 

What is a PSO?

The Project Support Office or PSO exists to support project teams with the day-to-day operations executing projects. In smaller organizations, this task is handled by the PMO, but in larger organizations this responsibility is transferred to the PSO. Because PSOs help with the day-to-day operations, they are located near where project teams work. This means an organization could have multiple PSOs in different offices and even different countries. Activities in the PSO include:

  • Scheduling projects
  • Scheduling resources to projects
  • Managing scope change requests
  • Resolving resource conflicts or dependencies
  • Updating and reviewing project statuses
  • Ensuring project managers adhere to project management practices and processes

PSOs can be a great asset to organizations that have lots of project teams in different locations. With a PSO onsite, organizations can be sure that teams have the help they need to successfully execute projects without having to wait for assistance from a global PMO. When a PMO and a PSO (or multiple PSOs) work together, the PMO can focus on overall strategy and planning while the PSO works on a more tactical level to ensure projects are successfully finished. 

What is a PO? 

A Project Office or PO is the body responsible for setting project management standards that an organization abides by. A PO is also only found in large organizations as smaller organizations will assign this task to the PMO. Common activities performed by the PO include:

  • Standardizing processes such as new project intake, scope change requests and project status updates
  • Outlining best practices for project management
  • Developing training for project managers
  • Advocating for the adherence and advancement of project management methodologies

The PO operates at an organizational level, while the PSO typically operates at the business unit level or similar. The PO makes the rules and the PSO enforces them. The standardization established by the PO is extremely valuable for large organizations who want to visualize and compare project data from different units and locations. These standards help keep organizations synchronized.

 

How These Office Work Together

When organizations develop PSO(s) and a PO in combination with their PMO, they are taking great strides in making corporate strategy a reality through connectedness and transparency. From a global perspective, the PMO can steer the ship ensuring that corporate objectives are reflected in the projects that make up the portfolio. The PO can create a standardization that allows projects, reports, resources and processes to be easily understood by other areas of the organization. PSOs can provide hands-on support to local teams to make sure projects aren’t delayed by other dependencies, resource conflicts or other issues.

Sometimes individuals in organizations with all three offices incorrectly believe these offices exist to micromanage their work, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. These offices work to remove common obstacles that arise in project execution by streamlining processes, removing inefficiencies, and providing project support when needed. When the PMO, PSOs, and PO run smoothly, they actually make the daily work of team members and project managers easier. 

Support for PMOs

If you work in a PMO or are tasked with building one, having additional help from a PSO and PO probably sounds like a dream. But, for many organizations the duties and tasks of the PSO and PO are still the responsibility of the PMO. While you dream of the day your organization is big enough to support a PSO and PO, we can help you build a successful PMO with our free templates. Our templates will provide a framework for the meetings and activities needed in your PMO as well as provide some useful forms for standardizing processes. Download our free templates today to get started.

Visit meisterplan.com to learn how Meisterplan’s lean project portfolio management and capacity planning software can support your PMO.