Last week we had a couple of sessions out and about – one being our own Breakfast Briefing and another at the BCS. The subject of course being PMO.

And the title of this article pretty much sums it up – one of the simplest things about PMO is what do those letters mean? what does it stand for?

When we start to understand the diversity that sits behind those three simple letters – PMO – we can start to understand just what PMOs are doing the world over in businesses today. The sessions went on to then look at the roles within PMOs and of course the training that is available to them (more of that in posts to come)

Back to the letters PMO then.

There are no right or wrong definitions of a PMO – it’s whatever that particular business wants their PMO to mean to them. You can argue with people until you’re blue in the face – or disagree politely in Linkedin groups – everyone will have a slightly different view on what those letters, PMO, mean to them and the business they work in. Accept it and move on.

Here’s one slide we shared last week that highlights the PMO naming landscape:


Eileen discussed in her session about The Incongruous Nomenclature of PMOs. I can’t even pronounce that but basically we all know that organisations have different names for the PMO – some of it makes sense to an outsider, sometimes not. Other acronyms get used – Project Support Office; Agile Project Management Office; Enterprise PMO and so on.

The common names are Project Management Office; Programme Management Office; Portfolio Management Office and Centre of Excellence. All terms that were picked up by P3O® and helped to become common language in PMO land.

We might think that names aren’t important – that it’s what you do that really matters, however here’s one example that demonstrates why a PMO in one business can no longer be named a PMO.

The other week at a PMO Flashmob, there was a PMO Manager working within a housing firm. The problem they have is that there is already another department called the PMO – Property Management Services. You can see how quickly conversations in the business will become confused – it’s important that the PMO (the project one) has some kind of identity within that business. So what should it be called? What would you call it?

At the last Stand Up for PMO event in Manchester, in a segment that followed the premise of the TV show, Room 101, where things we dislike are consigned to Room 101 and never to be seen again – the naming of the PMO was chosen by an audience member. Ultimately it wasn’t voted in but there were enough rumbles in the audience to know that it is a problem for some PMOs.

Why is that? A number of different reasons – the name doesn’t align with what it does (that’s the Incongruous Nomenclature of PMOs again); it’s got a bad name in the business (for whatever reason) so it needs changing, rebranding; it conflicts with other departments (like our Property Management one); we’ve got someone new in charge and they want to change it, stamp their own mark and so on.

There’s one other place where the name matters and that’s when you no longer work for the business that called it a PPO (Project Performance Office) and now you’re looking for a new job where the majority of people call it a PMO. Of course you can make it clear on a CV that a PPO is a PMO by any other name, but what’s the betting that you’ll use the term PMO more than you will PPO in that CV?

The name given to your PMO within your business is important – that’s the identity it has and what it’s called by everyone who knows of it. The neat trick is to make sure you can clearly and concisely tell people what it does. Call it a strapline if you want. “Yes it’s a Programme PMO and we support the Programme Manager and teams throughout the programme to make sure they have everything they need to deliver it successfully”

Now let’s move on and spend the energy on doing just that – supporting successful delivery.

The P3O® courses on this page are offered by PMO Learning. P3O® is a [registered] trade mark of AXELOS Limited. P3O® is a registered trade mark of AXELOS Limited, used under permission of AXELOS Limited. The Swirl logo™ is a trade mark of AXELOS Limited, used under permission of AXELOS Limited. All rights reserved.

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