What can PMO manage? Think again if you think you know the answer.

project program portfolio operationsTry to answer this sample question:

According to the PMBOK Guide, a Project Management Office (PMO) may manage:
A.) An organization’s projects.
B.) An organization’s projects and programs.
C.) An organization’s projects, programs and portfolios.
D.) An organization’s projects, programs, portfolios and operations.

Take a moment and think through the question and jot down your answer. Then proceed to read this post.

The first option that can come to mind is A. This is obvious choice. But answering PMP question is going beyond the obvious choice. Figuring the BEST possible answer for the question.

Scanning PMBOK’s PMO section, you wouldn’t find a direct answer to this question. So a bit of investigation is in order.

First, let us see what PMBOK 5th edition (page #11) says.

“the PMO integrates data and information from corporate strategic projects and evaluates how higher level strategic objectives are being fufilled. The PMO is the natural liasion between the organization’s portfolios, programs, projects, and the crporate measurement systems (e.g. balanced scorecard).”

Not very straight forward answer, is it? But what you can infer, knowing that portfolios achieve organizations strategic objectives, is that PMOs manage projects, programs and portfolios.

Let us look at PMI’s Standard for Portfolio Management, 3rd edition (page #17) section titled ‘1.9 Role of the PMO in Portfolio Management’ –  “PMO refers to a project, program, or portfolio management office and supports project, program, or portfolio functions respectively. The PMO in an organization is the entity that defines and maintains the process standards generally related to the project, program, or portfolio  management.”

Now it is pretty straight forwad that PMO handles the 3Ps – Project, Program, and Portfolio. In fact organizations can have a XMO department/function for each of these 3Ps.

So the answer must be C, right?

May be there is more to investigate here.

Look at the definition of Portfolio in PMBOK 5th edition – Portfolio: Project, programs, subportfolios, and operations managed as a group to achieve strategic objectives.

Whoa! So now we know that Porofolio can manage OPERATIONS!

What does this leave us with?

PMO can manage projects, programs, portfolios and operations in an organization.

Which gives us the answer for this question to be the last option – option D

[If you wanted to know, the answer given where I found the above question was option C]

Initially I found this post with a neat illustration that said “A good way to think about the portfolio is all the projects under a PMO umbrella where a corporate could have a PMO for each business area.”. Nicely depicted. But I needed proof from PMBOK/PMI reference materials to arrive at the answer that is acceptable. And I think the above points arrive at the answer from within the ambits of PMP/PMI.

Now go back at the answer you noted down earlier. What is it? If it is not D, please leave your reasoning below in Comments.

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