Program Management Office

PMO Program Management Office

The programme or ‘program’ management office is a type of PMO

The easiest way to understand the program management office is that it is very similar to a project management office. It acts as the central focal point for coordinating and overseeing activity but focusses on programmes rather than projects. This may seem a slight distinction. After all, ‘project’ and ‘programme’ are words often used interchangeably in many organisations. However, it is actually a lot more meaningful than it may sound.

So what’s the difference?

Project Management Office vs Program Management Office

It is important to point out that one is not better than the other. Which one you need comes down to the differences between projects and programmes. Projects are short-term, typically 12-24 months. Programmes are long-term, often 2-5 years and sometimes longer. Projects focus on clearly defined deliverables. Programmes focus on outcomes and ensuring benefits are sustainable. This creates a difference of emphasis for a program management office. Whereas the project variety emphasises delivery, training and compliance, the programme kind leans more heavily into governance and coordination across the programme to ensure the benefits are managed and outcomes achieved.

The right answer to your needs may be both. It is perfectly possible to have both a project management office and a programme management office in the same organisation, or even the same programme. In fact, many big transformation programmes do. While these two types of PMO sit at different levels, it is critical that they are set up correctly, ensuring any duplication is removed and that they function in a complementary way. Otherwise confusion, distraction and unnecessary bureaucracy quickly ensue.

One common solution is to make the project management office part of the wider programme management office – so everyone just deals with one entity. This is another reason the two types often become confused because the people who only interact at a project-level experience no difference so cannot tell them apart.

However, if you have several big programmes and many individuals projects in-flight, multiple PMOs become necessary and keeping them separate and clear in their remit is crucial.


So while in real life, the distinction between the two can feel pretty hazy, there are important differences that will have a meaningful impact on achieving your goals efficiently and effectively. It’s best to make sure the PMO and everyone interacting with it understands what it is therefore, its priorities and how it add value to the transformation programme. 

Program Management Office definition

A simple definition is that a program management office manages the governance process for one – or more – programmes and coordinates the efforts of the programme management team in realising the desired benefits.


PMO as a service is a flexible managed service that enables you to gain a fit-for-purpose PMO staffed with real experts and leading software , tools and templates. 

Agile program management office

The PMO role becomes even more pivotal in the context of an agile transformation approach.

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Project Management Office (PMO) as a Service

PMO as a service is a flexible managed service that enables you to gain a fit-for-purpose PMO staffed with real experts and leading software, tools and templates.