11 Different Types of PMO: PMBOK, Gartner, & Other PMO Types

Friday, August 12, 2022
Michael Scheiner

The number of types of PMO is a popular topic of discussion among project teams. PMO stands for project management office, by the way. It’s a system for ensuring the best practices of project methodologies across an organization. 

There are different ways of counting the types of project management offices, and this article will look at the lion’s share of those project management processes which use PMO, whether for individual projects performance, wider program management, or complete project portfolio management. 


How many types of PMOs are there?

Before we proceed, a little explanation on how PMO works is in order. PMO functions as a team of either internal or external workers who oversee strategic planning and project success by making sure that everyone is using the same or compatible project management frameworks. 

PMO is also in charge of resource allocation and communication standards.

Okay then, but to step back a bit: what is PMO in general? PMO clarifies and manages the methods, the tools and apps, and the resources required for project success. The big idea is to standardize all things project-related to align strategy and optimize resource sharing.

Now, to answer the above question, we have 11 types of PMO to go over in this article. There is no consensus on the number of types—as any web search will tell you—but we feel we’ve come up with a pretty comprehensive list here.


What are the different types of PMO?

The various types of PMO come from different sources. For example, the PMI, or Project Management Institute, offers 3 PMO types. 

Meanwhile, Gartner, the consulting firm, has 4 PMO types. We will also add a few extra PMO types to juice up the list. 

Here are the 11 total types of project management offices:

  1. Directive PMO

  2. Controlling PMO

  3. Supportive PMO

  4. Activist PMO

  5. Delivery PMO

  6. Compliance PMO

  7. Centralized PMO

  8. Decentralized PMO

  9. Individual PMO

  10. Business PMO

  11. Enterprise PMO


The 3 PMO types according to PMBOK

PMBOK refers to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, a book put out by the PMI, or the Project Management Institute. 

The institute is also involved in conferring PMP certification (PMP stands for project management professional).Many successful PMO strategy articles and studies can be found on the PMI website. 

The PMBOK project management handbook offers up a total of 3 PMO types. They are: directive, controlling, and supportive.

Directive PMO

The directive PMO is the highest level of the PMO roles. They maintain a strong degree of control over many aspects of the project, and they often communicate directly with stakeholders and clients, as well as work intimately with the CIO. 

Directive PMOs usually hire and assign project managers and serve as their guides and supervisors. They will be an important part of project planning and managing an organization’s projects throughout the lifecycle in terms of scope, budget and timeframes. 

Project performance can often be linked to the active participation and initiatives set out by a directive PMO system.

Controlling PMO

The next level PMO according to the PMI breakdown is the controlling PMO. They have a good degree of control over managing projects but not as much as the directive PMO. 

The controlling PMO approaches project control as someone who enforces the guides and practices agreed upon in the project charter, as well as being in charge of conformance and compliance. 

They also make sure everyone is using the right tools, and has some oversight over resource management. In less complex projects, it is possible to adopt a PMO in between directive and controlling.   

Supportive PMO

The supportive PMO is the third type of PMO according to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, or PMBOK. This type of PMO has very little direct control over the project, but instead serves as project support for when team members ask for more guidance. 

In other words, one can say the supportive PMO is a consultant. The supportive PMO system is also used for helping to onboard and train staff, arrange shared templates and common analysis metrics. 

As far as the right PMO for one’s project management methodology, the supportive PMO should not have much of a say in prioritization, but when it comes to real-time change management, it is useful.


The 4 Gartner types of PMO

Gartner, Inc is an international business research and consultancy firm and part of the S&P 500. You can visit the Gartner website for many business insights and articles with lots of good resources for project management office types.

Activist PMO

According to Gartner, the activist PMO tackles a broad view and an enabling approach. By broad view, it means this position aims to make sure project delivery is always aligned with the organization's long-term mission. 

As an enabler, the activist PMO does not so much direct the project themselves, but reviews all the project plans and business proposals in order to support the other main decision-makers in the project, like the project manager. Activist PMOs are common in very large businesses and enterprises with many offices and distributed workforces.

Delivery PMO

The next Gartner PMO category is the delivery PMO. Like the activist PMO, the delivery PMO is there to enable others by reviewing proposals and offering guidance. However, the delivery 

PMO is more concerned with short term results and not so much about long-term goals. For this reason, the delivery PMO is very common in agile project management, where successful projects depend on quick deliverables and real-time change management. 

Delivery PMOs also look for ways to reuse business processes and templates to streamline future projects. It’s likely more than 6 out of 10 businesses that use the PMO system use a delivery PMO.  

Compliance PMO

The compliance PMO is the kind of PMO system you find in companies without a mature project management methodology or consistent set of practices, guidelines and shared software and templates. 

They are focused on the short term, making sure that at minimum the project team does not do anything too outside the company’s idea of basic compliance. Because of this, they can exert a modicum of control over some of the activities. 

Centralized PMO

The centralized PMO is ideal for large organizations that demand very consistent business practices and standards. The centralized PMO system is also useful for companies with delicate resource management concerns, especially when it comes to materials, as in the construction industry. 

You also see centralized PMOs in companies with large workforces but relatively small management teams, because this system reduces the need for workers to constantly guide and manage one another, but rather makes it easy for individuals and departments to all depend on a centralized system.


Other types of PMO

Here are a few more types of PMO, some of which might be obvious just from their names alone. Nonetheless, we won’t skimp on their definitions for you, dear reader.

Decentralized PMO

In contrast to the centralized PMO, there is the decentralized PMO. The decentralized PMO is common among agile project management teams. 

It also works well with project review systems like the PERT project management system (i.e. the program evaluation and review technique). There is little central control, and more flexibility for teams to use whatever tools or work methods they choose. 

The decentralized PMO serves as a guide to other higher-value adding business units, but can be of help whenever different business units must come together despite different approaches, resources or goals.

Individual PMO

The individual PMO is among the smallest and most compact of PMO systems out there. This type of PMO is regularly in charge of only a single project, or a small program of related projects, but certainly never for total project portfolio management. 

It might not even be uncommon for a single employee to be working under an individual PMO structure. The individual PMO does not normally need to worry about enforcing common tools and practices and consistent methods.

Business PMO

The business PMO is a very common PMO system when it comes to small and medium sized businesses, or SMBs. They can be responsible for the whole company’s portfolio of projects or a large program. 

The business PMO may also oversee just a large department. The chief responsibilities here include ensuring everyone uses the same tools, dashboards and metrics, giving regular guidance, and being ready to act in the face of real-time unexpected obstacles.

Enterprise PMO

Finally, the last form of PMO is the enterprise PMO, and in the category of PMOs based on company size, this type is about the large organization, enterprise business, multinational corporation, or even large nonprofit or government institution. 

This type of PMO style can either be charged with enforcing company practices, or by being more of a passive supportive role. CIOs in large companies will work closely with the enterprise PMO.


Final points about the different kinds of PMO

From planning the project, setting task priorities and dependencies, measuring success and delivering the goods to the stakeholders, there are a lot of moving parts in the lifecycle of a successful project. 

Implementing a project management office team or a PMP skilled in PMO, whether as an internal part of your company or an external outsourced move, is a highly-efficient way to optimize project performance. 

When you combine PMO with a PM tool, you can leverage business efficiency with twice the gusto. You can take a peek at our project management software comparison article to help you learn more.

In conclusion, the PMO functions are many. However, they are also diverse depending on which type of PMO you employ. 

The PMI’s 3 categories are the ones most often discussed, although Gartner’s additional breakdown of 4 other categories is sometimes referred to as well. 

Eventually, as the world of business evolves, we might discover some new types of PMO to meet the ever-changing needs of our humble commercial universe.