A PMO (project management office) is a formal term originating in the last decade to describe an organization unit dedicated to either running or providing oversight to projects. (I created and run two of these before I even heard the term.)

In the PMBOK Guide (4th Ed), PMI defines the PMO as follows.

A PMO is an organizational body or entity assigned various responsibilities related to the centralized and coordinated management of those projects under its domain. The responsibilities of a PMO can range from providing project management support functions to actually being responsible for the direct management of a project.

A primary function of a PMO is to support project managers in a variety of ways which may include, but are not limited to:

  • Managing shared resources across all projects administered by the PMO;
  • Identifying and developing project management methodology, best practices and standards;
  • Coaching, mentoring, training and oversight;
  • Monitoring compliance with project management standards, policies, procedures, and templates via project audits;
  • Developing and managing project policies, procedures, and templates and other shared documentation (organizational process assets); and
  • Coordinating communication across projects

PMO’s have resulted in 31% drop in failed projects and an average amount of savings per project of $567,000, according to PM Solutions’ “State of the PMO 2010″ report.