PMO governance framework Blog Feature

PMO Governance Framework: A Guide for Project Success

According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), the overall performance of project management offices is one of the 10 key drivers of project success. Without it, you’re more likely to have problems with objective alignment, resource usage, and accountability.

Fortunately, you can create a tailored PMO governance framework with this handy guide. We’ll walk you through PMO governance, why you need to implement it, and the benefits you can expect to see from an effective framework. 👀 

You’ll learn about the different components of a governance plan and the role of PMO within an organization. Plus, we’ll offer a customizable five-step plan for setting up an effective project governance structure for your company. 

What Is PMO Governance?

Project management office (PMO) governance is the framework of processes and practices that define how decisions are made, guide how projects are handled, and assess a project’s success. This framework ensures all projects, policies, and procedures meet the organization’s goals, ethics, and project management principles. 🙌

Project governance lays the groundwork for:

  • Decision-making processes
  • Resource allocation
  • Risk management
  • Structured accountability

Depending on the structure of the company, project governance may be led by the project manager, board members, or multiple senior employees. In large organizations, the governance structure may involve multiple checks and balances from seniors across departments.

PMO governance framework: ClickUp Docs various features
Store policies, procedures, and risk assessments in ClickUp’s Docs view

Project governance is a critical component of project management. It establishes clear policies and procedures that ensure accountability from decision-makers. It also builds transparency, reduces the likelihood of errors that can derail a project, and implements standardization for best practices from your project managers.

Understanding PMO and Its Role Within an Organization

A PMO is a department that creates and monitors standards for all projects undertaken by the company. It’s different from project management, which oversees the day-to-day tasks that contribute towards reaching a specific deliverable. PMO governance is a larger framework of rules and regulations designed to govern all aspects of projects. 

The role of a PMO is to standardize project-related processes to ensure they align with company values and objectives as well as regulatory compliance. A PMO typically has a value proposition that summarizes the value the company offers to clients or customers.

Here are some examples of PMO value propositions:

  • Airbnb: “Airbnb exists to create a world where anyone can belong anywhere, providing healthy travel that is local, authentic, diverse, inclusive and sustainable.”
  • Slack: “Slack saves time by tearing down communication and systems silos”
  • ClickUp: “One app to replace them all”

While traditional PMO management processes have focused solely on ensuring adherence to governing standards, modern PMO is more strategic—called strategic PMO or enterprise PMO (EPMO). Strategic PMO isn’t just about adherence, it’s about creating alignment, fostering agility, and using technology to power innovation. 💡

Instead of narrowing in on executing projects and governing plans only, strategic PMO aligns governance with stakeholder expectations and broader business objectives with the value proposition in mind. 

In the past, a leader in PMO would evaluate whether project activities met the governing rule. In modern PMO, the leader now chooses projects and strategic objectives that meet wider company goals.

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Set goals and tasks that align with the larger organizational objectives using ClickUp

Modern PMO is also less rigid in terms of structure than it once was. Frameworks increasingly adopt agile methodologies to ensure projects and team leads can adjust and adapt more easily, without disrupting governance protocols. ⚖️

The result is frameworks with more cross-functional focus, collaboration, and flexible decision-making structures. 

5 Components of Project Governance

There are several components of project governance—and it’s not just a list of rules to follow. Let’s dive into the different project governance components including models, risk management, and control processes. 🏊

1. Governance models

The governance model or framework should take into account the people, structure, and information at your company. It will be the foundation of project rules, so the approach should be tailored to your specific business and project needs. 

Start by researching and analyzing your projects to consider how rigorous your governance model needs to be. For a business working on highly secure projects, your governance model should be stricter. For a startup working on innovative products that require fast changes, your governance model may need to be more flexible or adaptable.

At a minimum, your governance model should:

  • Consider the scope of projects
  • Establish guidelines for the project timelines
  • Address the complexity of different projects and project life cycles
  • Assess risk and create structures for reducing risk
  • Involve input from stakeholders 

Keep in mind that governance models should also align with your company goals and values. For instance, the governance framework that a theme park uses will be much different than the one a tax firm uses. 

Why? Because the mission and values of these agencies vary. While a theme park might focus on visitor safety, a tax firm would focus on regulatory compliance. 🎡

There are several different project governance models you can consider including:

  • Advisory board model: A framework where a group of industry experts serves as an advisory board to help the CEO or other senior leaders make decisions at various project stages. Common examples of industries that use this model include fire departments, school districts, and nonprofits
  • Control Objectives for Information and Related Technologies (COBIT): Developed by ISACA, COBIT is an IT-focused governance model with a focus on regulations, compliance, and data protection 🔐
  • Management team model: Common in small and medium-sized companies, this model builds department or steering committees with leaders who collaboratively lay the groundwork for governance. It’s designed to use each person’s expertise for faster decision-making and joint accountability for governance across departments

2. Accountabilities and responsibilities

PMO governance establishes roles and responsibilities for all project team members. This ensures better accountability and clearly defines who is responsible for decision-making at every stage of the project management lifecycle. ✅

By setting governance standards early on, project managers can build better workflows and avoid bottlenecks. This eliminates confusion on who’s handling what in a project. At the same time, establishing authority levels creates a clear hierarchy of responsibility and makes it easy to grant access and permission to resources during the project.

3. Stakeholder engagement

A good governance model engages all project stakeholders during the process. When it comes to managing projects, common stakeholders include the people working on the project and project sponsors or investors. In governance, stakeholders are a larger group of individuals—including anyone impacted by the project and the project objectives.

When creating a governance model, start by identifying all potential stakeholders. Next, your framework should create communication plans for updating all stakeholders, protocols for managing expectations, and guidelines for who has decision-making power.

4. Risk and issue management

All projects have inherent risks and your governance framework should attempt to mitigate these before they derail the project. When crafting your PMO governance framework, create a system for identifying, classifying, and prioritizing risks or problems. Keep the structure flexible enough to address different types of problems, but clear enough to guide everyone on the project through the risk management plan.

5. Project management control processes

You can’t build a governance framework and call it a day. An effective plan must be monitored and reviewed regularly. You need to regularly compare results and efforts to your baseline governance model. Assess any areas where protocols aren’t being followed and determine if that’s due to unclear instructions or a need for structural change. 👨🏽‍💻

During your review, be sure to get feedback from decision-makers and stakeholders following the governance plan. With regular review, you can identify areas for improvement and adjust your governance model to fit your company’s needs. 

How to Use a PMO Governance Framework

Here’s how to effectively create and use a project governance framework. In just five steps, you can create a model that works to meet your specific company needs and values. 🏆

  1. Identify stakeholders: Create a list of everyone who will be impacted by the project, including team members and external actors like vendors and suppliers
  2. Establish objectives: Identify and prioritize the business goals, company mission, project charter, and project values 
  3. Design and implement the governance structure: Create a transparent structure outlining the roles, expectations, and accountability for all stakeholders. For larger organizations, this will be complex and may include breaking it down into different boards, subsidiaries, or department reviews. Clearly outline how decisions will be made, who’s accountable, and how these governance processes will be overseen
  4. Define and monitor progress: Explain what compliance with the PMO governance framework looks like and monitor progress regularly from the project initiation to completion
  5. Review and address any inconsistencies: Governance is an ongoing project. Establish a review system and revisit it regularly to ensure compliance and update practices to address any shortcomings in the existing management framework

These steps should be viewed as guidelines, not a rigid “how to” guide. Companies with complex PMO structures will need more steps and may need to break these steps into more manageable segments. 

Remember to tailor your governance framework to the specific needs of your business and revisit the model, especially early on, to make changes along the way. 

It’s clear that creating PMO governance helps your organization meet compliance rules, but it also delivers value in ways you may not expect. In fact, taking time to set up these rules and guidelines pays dividends when it comes to adaptability, project selection, and decision-making. ⚒️

Here are some benefits of an effective governance framework:

  • Better project focus: With clearer processes, a value proposition, and governing bodies, it’s easier for leaders to select projects that contribute the most to the company’s bottom line
  • Clearer expectations and accountability: With rules guiding expectations and authority, all team members know who’s responsible for what. That means greater ownership over their own roles and fewer miscommunications
  • Improved risk management: PMO governance creates a decision-making structure that makes it easier for team leaders to assess and prevent risk. Knowing who’s in charge of decisions also makes it easier when it comes to escalation—team members know who to notify so they can take swift action 
  • Faster adaptability: With innovative guidelines, leaders can adapt and change projects more easily and update governing structures to reflect these changes

Thanks to digital transformation, traditional company processes are changing at warp speed—and PMO governance is no exception. With the advent of remote work, artificial intelligence, and automation, PMOs must adapt and build structures to account for these changes.

ClickUp's list view with assigned users
Plan, track, and manage your projects from start to completion with ClickUp’s project management features

Here are some of the future trends of PMO governance:

  • Embracing digital transformation and automation: AI and machine learning algorithms provide predictive analysis for potential risks and project delays. Speeding up this analysis, people in PMOs can build more comprehensive risk management and project plans and streamline project portfolio management in half the time 
  • Moving towards data-driven decision making: Data is king and it’s the driving force behind decisions in most day-to-day business settings. It’s also increasingly a key component of PMO frameworks. Instead of designating a decision-maker, PMO models dive deeper into how decisions should be made, what metrics should influence decisions, and what monitoring processes need to be followed to ensure project performance 🎯
  • Emphasis on innovation and continuous improvement: Traditionally, PMO governance was a one-time process. Today, it’s constantly evolving with PMO leaders learning from successes—and failures. Evolving updates drive innovation and improve standard practices
  • Adoption of agile project management methodologies: With change being a constant force, PMO leaders are adopting agile methodologies to allow projects to pivot and adapt their focus when the environment changes—without derailing project progress

Setting Up an Effective PMO Governance Framework

Ready to set up a PMO governance framework? Here, you’ll find practical steps to creating an effective PMO governance plan. Each one is backed by basic principles and best practices to follow so you can tailor each step to suit your business needs.

1. Analyze your existing organization

Before you can build an effective PMO governance framework, you must review how projects are currently run within your business. Think about what types of projects you focus on and if they have any existing frameworks. Ask yourself if you have plans for project resource management and if there are any guidelines for resource allocation. 💰

Other things to consider include:

  • How do you handle project changes? 
  • How do you choose and prioritize projects?
  • Are projects usually delivered on time and what happens if they aren’t?
  • Do team members and project leaders have key performance indicators (KPIs) or other metrics to assess project performance?

Once you figure out which processes you already have in place, you can restructure them or build new ones to serve as the basis of your governance plan.

2. Define the purpose and structure of your PMO

Your PMO should have a purpose, whether that’s creating advisory insights to meet regulatory requirements or building processes to deliver projects on time and on budget. Clearly define the purpose of your PMO and then build a basic structure to meet those goals. 

If you need a PMO for strategic purposes, you’ll want a structure that outlines workflows and decision-making steps that lead to a specific objective. If you need an advisory PMO, your structure may include a board or advisory committee as part of the structure. Keep in mind that you may have several PMO plans for different objectives or at different levels if your organization is large or complex.

PMO governance framework: ClickUp's Dashboard page
Set goals, manage tasks, and track your project timings with ClickUp’s extensive tools and view everything on a well-organized dashboard

Use a tool like ClickUp Goals to clearly define your objectives, lay out workflows, and highlight milestones to meet your desired results. With built-in brainstorming tools and measurable Targets, it’s easy to define and track the progress of your PMO framework.

3. Get the right people

A PMO governance framework is only as effective as its people. You may choose to use people already at your company or bring in individuals from outside the organization to lead key positions within the PMO. 🤝

However you decide to structure it, consider the skills necessary for the success of your framework. These may be soft skills like diplomacy or decision-making or they might be hard skills like certifications from regulatory bodies. 

4. Clearly lay out best practices

PMO governance is a change management process so clear communication and expectations are key for success. Define methodologies and best practices you expect all participants to use. These best practices should cover everything from budgeting and resource use to risk management and quality assurance procedures. 

Make it easy for all teams and individuals to find these best practices and implement them at every stage of the project. The clearer you are and the easier you make it for people to follow these guidelines, the more likely you are to have a successful project.

5. Implement and monitor PMO governance plan

With all of the groundwork laid, it’s time to implement and monitor your PMO governance framework. Use a tool like ClickUp’s Project Management software to monitor workflows, track progress, and get detailed views throughout the project lifecycle. 📈

Create a customized project management system to define processes, responsibilities, and procedures. Add custom fields, dependencies, and priorities and leverage filtered views to dive into the information that matters most. Use it to manage all elements of PMO governance from setting objectives to creating and sharing information through ClickUp Docs.

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Use multiple ClickUp Views to see projects and tasks as lists, boards, or dashboards. With ClickUp, it’s easy to adapt processes thanks to built-in AI tools and automations that simplify workflows. Plus, the high degree of customization means you can pivot when needed without significantly impacting the project delivery timeline. ⏳

ClickUp also offers more than 1,000 templates, making it easier to create PMO guidelines and standard operating procedures (SOPs). Use the project management templates to establish objectives and processes that tie back to your PMO governance plan. 

6. Revisit and update as needed

PMO governance is not a one-time project. Build and regularly schedule a review step to revisit your processes and procedures. Create a system for flagging issues and escalate them to the right person so changes can be made quickly. 🚨

Keep in mind that your PMO requirements may change as your organization grows or moves into new industries. Be adaptable and proactive when it comes to restructuring or creating new PMOs as the need arises.

Common FAQs

Still want to know more about PMO governance frameworks? Here are the most common questions we get and their answers.

1. What is a PMO framework?

A PMO framework is a set of rules and regulations that dictate how management teams and individuals should handle all aspects of the project process. The framework typically includes aligning governing rules to larger company missions and values. The exact framework varies from company to company and is tailored to the complexity and needs of the business.

2. How do I set up PMO governance?

To set up PMO governance, you must analyze your existing organization, define objectives and stakeholders, and identify the scope of the governance model. With this information, you’ll select the right people, build decision-making processes, and establish governance best practices and methodologies. Once your PMO governance is created, you’ll want to revisit it regularly and update it as needed.

3. What are the three pillars of project governance?

The three pillars of project governance include structure, people, and information. The structure consists of all decision-making processes, workflows, and dependencies along with clear explanations for all procedures team members need to follow. The people pillar represents management hiring the right individuals for each task. The information pillar includes communication plans that facilitate updates and clear expectations for discussions when project issues arise.

Implement an Effective PMO Framework  for More Successful Projects

An effective PMO framework can make your projects more successful. From better workflows to advice from highly skilled individuals, a PMO is one way to make sure all of your projects deliver more value for your company.

Sign up for ClickUp today and start managing your PMO framework. Use it to lay the groundwork for your framework with clearly defined goals and objectives. Plus, streamline decision-making processes with tasks that assign accountability and responsibility across your organization. From sharing documentation to planning smoother processes, ClickUp makes PMO governance a breeze.✨

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