Large corporations typically have a portfolio of projects all running simultaneously in areas such as Marketing, IT, Operational Improvement, Product Development, Product Improvement, Research, in fact, almost all areas of a business will have some sort of project running at some point. And being able to manage those disparate projects efficiently for the greatest business benefit can determine the overall success of the organisation.


All of the projects need to be planned, implemented and controlled in the most efficient way possible and senior management need have a good overview of the status of each project in the portfolio. But at the same time the stakeholders of each project – the sponsors, project managers and team members need to be allowed to work efficiently without being bogged down in bureaucracy.


Any project management framework has a number of essential components that determine success or failure across all projects in an organisation and it is the project office that oversees each component. The role of the project office should always be a supportive one and provide a link between the project manager and team, and senior management to ensure resources are always available and that the project manager is kept informed of business objectives and priorities if they change after the start of the project.


The Project Office also provides a single, central repository for all project documentation and, more importantly, access to this repository – a vital element if an organisation and its project managers are to learn from both their past successes and past failures. Many corporations are actively striving to use formal project management methodologies to bring improvements to their business or deliver better value to their customers (or both) and access to the documentation from previous projects is a vital part of this process. It allows members of the project teams to learn from other projects; it allows teams to easily shares best practices with other teams and provides an easy way to exchange knowledge. The Project Office may also enable forums to be set up for sharing knowledge that has never been written down or well communicated, which is particularly useful for teams within the same organisation but in different geographical locations who have no chance to chat over coffee and pick up tips and advice along the way.


So teams can learn from each other and, by doing so, improve their own projects more easily with the support of the Project Office but the Project Office also enables senior management to have easy access to the current status of all projects and review projects either from a strategic or a detailed level. Access to the detail of a project is vital for senior management to gain a full understanding of the status because facts and figures about budgets and schedules do not always present an accurate picture of how well (or how badly) a project is progressing. The detailed view of the project should always be provided by the project manager, not the project office, as it is only the project manager who can provide clear and accurate insight into the status of the project.


The Project Office also ensures a common approach to projects is taken across the organisation, which in turn, reduces duplication and minimises effort with, for example, the re-use of existing templates.


So these are just some of the many reasons why a supportive project office can make the life of the project manager and the project team easier by relieving them of some of the administrative tasks and reporting responsibilities involved in running a major project. The best project office will include some team members who have received professional project management training, such as APMP or PMP Certification so they will have a good understanding of how projects should be managed and can add value to their supportive role.