Thought Leaders

PMO Leadership: How PMOs Can Evolve Into Savvy PMOs


PMO leadership today is about more than being a purveyor of governance and delivering projects on time and on budget. The Savvy PMO fosters organizational agility, cultivates efficiencies, and drives growth strategies.

They meet executive expectations for informed counsel on vital business decisions such as which projects to prioritize, where to focus spending, how to align and realign the workforce in response to change, and much more.

Some PMOs are finding it difficult to evolve beyond a focus on improving project management practices, which can inhibit agility and growth. The PMO leadership journey to becoming a Savvy PMO builds on a collaborative approach to adapt processes, support multiple work methodologies, and relook at their toolset.

Planview created the Savvy PMO Guide Series to give organizations actionable guidance on how progress PMO leadership. Your PMO can become a more nimble, strategic advisor to the business – whether you are under pressure now to help make business-critical choices or want to gradually advance your PPM capabilities.

Start with this quick-start post to becoming a Savvy PMO.

The Journey to Becoming a Savvy PMO

Becoming a Savvy PMO requires first defining and the next areas of focus to advance maturity. This table summarizes how each approach their role.

The PMO’s Initial Focus The Savvy PMO’s Focus
Complete projects on time and on budget Guide stakeholders to prioritize projects, taking into account resource capacity to ensure delivery of the right projects on time and on budget.
Day-to-day execution, stardarding workflows Guidance, collaboration, and planning
Top-down governance – Emphasis on compliance, standards, and processes “Just-enough” governance to speed execution and ensure everyone delivers on strategy
A one-size-fits all, project-centric methodology Flexible approach: Support traditional projects, plus iterative, agile work methods
Centralize project information, manage resources, track project status Expand PPM capabilities in demand management, prioritization, and resource planning
Basic PPM tools, project management tools and spreadsheets Centralized PPM tool to enable portfolio management competencies and provide visibility beyond project status


Initially, most PMOs focuses more on tactical execution and governance. These competencies provide an essential foundation to becoming a Savvy PMO.


Some PMOs adhere too tightly to their procedures, methodologies, and tools. This creates rigidity and execution excellence for every project that comes through the pipe.

PMOs that do not evolve may be consigned to managing projects that keep the business running rather than on strategic projects. Without this evolution, the PMO risks being phased out or restructured.

The Characteristics of a Savvy PMO

A benefit of working as a Savvy PMO is the ability to create and sustain business value. This requires letting go of a some control to promote agility and innovation. While some oversight is necessary, the Savvy PMO is more of a servant leader and strategic advisor to the organization.

A primary focus is on collaboration and portfolio-based management, over strict governance and delivering projects on time and on budget.

Savvy PMOs employ just enough governance to facilitate execution while ensuring everyone is working on what’s most impactful. To achieve this, they have a strong command of demand management, prioritization, and resource planning.

By centralizing and integrating these disciplines, PMO leadership provides executives and stakeholders visibility and reporting that drives faster, more informed decision-making.

No longer a bureaucratic entity, Savvy PMO leaders become trusted guides. Their insights from access to the latest data supports sound recommendations. For instance, they can prioritize the highest value projects for the business and put the right resources on them at the right time.

As focus shifts to creating business value, the PMO’s approach to execution must shift as well. Teams in your company are likely already using different approaches to how they can best accomplish work. Savvy PMOs advocate for the right work methods to deliver the desired outcome.


Four Adaptations for Evolving into a Savvy PMO

If you are looking to extend your PMO leadership to develop into a Savvy PMO, then our eBook series is for you. First, download Evolve into a Multi-Faceted Strategic Partner, an eBook that outlines the four competencies you need to master as you become a Savvy PMO.

You’ll get an overview of each one: prioritizationresource planningdemand management, and visibility and reporting.

Then, dive into all four eBooks, which provide detailed guidance for building each core competency:

  1. Savvy PMOs Guide to Prioritization eBook: Do the Work that Counts
  2. Savvy PMOs Guide to Resource Planning eBook: Focus the right people on the right work
  3. Savvy PMOs Guide to Demand Management eBook: Centralize intake and categorize requests to improve efficiency
  4. Savvy PMOs Guide to Visibility and Reporting eBook: Provide insights and grow your PMO’s impact
  5. The World of Work is Changing: Will You Evolve or Be Left Behind?
Angie Sarmiento
Related Thought Leaders
Related sized article featured image

David Milliken
Related sized article featured image

Scientists and engineers are striving to develop solutions for humankind’s problems.

PM Today Contributor