PMO Roles and responsibilities in a Digital Age

Shifting away from key parts of the PMO’s traditional remit, leading PMOs have begun to de-emphasize project-level activities — such as execution, defining methodology and enforcing compliance — and instead refocus most of their attention on activities better suited for the digital business context, such as streamlining delivery team workflows, curating diverse inputs into the investment process and redefining project management roles for digital business. Below are the PMO activities that PMO leaders should be focusing on to enable digital business transformation:

pmo roles

The Digital PMO as you can see from the tables above is much different than the traditional PMOs that we have been used to.  Below you will see a description of each Digital PMO role along with major activities:

Product Owner

The role of the product owner will increase in importance in the Digital PMO.  As you see a shift from project management to product management, the product owner will be an integral role. Product Owners will also have more input and be a key part of Agile.  The two major activities for Program Managers are:

  • Leading Product Development Activities and basing delivery on Products instead of Projects
  • Determining the work being done and accepting delivery within Agile frameworks

Investment Manager

As companies are looking to align investments with strategy, the Investment Manager is a key role in the modern Digital PMO.  They will facilitate the prioritization and scoring of potential initiatives and will work very closely with senior leadership in the budgeting and approval process.  The three major activities for Investment Managers are:

  • Prioritize and Score new opportunities
  • Budgeting and approval of new initiatives
  • Financial Reporting

Resource Manager

The resource manager is responsible for ensuring that the right people are working on the right work.   In addition, this person will be performing capacity planning so that work can be planned appropriately throughout the year. Below are the four major activities for Resource Managers:

  • Resource Capacity Planning
  • Contractor and Vendor Management
  • People Management of Resources
  • Resource Leveling

Portfolio Manager

Portfolio Managers are becoming more important in organizations as you are seeing a tie in between strategic alignment and the work being done.  What you are seeing today is that instead of just having Projects and Programs, you are having a breakout of work based upon line of business.  The portfolio manager will have responsibility for all of the work and initiatives taking place within the portfolio.  Below are the four major responsibilities of the Portfolio Manager:

  • Responsible for overall delivery within a portfolio. 
  • Execution of the organization’s strategy
  • Portfolio Reporting to Senior Leadership
  • Establishing overall Portfolio Framework and Methodologies

Program Manager

The program manager is a very important role within the Digital PMO and will be responsible for a set of related projects. Part of that responsibility involves defining the program governance and controls which might be different than those of a project or portfolio.  There is much more coordination of projects and management of interdependencies and requires a strong level of communication.  Below are the four major responsibilities of the Program Manager  :

  • Daily Program Management through the program life cycle
  • Defining and Managing the Program Governance
  • Managing Interdependencies
  • Aligning Program Deliverables to Outcomes

Project Manager

Even though the role of the Project Manager is changing within the Digital PMO environment, it is still a critical role for success.  Projects are typically more tactical than Program or Portfolio Managers but they can be very complex and can have long lifespans.  One of the trends occurring is that smaller projects are being managed outside the Project Management Office and being managed within Product lines.  The Project Managers within the Digital PMO are typically managing more complex projects with higher risk.  Below are the three major responsibilities of the Project Manager :

  • Daily Project Management through the project life cycle
  • Defining and Managing the Project Governance
  • Aligning Project Deliverables to Outcomes

Final Words:

Every PMO is different but these are some of the major roles and activities that businesses are requiring with PPM.  Understand that as you build out a PMO organizational strategy to support the business and IT, the roles might be handled by one or several people.  It all depends on the size of your PMO and the number of products, portfolios and programs you are supporting in addition to the demands of the business. It is important to align yourself to the strategic business needs and be flexible and agile. Over time as you mature these processes within the PPM framework, the PMO value will increase as well.


James Proctor, PMP – Managing Partner

[email protected]

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