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  • Writer's pictureLeslie Ottavi

PMO, CMO and TMO: what they are and how they drive change agility

pmo cmo and tmo working together for change

We all know that change is inevitable. One critical difference between successful companies and unsuccessful ones is how they deal with constant change: Do they manage change, or do they let change manage them?

This has always been an essential consideration in evaluating organizational maturity, but it’s become even more important over the last couple of decades. An increasingly dynamic global environment, a series of economic stressors, and the evolution of the workplace have made it impossible to maintain a quality organization without proper planning and management processes.

One way that organizations have recognized these trends is through the establishment of “offices”—internal teams dedicated to specific tasks. One of the earliest was the creation of the project management office (PMO), which formalizes the planning and execution of projects across programs and portfolios that at one time were more ad hoc in nature.

Over time, many variations of the PMO were developed by different firms, and the concept was extended to new functions such as the change management office (CMO) and the transformation management office (TMO).

The scope of work for these offices typically move from tactical to strategic and broaden to enterprise-wide initiatives over time.

Of course, projects involve change, change is a part of transformation, and transformation is conducted in the form of specific projects. Aren’t all of these “offices” the same? The answer, as the saying goes, is “yes, but not really”: The PMO, CMO, and TMO are all clearly related to each other, but there are also some important differences. So, grab your spoon and let’s dig into another hearty helping of corporate alphabet soup to figure this all out.

Project management office (PMO)

Project management is as old as recorded history, but it only began to be recognized as an explicit business function in the last century or so.

You’ve likely heard of the Gantt chart, one of the earliest project management tools, which was developed by its namesake, Henry Gantt, around the turn of the twentieth century. In the post-WWII era, as industrial and government projects grew larger and more complex, additional tools were developed, and project management evolved into its own discipline.

However, expertise in project management is not always enough to ensure the success of projects.

Especially in large organizations, different managers tend to structure and run their projects in different ways, leading to inconsistent use of tools, resource allocation —and project outcomes. In the worst cases, a lack of project coordination leads to the classic “left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing” syndrome and eventual project failure.

To avoid these situations, organizations developed the project management office to ensure consistent execution of project management. The role of the PMO is to define and maintain standards related to how projects are managed and to facilitate resource- and knowledge-sharing across processes, methods, tools, and techniques.

The PMO is highly focused on processes and standards to ensure projects are run consistently and uphold organizational standards, maximizing the chances of project success. The PMO can also drive continuous improvement by incorporating lessons learned across projects.

Change management office (CMO)

Like projects, there’s nothing new about change in the business world (and pretty much everywhere, for that matter). However, “change management” as a specific discipline is a fairly modern phenomenon.

While organizations have always had to deal with the impacts of change, until recently, there was little in the way of impact analysis, much less methodological approaches to dealing with it.

“Grin and bear it” is not a management strategy, yet many organizations did just that, leaving it to people managers to figure out how to get their employees to adopt the changes. The inevitable results: more confusion, inefficiency, and turnover, with less trust and worse business outcomes.

Even today, some still lack a systematic approach to managing change, though this is rapidly changing.

Whereas the project management office focuses on processes and projects, the change management office concentrates on people. The goal of the CMO is to motivate and enable individuals, teams, departments, and the organization itself to adopt needed changes.

It develops and implements strategies designed to influence knowledge, feelings, and behaviors, helping people not only accept but embrace and even champion change in the business environment.

The CMO deals with change broadly, not just as it relates to specific projects, though projects often create changes that affect parts or all of the organization.

The tie-in between the CMO and the PMO is that the CMO analyzes the potential impacts of project-related change, and develops strategies to enable people impacted by the project to successfully navigate those changes and contribute to the organization’s desired outcomes. This directly enhances the project efficiency and chances of success.

As an example, consider an organization implementing a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. This is a major undertaking that will impact nearly every area of a company. In this scenario, the PMO will largely be focused on the implementation of the system itself.

In contrast, the CMO will devote its efforts to tasks such as preparing the organization for how the new ERP software will change policies, roles, and responsibilities. Whose jobs will change and how? What training is required? Will changes in personnel be needed? How will interdepartmental coordination be affected? How will new process-related issues that arise be resolved?

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Transformation management office (TMO)

Describing a TMO is a bit trickier than a PMO or CMO. In part, this is because the word “transformation” is itself somewhat nebulous and means different things to different people. In part, it’s because the TMO typically encompasses functions performed both by the PMO and CMO, just in different ways. For these and other reasons, it’s actually easiest to describe the TMO in terms of how it differs from the other two types of “office.”

The PMO and CMO tend to be long-lived fixtures of larger organizations, with resources and processes in place to assist with new projects and areas of change that arise over time. In contrast, a TMO tends to be created to manage a particular transformation initiative, typically defined, financed, and managed by the C-suite.

This makes its scope narrower and its duration shorter than the PMO or CMO: Typically, the TMO is created for a specific transformation effort and is disbanded when it is complete. However, a larger organization may create many TMOs to handle a series of efforts if this is deemed appropriate, so it may be recurring or episodic in nature.

The TMO often has more authority than the PMO because this is necessary to manage larger-scale initiatives that may affect the entire organization.

The TMO may be more engaged directly with senior management, with its efforts focused on providing support and insight, ensuring alignment with C-level strategy and leadership, and generating organizational value. The TMO will typically work closely with the PMO and CMO, coordinating their efforts to help ensure proper execution of the specific transformation initiative at hand.

Summary comparison

The PMO, CMO, and TMO vary primarily in terms of their focus (where they concentrate their efforts), duration (how long they are in operation), and breadth. Here’s a quick table to summarize some of the points above about the differences among the PMO, CMO, and TMO.




General focus

Ensuring project execution efficiency and solution delivery

Preparing people impacted by change for maximum adoption

Steering specific transformation initiatives; both project-related and people-related


Long-term: often a permanent function

Long-term: often a permanent function

Short-term to medium-term: often transitory but may be permanent


Moderate: both specific projects and general project delivery

Relatively broad: holistic organizational impact

Relatively narrow: focused on specific efforts


Transformation is essential for any organization to compete and grow in today’s market environment. It is important to have all the “engines” of change focused to achieve transformation.

You can think of the PMO as the engine that is focused on delivering the solution through projects and processes, the CMO as the engine that focuses on the people who are impacted by what is changing, and the TMO as the engine that brings the strategy and vision to life. All three play a role and collaborate to deliver transformation.

iTalent Digital offers the full spectrum of services to help PMOs, CMOs and TMOs achieve their desired business outcomes. We help organizations who are ready to standardize their approaches to PM, CM, and TM across the enterprise and make them more embedded in how they do business.

iTalent has the breadth and depth of knowledge to help organizations bridge the gap between where they are today and where they want and need to be, in order to be effective with their approaches to projects, change, and transformation today and in the future.


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