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A P3O? What's wrong with my Project Support Office?

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The issue is – organisations don’t always manage their portfolio using recognised portfolio management processes or roles. A PMO is often ‘delivery’ focused and not always a high level corporate body. There is often a gap between strategy and the delivery of change.  Could a traditional PMO step up to fill that gap?
I think the answer is ‘yes – but…’ (brace yourself for sweeping generalisations)
Portfolio management is maturing as a discipline which organisations need to adopt TOP DOWN, while PMO services have often evolved, and PMOs often arise all over a business, in a typically BOTTOM UP fashion.

PMOs can be pulled together and rationalised, then extended to support Portfolio Management – but Portfolio Offices cannot however, be just ‘plopped’ on top of a dysfunctional P3M ecology and be expected to produce portfolio management out of a hat. A considered change programme, not a meandering evolution, is the answer, and EPM tools are an essential component of the prioritisation, delivery and governance ‘solution’ if you want to keep what hair you have left.
Has anyone experience of throwing a few sixes and getting quick and dirty to work? Please can you let me know your ideal lottery numbers?

I’ve just done a web cast discussion on this subject, and had quite a number of people sign on for the session.


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  1. David Dunning
    David Dunning 08 March 2012, 10:18 AM

    Very interesting David, thanks for sharing :-) The more people like yourself who push this comment and insight forward, the better!Back to portfolio management, rather than projects and programmes - and talking of surveys, has everyone contributed to the Portfolio Management SIG survey? seen the preliminary results, we have some very interesting material, but the more people (with or without qualifications) who can contribute, the more statistically significant this will be. Do contribute all if you have 10 minutes. Maybe they well have some up to date realistic stats about portfolio management to review all together. 

  2. David Hancock
    David Hancock 08 March 2012, 09:46 AM

    DavidIn response to your questions:I am someone who recycles other peoples statistics I find it easier (lazy project manager) here is Dr Dobbs website: I could have recycled the Standish Groups Chaos Report on project delivery 2009 32% of all projects succeeded that is: delivered on time, on budget, with required features and functions44% were challenged: late, over budget, and/or with less than the required features and functions 24% failed: cancelled prior to completion or delivered and never usedThese numbers represent a downturn in the success rates from the previous study, as well as a significant increase in the number of failures", says Jim Crear, Standish Group CIO, "They are low point in the last five study periods. This year's results represent the highest failure rate in over a decadeOr many others in a similar view which appear to indicate we are not on the whole good at delivery of projects and the delivery of major projects has a similar story; when CTRL was finished the then Prime Minister Tony Blair was pictured in front of a banner proclaiming on time and budget and on the completion of Terminal 5 the Economist wrote Heathrow's new terminal is on time and on budget. How odd! and Im sorry if you dont believe the figures.As for your last statement, on the need to get an MBA in order to better understand business, let me reflect it back to you with a slight twist. Are you also advocating that there is no need to get a project management qualification; because I don't think they demonstrate emotional intelligence, imagination or creativity and therefore are not required to run projects, perhaps just to get into some?RegardsDavid

  3. David Dunning
    David Dunning 07 March 2012, 04:54 PM

    Wow David (H), lively comment JAre you one of the 8/10 people who have recycled other peoples statistics or just makes them up?Joking aside - I don't really want ot get into debating numbers with you, but I don't believe in a divine being or these figures. If we are going to quote stuff - we should link to who we are quoting and the source report - as I have in previous on line presentations (being someone who does recycle other peoples statistics - and I make them up like the one above).But I think I see your point - the figures are fictitious - you are worried the people who amass such stats might look a bit stupid in a room with senior business people? If I am getting this - I have to agree with you, the portfolio level person providing decision support is a completely different animal to the plan jockey. I'm not assuming you are suggesting I get an MBA, but I don't think you need an MBA to demonstrate emotional intelligence, imagination or creativity. And I don't think you need an MBA to operate in business, perhaps just to get into some?What does anyone else think? I love this comment, can anyone else top it?!

  4. David Hancock
    David Hancock 07 March 2012, 04:27 PM

    DavidHere is something controversial to think about as there is a lot of 'comfortable' agreement around using Portfolio management at business level (normally by PMs)Here are some statistics around project delivery success:Ad-hoc projects: 49% are successful, 37% are challenged, and 14% are failures.Iterative projects: 61% are successful, 28% are challenged, and 11% are failures.Agile projects: 60% are successful, 28% are challenged, and 12% are failures.Traditional projects: 47% are successful, 36% are challenged, and 17% are failuresWith those statistics why on earth would you want the same people having any input into your business at portfolio level?Prehaps I would suggest if you want to operate at this level get an MBA? 

  5. Edwin Mpofu
    Edwin Mpofu 05 March 2012, 09:17 AM

    Booz have an interesting document that makes a case for a Strategic Implementation Office (SIO) to counter the shortcomings of PMOs and the document can be found here:  

  6. David Dunning
    David Dunning 20 February 2012, 03:27 PM

    Hi Chris,I agree again! Just enough process, technology, support. You can do more - but it's painful and embarrassing to have to cut down and do less.(will somebody please write something contentious?)D 

  7. Chris Walters
    Chris Walters 20 February 2012, 01:14 PM

    Simple observation from me - the skills and knowledge required to be a portfolio manager tend to be business skills rather than project skills, and that will limit how successfullly a delivery-centric PMO can take on the work of a portfolio office.I tend to take the Craig Kilford view on tools, favouring the "just enough is plenty" school of thought. Much more important is getting the right people delivering guidance using a good process - the tool just makes them more efficient. This supports your view that the portfolio office can't just be a PMO addendum. In my experience, portfolio offices fail unless top-down.

  8. David Dunning
    David Dunning 20 February 2012, 11:04 AM

    I agree it is important to seperate governance form support, absolutely.I am proposing (when echoing from others really) however, that the entity that could step up and join portfolio management and project portfolio management is a PMO, with the right leadership, resoruces, organsiational will, and tools. 

  9. Patrick Weaver
    Patrick Weaver 18 February 2012, 10:22 AM

    I feel it is critically important to separate traditional portfolio management which focuses on investment decisions; in the case of project portfolio management which projects to start and which to stop based on available resources and contributions to strategic value; from the organisations capability and willingness to actually manage its ability to effectively deliver projects and programs. The separation is a governance issue of the first order it is appallingly bad governance for the same entity to be responsible for the management and support of current projects and programs and at the same time be responsible for deciding which projects and programs should be cancelled and what new ones should be started.  The conflict of interest is impossible to resolve. Traditional portfolio management is well understood and applies to any investment from art works, through shares, to any other investment that is intended to generate positive returns; including investing in projects and programs. All that is missing in project portfolio management space is the willingness of organisations to make informed investment decisions (constrained by their capabilities and capacity to fund and undertake the work). A less well understood area of business management is the way organisations manage and develop their ability to deliver projects and program effectively there is a massive black hole covering the management of project management capabilities to the point where there is not even a generally accepted name for this crucial aspect of business management. There a couple of very good blog on this subject at  -  then having recognised the problem, the next challenge is developing a strategy to fill this gap in general management if they dont do their job right, we, as project and program managers have no chance of succeeding!