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BoK7: What to do about PMOs?

In this blog post, the third in a series of four dealing with what to include in the seventh edition of the APM Body of Knowledge, the question is: ‘What shall we do about PMOs?’

One aspect of this question relates to what the ‘P’ stands for – project management office, programme management office, portfolio management office – all three?

The question also relates to how APM Body of Knowledge 7 deals with specialist roles that are often part of a project management office, e.g. the specialist roles associated with scheduling, cost estimation or risk analysis. Large corporate partners of APM have different names for the part of the organisation that leads on this work – project controls, project services, or one of the PMOs.

There is clearly no consensus on the title given to the part of the organisation that provides specialist support for project managers and their sponsor, so the draft structure of the APM Body of Knowledge 7 currently out for consultation controversially does not mention PMO, project controls or project services.

What we propose to do is to explain in the ‘Team roles and responsibilities’ topic that in organisations that have large portfolios of project-based work, there are often specialist roles who provide services to the project manager, helping them to plan, monitor and report, and to drive organisational standards and continuous improvement.

We know that some people think this is the wrong answer so through this blog we invite you to advise what you would do.

One of the pieces of work that I have found useful in practice is the work done by the Cranfield School of Management/Hewlett Packard partnership in 2013. In this publication there is a useful distinction between services provided to projects, programmes and portfolios depending on whether the services are strategic or tactical and whether they are demand-driven (e.g. to support the tracking of benefits), or supply-driven (e.g. to ensure compliance with the organisation’s project management method). Maybe this is a useful way of covering the ground?

In my day job I have responsibility for strategic portfolio governance as well as advising on how to set up support for individual projects to ensure we build good practice, and to provide specialist services such as risk modeling to individual projects. My challenge with the APM Body of Knowledge 7 is not one of knowing about what organisations do – but the challenge of codifying this wide range of organisational solutions in a succinct way within the new structure.

If you have views on this, or other topics associated with APM Body of Knowledge 7, we invite you to contribute to the consultation online. There’s no need to answer every section, you can spend as much or as little time as you wish. The consultation closes on Friday 20 April, so don’t miss out on your chance to share your views.

Previous blogs in this series:

BoK7: What do we mean by social systems?

BOK7: Why include megaprojects 

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  1. Richard Renshaw
    Richard Renshaw 14 April 2018, 05:12 PM

    In the area of the world where I work - the Middle East a common term is PMO. Typically this is specified by a client within a Request for Proposal. In anticipation of opportunities post Brexit there is a benefit for inclusion with the aim to win further work for British companies by adapting to the culture of the Middle East market. Every two years ISO undertakes a survey to canvas opinion on new initiatives for generation of informative standards. From 2016 one of five topics identified was 'Project Management Office'. During this year I expect a subsequent ISO survey themed on PPPM - Project, Programme and Portfolio Management to re-confirm the merits of commencing a circa 36 month period for the task of generation of an ISO Standard for PPPM. Helpful good practice case studies using the P3O model are available at the URL link below. https://www.axelos.com/case-study-and-white-paper-search# Based on the above I would counsel for the inclusion of 'Project Management Office' as an all-encompassing term to cover PPPM in the first instance within the APM BoK refresh exercise. Kind regards Richard Riyadh, KSA

  2. Ian Heptinstall
    Ian Heptinstall 20 April 2018, 03:45 PM

    Incorporating the idea of the PMO will be an interesting challenge! Primarily because the need for a PMO varies so widely, and there are many different ways to achieve the underlying need without having a central team. Maybe a way to address this is to highlight the value for organisation-wide leadership of the PM profession, and then include some common ways of achieving this leadership, which will include PMO's. My concern about PMO's is they seem to be perceived as something organisations "should have", rather than something that in some circumstances might be useful.