BoK7: What to do about PMOs?

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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 

Ruth Murray-Webster

Posted by Ruth Murray-Webster on 12th Apr 2018

About the Author

Ruth is a Director of Potentiality UK providing leading-edge risk and change consultancy services to clients across sectors. Ruth was formerly Director of Change Portfolio at Associated British Ports; Director of the Risk in the Boardroom practice for KPMG LLP and 10 years as a Director of Lucidus Consulting Ltd. Her work on risk appetite and risk attitude with David Hillson is widely published. Her doctoral research focused on the accomplishment of planned change from the perspective of the recipients of change rather than change agents. Ruth was awarded Honorary Fellowship of APM in 2013 for her contributions to risk and change.

Ruth was Editor of the 7th edition of the APM Body of Knowledge and is a member of the APM Professional Standards and Knowledge Committee.

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