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Socialising the PMO

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As part of our upcoming Autumn Conference; Socialising the PMO: The PMO as an Enabler of P3 Communities, we plan to use all the experience brought by our speakers and partners to investigate the role of the PMO using methods and tactics such as social media, to engage with, build, enable, and encourage communities of practice within an organisation’s wider P3 community; whilst maintaining its key role as a governance and assurance function.

In order to get a more global viewpoint – and to get the juices flowing, we asked Reinhard Wagner; President of the IPMA to give us a brief interview with his views on PMO, its’ evolution, how the trend of social working affects it, and its’ future.

How have you seen the development of PMO over the years you have been involved, both in the association and the industry?

A PMO is nothing new, it has been around in the early years of projects and project management, but it gained more attention during the last couple of years. Why? The more projects we do in an organisation, the more a coordination between the strategic level and the operational level is needed, selecting and prioritising projects and programmes, making transparent what is going on as well as enabling the decision making processes. The PMO is certainly an enabler for all this. Thus, industry started using the concept of a PMO more widely. A recent survey in Germany revealed, that 80% of the 275 respondents already have a PMO, whilst 8 % are considering it and 12 % are not intending to have such a unit. Large organisations even have several PMOs (organisations with more than 10.000 employees stated to have on average 7.3 PMOs on different levels or in different divisions). GPM, the German Project Management Association is inviting this year to the 5th PMO Day. Last year more than 400 PMO experts joined in, this year GPM expects even more people coming.

How do you think the current trend for working more socially and the need for immediacy of information will affect the PMO role?

Social Media and other tools may support the PMO in establishing good communication and collaboration across the PM Community in their context, helping the projects to identify relevant experts and expertise for performing their projects as well as spreading their lessons learned. This is important as many projects are struggling to coordinate a distributed team of people. IPMA is a good example for that. Covering more than 60 member organisations across the world, performing projects within that context becomes a challenge. This is why IPMA uses more and more social media and collaborative tools (like ProjectPlace) to coordinate the efforts. The role of a PMO is to establish such tools and facilitate usage across the community.

For the first time ever. PMO is represented in the APM Competence Framework, how do you see the role continuing to evolve now that it has recognition by the industry?

Analysing the evolution of a PMOs role requires to look deeper into the expectations an organisation and the stakeholders have towards the PMO. One of the roles of a PMO is to develop and establish standards in an organisation. Another role is to support the application of these standards through training, coaching and consulting. A critical role is to help the leadership of an organisation in establishing the Governance of projects, programmes and portfolios. This may include the monitoring and controlling of all projects and programmes within the relevant context, continue with the facilitation of decision-making processes as well as reporting and documenting. Performing all these roles, a PMO is an enabler for organisational development, it levers the maturity of an organisation in project, programme and portfolio management. During a PMO conference in Finland earlier this year I stated, that it could also mean a PMO closes down after reaching a certain maturity level. We need to be aware, that a PMO is a midwife for the organisational maturity, and thus let the organisation grow independently. But maybe this is too provocative for the time being, simply think of it…


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  1. Merv Wyeth
    Merv Wyeth 12 October 2015, 12:36 PM

    Hi Emma,I was delighted to read your interview with Reinhard Wagner and in particular the German experience and that of the IPMA family.I think the German study of The PMO in Practice [Dispersal – Acceptance – Performance Measurement] is really interesting. I note that a sample of 257 practitioner respondents participated in the 2013/14 study.In particular the findings on the Integration of the PMO in the Decision-Making and Strategic Control Processes of the Organisation – currently PMOs appear to have a rather limited or no involvement. However, I also note an interesting feedback loop or self-fulfilling prophecy:“There is a two-sided relationship between the contribution that PMOs can make to an organisation, the tasks with which they are entrusted, their organisational integration and the level of acceptance of PMOs.The greater the value that a PMO can add to an organisation, the better it is communicated and the more the stakeholders of the PMO identify the added value as such, the greater is the level of acceptance of the PMO within the organisation.It is the quantifiability of this added value is the most important factor regarding the acceptance of the PMO.”There is, of course, much more in this study by the German Project Management Association, GPM. As Reinhard points out we need to recognise that the IPMA has fully 60 members and in this modern world it is vital that we pool knowledge, learn from each other and not attempt to 'reinvent the wheel.'This is, of course, precisely what PMO SIG are doing through events such as Socialising the PMO. The PMO as a builder of P3M Communities Conference on 22 October. I recommend attendance for all the reasons Reinhard suggests and look forward to learning more about the PMO discipline as it continues to evolve and proves its value to organisational development and improved PPM success.