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The problem with online PMO posts is… value

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As the chair of the APM PMO SIG, I get to see many PMO people who have issues around setting up, sustaining, or changing their PMO. I also read a lot of LinkedIn articles and online posts and it dawned on me the other day that our articles are missing the same thing as our PMOs – value.

I am an obvious advocate of PMO, and it made me sad when the realisation hit me – most of the posts and articles shared about our industry are very negative!

We all seem to focus on the negative and no-one shouts about good service; but, come on people! How about occasionally sharing and advertising the good things that we deliver?
Elise Stevens of Fix My Project Chaos fame recently organised a Festival of PMO blogging challenge – at last!

What we need...
is a revolution.

I have spent a fairly long time working in this space and have been involved in projects from grassroots to Ferrari (or Bugatti, depending on your preference) PMOs. The successful change in culture that PMOs are responsible for has begun to add enormous value to organisations.

Remember the time when a PMO created the first global team in a corporation spanning 12 countries?

No? You didn’t hear about it because as PMO people, we preach to shout about successes but are frankly quite rubbish at taking our own medicine.

But… They were able to govern, mature, make capable, prioritise and report on a global portfolio of change. The scale of change was enormous, the stakeholder pool was vast, and the benefits to the organisation were several fold. The team? Five people at its peak. Pretty cool, huh?

So my challenge to you is this: Instead of telling us why PMOs are failing, try sharing some of the amazing things that we can do, and let’s celebrate what we have done to date to make some significant changes in the industry.

This year, the PMO SIG annual conference is PMO and Value.

It is designed to explore how PMOs can work with the value chain to give them real-life practical help, tips and tricks that they can take back to boost their particular PMO journey.

So why not come along, take some PMO magic potion, and get enthused about the value you bring to your organisation, your people, and yourself.



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  1. Robert Noyes
    Robert Noyes 10 October 2016, 03:04 PM

    PMO perception

    Let me start this reply by admitting that I am an interloper/mole/intruder in the world of PMOs. I have been a project and programme manager for over 10 years and decided to apply for the role of PMO lead as one of my professional mentors identified it as beneficial to my development as a PM.

    I like many have had a mixed experience at the hands of various PMOs and had some pretty strong (veering on digital) opinions on the matter. So when I applied for a promotion and location move to take up the role of a PMO lead I was going to design a useful PMO (not one of those PMOs that merely tasked the PMs with pointless tasks with unhealthy timescales!

    I then sat down and thought about what a useful PMO was …I considered the PMOs that I had interacted with and I remembered that some of those 'pesky' PMOs had provided me with some fabulous support including a certain risk lead in one PMO who travelled from his work location with his colleague on the bus on several occasions to teach me how to ‘fly’ ARM and included the best way to generate the report. It included a specialist scheduler who patiently answered every one of my questions regarding MSP 2010 EPM tool and ensured I could generate a top class project schedule for my business case submission…. But hang on what about the last minute requests I got hit with and the pointless management information I had to provide…. Yes they were sometimes difficult but were they ‘the worst thing ever’ and did they stop me from delivering my project? I came to a growing realisation that as a PM I was focussed on my project and anything that seemingly took me away from my project was deemed in my mind as pointless and a waste of my time. I have with time realised that the relationship between and PMO and the projects it governs/supports is two way so I have tried to develop my PMO into one that provides good quality Management Information, reviews project performance and provides practical support to projects.

    So has it been a success? I genuinely believe so as the PMO now provides all the above and try to actually unburden some of the heavy administrative tasks that can make PM’s lives more difficult.

    Now I can almost hear you say that these are words spoken of a ‘poacher turned gamekeeper’ and I will highlight that this role as a PMO lead is developmental as I will head back into PM world to deliver more projects (but I will obviously have a better knowledge of the interaction between PMO and PMs). I also hear you say what has this got to do with the negative perceptions of PMOs … I believe that the problem is around how the PMO and Projects interact – PMOs can never exist without projects and must remember they are there to both support all stakeholders around the programme. As with everything in P3M this means we in PMOs need to ensure we communicate and manage effectively alongside the generation of the required deliverables.

    For what it’s worth here are few tips from me:

    1. Identify and design your PMO services to meet requirements of senior management and PMs in your governance
    2. Develop and deliver your PMO as you would deliver a project
    3. Record what you do (good and bad)
    4. Conduct regular maturity assessments (get an outsider’s perspective)
    5. Get feedback from your stakeholders o what you do well and what could improve
    6. Ensure your staff are SQEP – generate a PMO training/development plan
    7. Talk to other PMOs, swap ideas and drive continual improvement
    8. Generate management information once but use it many times

    Let’s PMO!

  2. Bruce Phillips
    Bruce Phillips 20 October 2016, 03:06 PM

    The PMO: Joining up the little things with the BIG THINGS

    I have to agree with everything you say Emma and Robert and I can feel the underlying emotion and commitment to the cause in your commentary. PMO success can be a wonderful thing when it works and absolute pants when it doesn't (and very frustrating if you're caught somewhere in the middle).

    As in general life, making things stick - properly - is about handling expectation around people, attitude, education, culture, communications, understanding and behaviours. I think if you get that right, as you fasten your seat-belt in preparation for the roller-coaster ride ahead, then you have a chance. If you don't then you're pretty much dead in the water. I call those the BIG things.

    The devil is also in the detail of course. How do we want projects to report? How are we going to analyze performance? How will we apply consistency in scheduling? How will we make sure we have the right SQEP both internally and externally to the PMO? How long is a piece of string? So many questions and many that are answered (sufficiently) and many that are not answered at all. The risk is that the aggregation of these unanswered questions may have an adverse impact on the PMO and the wider business operation that you don't appreciate and therefore performance and reputation is diminished. We also need to understand the impact of not doing everything so prioritization of service and output is a key factor and managing customer expectation around that scenario. I call these the little things (but still entirely essential to the delivery of high-value based performance).

    From my perspective part of the trick (in design and build terms) is to make sure that you join the dots between the BIG things and the little things so that value, business performance and customer perception and satisfaction (internal and external) are maximized.

    The critical success factor for me in that scenario is that you need the right people with the right attitudes, behaviours, respect, seniority and mind-set to influence and lead the seniors and the project communities (those who actually do the real work) in to the light.

    Anyway, these are just a few of my steam-releasing thoughts as I continue to gather pace on the roller-coaster ride that is the PMO.