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PMO/EPMO - What's it all about?

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The APM Hong Kong June event was held, as usual, at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club.  A presentation entitled PMO/EPMO What is it all about? was delivered by Kerry Peirse, EPMO Manager for Cathay Pacific Airways.  It was well attended by over thirty members and guests.

Kerry has held a variety of roles involving project and portfolio management, particular for airlines and information technology companies.  She is IT-focused and has been with Cathay for almost two years, having moved from a project management lead role within the same organisation.

Most companies have a project/programme management office (PMO) / enterprise (EPMO) to define and maintain standards for project management within the organisation. Most people do not know what they do and for what purpose.

In the presentation, Kerry shed light on such roles and the relevance of an EPMO in the current environment. A review of the progression from traditional project support offices to PMOs, and from PMOs to next-generation PMOs (or EPMOs) was also presented. Finally, challenges faced by PMOs were discussed.

Firstly, Kerry highlighted the low value administration tasks in the project support office. As a result, the project managers time is not put to the best use. To repair this, it is advisable to set up a PMO to deal with not only the administration, but also programme-wide scheduling, standardisation, risk and issue management. The PMO positioned to standardise and introduce economies of repetition in the execution of individual (but related) projects. The PMO is the source of documentation, guidance and metrics on the practice of project management and execution. The PMO is a key support to the programme manager.

Traditional PMOs base project management principles on industry-standard methodologies such as PRINCE2 or project management guidelines such as those in the APM Body of Knowledge (6th edition). However, more management level support and more standardisation are required. An EPMO is set up with a wider scope to cover oversight of company-wide governance, co-ordinated resource management, scope management, quality management, value-adding risk/issue management, communication management, end-to-end financial management, knowledge/record management, document management, practice management, and portfolio management and benefits tracking. The non-traditional EPMO broadens the scope of PMO activities and increasingly focuses on corporate-wide benchmarking and key performance indicators (KPIs). In other words, EPMO strategically aligns with the organization and provides holistic management over multiple PMOs.   

Kerry pointed out that PMOs contribute directly to the performance improvements in productivity, customer satisfaction, projects under budget and ahead of schedule, and cost savings. High performing companies have more capable PMOs. However, the common challenges faced by all PMOs are:

  1. Application of process
  2. Demonstrating the value of PMO
  3. Balance governance and delivery
  4. Formally defining its role.



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