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PMO's - what does it really stand for?

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Stuart Dixon, PMO manager working for AXA PPP healthcare, joined the South East branch at the Reigate Manor Hotel on Thursday 8th March, to give a very interesting presentation, discussing the development of PMOs in their various guises, and giving an understanding of some of the services and functions that can be performed in and from a PMO (Project Management Office).

Stuart's presentation started with a history of the PMO office starting out in 4000BC when the pyramids were built right up to the present day. In the 1950s tools such PERT and critical path analysis came to the fore as organisations tried to maximise efficiency of materials and resources. These were completed using very manual, labour intensive methods, such as drawing offices common with large engineering projects. In the 1970s with the advent of data processing power, IT started to drive demand for project information and detailed planning.

But it wasnt until 2004 that PMOs were starting to formally be defined, mainly in response to the embarrassing failure rate of large public projects. The desire for standardisation to build on good practice requiring serious and defined project assurance clearly promoted the status of the PMO.

Despite this PMOs reflect a wide variety of forms depending on the nature of the projects being developed. A straw poll in the room revealed a great deal of uncertainty of the main purpose and form of PMOs in our organisations. Stuart recommended that the PMO should publish their own PMO Charter to ensure that the project management team and the business were both clear about their remit. This ensured it delivered the benefit that that organisation wanted for it. From that agreed charter  a PMO service menu could be prepared and support could be tailored from the PMO to meet the mix of needs for individual projects.

Overall a very enjoyable and enlightening presentation, where we all went away with the determination to collaborate more with PMOs to get more value for them and us.

Article written by Lawrence Hills, South East Branch committee member


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