April 2014 newsletter



Welcome to the latest edition of the APM PMOSIG Newsletter.

In this month’s issue check out how PMO SIG continue to be involved in the APM Competence Framework Refresh and more information about our Spring conference, PMO in Practice. Also a round up of what the PMO SIG has been up to and the latest news from around the industry.

If you have any comments on the newsletter or would like to contribute an article to a future edition, please contact us.

Emma Arnaz-Pemberton

Stay connected with the PMO SIG

A word from the Chairman

I can’t believe that we have just had Easter already. It seems not so long ago that we were celebrating Christmas. As a SIG we have a good start to this year with a successful conference (Assurance and its relationship with the PMO) organised by Gary Mitchell, one of our committee members. If you missed it then you can find the write up in this publication and the slides on the APM website here http://www.apm.org.uk/news/assurance-and-its-relationship-pmo

As a committee we are planning to do some great things for 2014/15, starting with our conference on 15th May in Solihull (PMO in Practice), and work has started to plan our autumn conference. More details on this at the May event.

This is also the time of year when it is time to stand up and be counted as we are coming up to AGM time (after the May conference), so if you fancy helping out on the committee then Emma gives a series of good reasons why helping out is very transformative in terms of your own personal development. We welcome all the support to enable us to put on some great events.

As a SIG we are contributing to the combined wisdom of the APM, through helping out with developments like the APM Competence Framework, and the development of some standard role profiles for PMO people - more details of this are included later in the newsletter. Thanks to those people who submitted role profiles, they will prove very useful when the committee meet to discuss and agree the standard roles. After these have been produced then you will have the ability to review and suggest amendments when they go out for formal review. Look for details of this via the APM website or the PMO SIG Linked In page.

Stuart Dixon
APM PMO SIG Chairman

APM Competence Framework refresh

PMO SIG get more involved

An email has been circulated this month to ask APM members to help with the Competence Framework Refresh. The work on developing the content of the refreshed APM Competence Framework is progressing well.

The next strand of work that the team are turning their attention to is the dissemination of the APM Competence Framework content using online tools.

As has been usual with this refresh, APM has been asking for your input to help us develop a tool that meets market needs which is informed by your suggestions and requirements. As a result, the final product will be something that we can all use!

In the meantime, the PMO SIG have been working to define how the competencies are applied to each of the different roles within a PMO organisation.

In mid-April, the entire PMO SIG committee will be starting with defining what role profiles need to be included as well as defining how they relate to real world examples where the PMO roles tend to be ‘blended’ due to necessity more than design.

We will keep you updated on progress of this work so and engage you through the LinkedIn group where appropriate.

If you see any more emails in the future regarding this work, please make sure that you get involved to ensure that the final framework and tooling is a leading one that can help move the industry forward.

LinkedIn hot topics

It’s been quiet in the PMO SIG LinkedIn group recently – not many responses to posts so here are some of the ones we felt would be valuable if you could give your opinions/experiences.

Working with PRINCE2 and Lean Six Sigma – how do you blend the two?

The white paper from the OGC published a few years ago suggested that this blend is possible but this post received no comments which makes me think that no-one has done it successfully.. or no-one has tried. Let us know your experiences.

We have an established PRINCE2 methodology within our business and we are now trying to bring in more LSS working practices. Can you share your experiences of how you blend both approaches to get the highest success rate for your projects & initiatives?

The PMO business case

Has your PMO successfully managed to embed itself as a value adding enabling function? If you have, tell others how you moved past the initial business case for a PMO in the first place – did you approach it in one go or start small and built maturity over time?

We talk about PMO value to an organisation, but often in terms of providing softer benefits or as an enabler... Has anyone gone a step further and put together a detailed PMO business case with robust tangible benefits included?

How have businesses sized their PMOs?

Following the PMO SIG Assurance event this cropped up as a question which has only had one response.
How have you decided the size of your PMO? As a percentage of project or portfolio size? Or is this too prescriptive given the changeable nature of the PMO scope?

Give us your thoughts!

The relevance of the project management office to project success

Serwah Afriyie-Ansah is currently pursuing a master’s degree (MSc.) in programme and project management at the University of Warwick. In fulfillment of the degree requirements. She is writing a dissertation, the focus of which will be on the relevance of the Project Management Office (PMO) to project success.

I would thus want to conduct interviews and surveys with programme and project managers who are supported by a PMO to find answers to my primary research question: How does the PMO influence project delivery?

Heard about the PMO Manifesto?

The PMO Manifesto was launched in February and since then has been signed by over 120 practitioners

You can get involved, find out more and sign it here

PMO SIG volunteers

Are you interested in getting involved with the PMO Specific Interest Group?

Becoming a volunteer is very rewarding! With access to like-minded individuals, PMO SIG (and other) events and opportunities to drive the PMO industry forward, it can help to increase your knowledge and expertise and will do no harm to your personal career path!

You will need to commit some of your spare time when you volunteer to be a committee member, but there are plenty of things to get involved with of all shapes and sizes; from contributing to the newsletter to helping to develop good practice and organising events.

Becoming a committee member – Emma Arnaz-Pemberton

Ever wondered what it is like being a committee member, but were scared to find out more?

A few years ago I heard about the PMO SIG from a business partner and at Project Challenge (when they were in attendance) decided to ask the dreaded question: “how much of my time will it take?”

The answer was “However much you are able to give up” – I was (unsurprisingly) suspicious because these things always seem too good to be true.

Not long after I was elected as a committee member, for which I needed to submit a personal statement explaining in a few paragraphs what I felt I would bring to the group.

I found that as a committee member I was able to get heavily involved in the things that interested me so I took on the role of responding to people wanting to get involved and started to help out with the newsletter – I’m all about engagement!

Over the last couple of years the PMO SIG has seen some personnel changes and I have had the opportunity to step up and manage the newsletter publication as well as organise our 2014 spring event – PMO in Practice.

We have a call for an hour most months (usually a Thursday evening), and we try for three face to face meetings in the year (always a Saturday). We budget for two conferences a year as well as a number of local events.

In addition to our PMO SIG events we get involved with the work that other APM groups are working through too. An example is the Competence Framework Refresh – I was not able to contribute to the initial stages due to work commitments but will be involved in defining how the Competence Framework fits into PMO roles (so, it really is OK if you have other commitments and have to say no!).

It sounds like a cliché but it really is true – you get out what you put in!

If all of that sounds like a lot of work, why do it?

Yes, but that’s because I’ve been involved with PMO SIG for a few years now. It is possible to get involved at your own pace and take on the role that is right for you – please note that you can’t be chair or secretary until you have one year under your belt though!

Since joining I have gained confidence in my own abilities when it comes to all things PMO – I used to think that my organisation was alone in the issues we experience and let me tell you it is quite comforting to find out that we are all in the same boat! Plus, now I am able to start listening and thinking about how we can make things easier for all PMO practitioners.

I have been able to share my experiences at conferences and local events and learned a lot from the people I have met along the way. For me, it has been very rewarding and something that I hope to continue for a long time (as long as I get voted in again of course!).

If you are passionate about the PMO industry then this is definitely the place for you!

If all of this sounds like you then it starts with just one step, contact a committee member today, and submit your application for the AGM in May.

You will need to complete the online form HERE.

Want to check us out first? Alternatively you can join as a member to receive news and information on PMO SIG.

Use the link on the APM website (you may need to login or register first) and clicking on the "Join this Group" button.

PMO SIG review

Authors Lia Tjahjana, Paul Dwyer, Mohsin Habib
Publisher Amacom
ISBN 978-0814414262
Pages 288
Price £18.99
Reviewer Samantha Blunt

As the PMO in Practice event is coming up in May, what better time to review literature about that very subject. Samantha Blunt reviewed the Program Management Office Advantage for us.

The authors

All three of the authors are based in Boston, USA and both Lia Tjahjana and Paul Dwyer, PMP, have over 17 years practical experience of project management between them. Mohsin Habib, the third author, is an associate professor of management and teaches at both the University of Massachusetts and Harvard University Extension School.

The book

The book acts as a guide to setting up a programme management office from scratch and covers all aspects from establishing what type of PMO you need, building a customer centric approach, training your project managers in PMO best practice and how to select the right projects that align with your company strategy.

The format of the book is easy to use and at the end of each chapter has a handy conclusion and ‘5 things you need to remember from this chapter’ section which reinforces the readers understanding.

The best bit of this book is the fact that it starts from the beginning of your PMO journey. When the foundations of a PMO are being discussed and helps to lead you through all of the stages that a business will need to work through. I also found that even if you are an established PMO, there will still be areas that you can learn from within this book – unless your PMO is perfect!?

What I struggled with was that it is quite obvious that the authors (and therefore the book) were based in the USA and so some relevance was lacking although they have tried to align with PRINCE2 as well as PMI. However, I thought the case study references were the weak point of the book and didn’t really add to the reader’s knowledge. This may, in part, be due to the fact that none of the authors state any kind of actual PMO experience.

Although the sample project templates would be useful as a guide, I feel there are more robust templates available through alternative channels that the reader would find more helpful.

In summary, whilst I feel this book certainly isn’t a complete guide to setting up a PMO as the cover might suggest, I consider this is a useful book to people within PMO’s. Particularly at the start of the process but would be helpful at various states of set-up and most would certainly find something worthwhile and beneficial within this book.

PMO thoughts

The role of the PMO in practice, Stuart Dixon

When I read the Critical Path piece by Sonal Shah in the April edition of Project Magazine, I was struck by how misunderstood the role of PMO in projects really is. This is why I am glad that the APM PMO SIG has been taking part in an APM activity to put together some standard role profiles for the different roles that are there for PMO’s to perform.

As Sonal suggests the P3O guidance on roles is a good start, and it isn’t a co-incidence that the author of the 2013 version of the P3O manual is a committee member, and other members of the committee, both past and present have been involved as reviewers, a quick glance at the acknowledgements section would give you more information. However I think this is our chance as a SIG to take this information on the roles and take it to the next level. Having the backing of the APM will ensure that the role of the PMO becomes more mainstream and understood, as it has done for the roles of project and programme manager.

Sonal argues that the PMO has a great role in sharing the learnings from one project or programme to another. I agree with Sonal, and as a PMO person I have always looked to my network of colleagues, both internal to my organisation and external to my organisation to help me answer questions. I find the support I get from the APM PMO SIG’s Linked In group invaluable in helping me answer questions I might not know the answer to. However there is nothing better than talking to people face to face and finding out how it went in other organisations. For that I really value the time spent at a PMO SIG conference like the PMO in practice, where not only do I get to hear some great thought leadership from the experts in the profession, but I also get the ability to talk to them in person, alongside a range of people who are doing the role day to day (whichever of the different PMO roles there are).

So I would encourage everyone to increase your network, come to a PMO SIG conference, be that a national event or a local event and pick up some practical advice from other experts on how your projects and programmes can work better.

Dates for the diary

PMO Flashmob ignite night

Thursday 1st May is the next PMO Flashmob night and what a night it is going to be! It will be held at the historical public house Dirty Dicks near Liverpool Street, London; a brilliant place steeped in history and Charles Dickens, what’s not to like?
Thursday 1st May 2014 London
Creativity - does this involve thinking?

APM East of England branch will be holding their next event in the Willis in Ipswich. This interactive presentation will investigate over twenty techniques to avoid, stimulate and recognise creativity when dealing with problems.

For those who like to be busy multitasking, or are easily bored while attending such events, there will be a number of grisly, pressing example problems to be considered in parallel while the presentation is taking place - any replication of real life is completely intentional. Delegates will leave with some new tools, or their old tools re-sharpened. Alternatively, they may be no more creative themselves whatsoever; but they will recognise the talents and techniques within their teams and colleagues.

Wednesday 14th May 2014 Ipswich
PMO spring conference - PMO in practice

The PMO in Practice is a 1 day conference that will demonstrate how PMO people have taken theory and implemented it in their organisations.

Have you ever wanted to attend a conference and have tangible hints and tips that you can take away and implement? Then this is the PMO conference for you!

Thursday 15th May 2014 Solihull

Assurance local event review

As part of our knowledge management series, we asked Gary to write an article on the event he held back in February; “Assurance and its Relationship with PMO” event. If you missed it online, here it is.

Having just written up the outputs from the assurance event I am beginning to see some clear patterns of thought emerging. So let’s recap on the learning points from the day.

Eileen Roden kicked off proceedings with a short exercise to gauge our understanding of assurance and looking at the output there was strong agreement that assurance covered a wide area of PMO related governance, management and delivery questions. What struck me about the list was that there were very clear PMO heartland areas such as process compliance, best practice standards and templates, and performance reporting. These are all areas where we can build hard metrics and use tools and techniques to manage. There was also another strain of assurance that featured strongly, this was however, harder to measure or quantify. Aspects such as capability assessments and development, benefits validation, and strategic alignment. Finally, there was a strain of assurance which was very active, and reflected PMOs that hold a very hands on and involved position. This may be a reflection on PMO maturity and seemed to present the PMO in a much more of an involved and business minded role than perhaps the remote and policeman focused PMOs we often hear about.

Roy Millard opened proceedings with a presentation on the APM Assurance SIG’s latest thinking on integrated assurance. Roy showed a nice way of mapping assurance needs to evidential response – I was immediately drawn to this as from a PMO perspective this was something I could see being easily incorporated into the PMOs tool kit and service catalogue as it was a tangible process and output.

Caitlin Davidson and Gary Perkins from the Skills Funding Agency then gave a presentation on their PMO and its assurance role. This was an insightful presentation for me on the use of both embedded Programme Support Officers (PSOs) close to their programmes offering continual assurance on SFAs best practice use of governance, standards, templates, and a more central and independent assurance service which conducted more in depth health check and gateway style reviews. This seemed to cater for the strands revealed earlier in Eileen’s session as there were both active assurance through the regular involvement of PSOs and the use of checklists and the more traditional independent review, report and recommend style assurance.

After lunch, Tom Pritt gave a brief outline of assurance from a supplier perspective, and again gave a different view of how assurance can be conducted. I particularly liked the idea of surveillance spot checks! This presentation struck a chord for me as it showed the multi layered assurance activities involved in the delivery supply chain. Not only will the programme/project be subject to audits and reviews but its supply chain will have their own audit and reviews as per their own quality management system (QMS). From my PMO standpoint this reminded me how my PMO had worked closely with a number of suppliers to ensure our schedule and risks and issue management processes needed to be adapted to ‘plug in’ to the suppliers. We developed critical governing interfaces which meant that health checks could trace a projects workload through the organisation and its supplier’s management information.

Jon Street followed up with a presentation on how his PMO had used Management Information (MI) to generate an almost ‘ninja’ style PMO resource who would take the MI and actively engage with project managers to build a contextual understanding of what the MI facts were telling them. They would then propose solutions for the Project Manager or highlight systemic issues that could be addressed programmatically or even at portfolio level. This session proved lively as comments about the use of MI and turning it into Business Intelligence (BI) gathered interest. There are many enterprise level tools on the market which can provide PMOs with extremely powerful MI and BI with the ability to develop insights from trends and scenario modelling. Some PMOs, especially less well established ones, may not have this capability, however, developing simple but consistent and trusted ‘naive’ MI (i.e. without delivery context) can still be turned into a powerful tool for PMOs through active involvement with Project Managers.

Matt Burley and Hannah Maycock completed the day’s presentations by going back to more of an overview and retracing Roy’s steps from the morning. Hannah relayed the complexity of some project deliveries where integration with multiple projects is required. Matt highlighted the softer side aspects such as international culture, politics, and personalities. They outlined how consultancies offer tools and methods for assurance and I was reminded of Roy’s earlier presentation. PMOs can utilise these different approaches for their own ends building up their own brand of assurance service.

Finally, we conducted a short exercise on putting ourselves in the shoes of a business sponsor and a programme assurance manager and tried to understand what they would want assurance on. I have included the write up of this. Again what strikes me is the amount of compliance style assurance our PMOs can offer and the more business needs assurance of someone like our programme/project sponsors. Their needs focus not so much on doing things the right way (standards, process, etc) but more on doing the right things (strategic alignment) and managing their business impact.

There is much to consider in here, notably what type of PMO assurance can you offer at this time and what do you want to deliver in the future, this may help map out your own PMO strategy and its capabilities.

You can find a copy of the slides on the APM website.

PMO curator

For each publication, we like to pick out a selection of PMO related news and interesting media from other sources and neatly package them so they are easy for you to locate.

Take a look at this month’s selection by clicking here which include:

• Enterprise project managers must get more Agile
• Network Rail’s five-year investment programme begins
• 2014 Wideman Prize Competition in project management scheduled
• Implementing organisational project management
• How project managers keep calm and stay efficient

..and in case you missed it, here is a link direct to the APM Statement regarding its application for Royal Charter.

Comments and feedback

The PMO SIG would appreciate any comments or feedback you have on our newsletter – let us know whether it was useful, and what you’d like to see in future editions. Email the newsletter editor.



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