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August 2014 newsletter



Welcome to the latest edition of the APM PMO SIG Newsletter.

In this month’s issue check out the write up from the PMO SIG 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.

Stay connected with the PMO SIG

A word from the PMO SIG chair

This quarter the PMO SIG has seen some significant changes. Following the AGM, a new chair and secretary have been voted in and as a result Stuart Dixon has moved into the role of secretary effective immediately.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Stuart for the support and leadership he has shown the committee during the last year. Stuart took the role after the previous chair stepped down and he ensured that the PMO SIG lived on and got involved in lots of activities during 2013. Martin McCann has taken a step back from the role of secretary due to other commitments but will remain involved with other SIG activities.

I would also like to thank Andrew M Taylor who sat on the committee for a year who has had to step down to concentrate on other things and welcome new PMO SIG committee members, David Powell and Martin Straughan. They are both very passionate about PMO and you will get a chance to get to know them in future newsletters.

In May, the PMO SIG held its first conference of the year “PMO in Practice”. The event was designed following feedback from previous conferences and topics were selected to ensure that delegates were able to take practical advice back to the workplace. The conference got an excellent response and you can read a full write up about it in this newsletter.

The committee was also involved with the IPMA to deliver the first “PMO SIG Summit” in June. The Summit was designed to bring together PMO SIGs from all over the world (12 different countries to be precise) to share information on what is happening within the SIGs, the industry and the way forward. Again, you can read a write up in this newsletter.

So that’s all past tense.. What do we have on the horizon?

As the new chair I am passionate that the PMO SIG needs to serve its members. So, following on from the spring conference and your feedback, our autumn conference is now being developed. The theme will follow on from the ‘practical’ aspects of PMO and will be focused on the technology that is out there to support – and sometimes hamper - PMOs moving forward. Keep your eyes open for more information on this two day event.

In addition to this we are continuing to support our members' individual requests and organise a number of local events based around the topics that matter most to you – check out the upcoming events section in this publication to find out more.

Emma Arnaz-PembertonIf you feel that you can help to contribute to the PMO SIG as a volunteer for events, articles or simply getting chatting on LinkedIn – or if you have any questions, then please feel free to contact us.

Emma-Ruth Arnaz-Pemberton
APM PMO SIG Chairman

APM Competence Framework refresh

PMO SIG get more involved

Over the past months the PMO SIG have been involved with the refresh of the APM Competence Framework.

The APM Competence Framework and role profiles were finalised by the teams and sent for review by members in May. They have now been approved by both the Technical Assurance Group (TAG) who have overall responsibility for approving the content of the revised framework and signed off by the Professional Standards and Knowledge (PS&K) committee. The PS&K committee is responsible for approving the process and for confirming that the revisions meet IPMA (International Project Management Association) requirements.

At the moment, the teams are preparing the transition plan over the summer months for roll out and dissemination of the new framework to corporate members who utilise the framework in their organisations. This will ensure that they have the opportunity to update their systems and processes in advance of publishing the framework to the wider audience around October 2014.

From July 2014, the team will pilot the new or improved qualifications that will support it with a view to making them publicly available in spring 2015.

LinkedIn hot topics
Some of our favourites from LinkedIn

Project-level Business Case: Tailoring PRINCE2 to Projects in a Programme Environment?
A support request regarding business cases and what they should include in terms of solution development. Give your thoughts!

What do you want from your PMO SIG?
Let us know what you would like to see more of, less of or instead of from your committee this year.

Communication to the project team
How much information should be cascaded to the project team – can too much hinder the success of the project?

Does your RAG Status reflect delivery expectation?
When reporting doesn’t reflect reality – what are your experiences?

Are Project Managers a commodity?
What differentiates a ‘golden’ project manager?

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 best practice and organising events.

David PowellBecoming a committee member – David Powell
"Ever wondered what it is like being a committee member, but were scared to find out more?"

David Powell is officially new to the role of PMO. But has worked with business change initiatives, projects and PMOs throughout his career in many different industries. Having worked as head of quality assurance and business improvement in engineering, IT, aviation, customer services and printing, Dave has a wealth of experience and an interest in process governance and development.

Making the career change to project management in 2008, Dave took a natural interest in PMO and the governance, management and prioritisation of the change management portfolio.

If all of that sounds like a lot of work, why do it?
He wanted to join the PMO SIG committee in order to strengthen his PMO knowledge and experience and to be involved in the development of the APM Competence Framework and the APM Body of Knowledge. Dave is also an experienced and confident speaker and trainer having already presented for the APM PMO SIG. With his project management experience Dave can offer a different view to PMO and having managed projects at first hand can see the issues that a lack of governance and planning can cause. Dave wants to bring this experience to the PMO SIG and apply these lessons learned to PMO process improvement.

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

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.

IPMA forum for PMO SIGs
27th June 2014 - London

The UK PMO SIG hosted an international gathering of other PMO SIGs in central London on Friday 27th June. The IPMA, of which APM is one of 52 member associations, arranged the PMO SIG forum to bring together specific interest groups from around the globe. The aim of the summit was to bring together key people of all the PMO SIGs to share insights into how their SIGs are run, what their members want and exchanging of ideas with the intention of forming an international network of PMO SIGs.

PMO SIG representatives were in attendance from Germany, UK, Netherlands, Austria, USA, Russia, Denmark, Australia and Latvia. IPMA representatives from Ireland also came along. Each SIG presented an elevator pitch which included a brief overview of their SIG, what they are working on, what has worked well and what they need help with.

It was very interesting to see the perception of PMO and the SIG across many different countries as well as what they get up to. Australia is heavily focused on research, Russia concentrates on the corporate links and the UK work mostly in the networking and engagement area.

As a collective group there was a vast amount of knowledge and you can read more about it in network magazine in the future. The new international team is looking to organise future events so keep your eyes open for news!

The PMO in PracticePMO in practice
The PMO SIG's spring conference

This year’s spring conference for the PMO SIG revolved around making the conference practical for those that attended.
Practical can mean many things to many people, for the PMO SIG it really was about enabling all the delegates to take away something from the day that they could utilise to start a conversation, change something or bring something new to their organisation.

You can view the twitter feed from the day here.

The day included speakers from all over the industry:
Stuart Dixon opened the day, followed closely by Eileen J Roden with an exercise around why PMOs fail.

The top reasons identified on the day were:

  1. PMO fails to quantify it’s value and the benefits it brings to the business.
    Discussions surrounding this topic included how a PMO can demonstrate value using tools such as a balanced scorecard or communications tools.
  2. Lack of support from senior management.
    Most PMO people have been there; senior management want a PMO but don’t want to be governed! How is it possible to deal with this paradox? By identifying your stakeholder groups you can deal with the non-believer differently to your champions; who you should engage to get the message on and upward motion.
  3. The PMO implemented is not the correct model for what the business needs.
    A governance-heavy PMO model does not work in all businesses. The PMO should be pragmatic enough to understand when classic project methods won’t work and what to do about it.
  4. Business needs and directional change due to external forces.
    A lot of companies are having to change the way that they operate to deal with economic (and other) pressures and this can have an adverse effect on the PMO. Future-proof your PMO with a service catalogue that includes services to support the organisation when hard times hit.
  5. Cost constraints & restructures.
    On the day this went hand in hand with the demonstrable value - if the PMO can not show how it adds value, it may not survive a restructure - especially when costs are challenged.

...and one for good measure because it was tied with the others: differing perceptions of the role of a PMO from those within the PMO itself, the project teams, senior management and the wider stakeholder groups. It is perception that can make or break a PMO so it is important to understand what everyone else thinks the PMO role is.

Some additional ones to note included:
Lack of PMO credibility as a profession.
One of the reasons why the PMO SIG exists is to help the PMO profession move forward. In some organisations however, the view that this is not a bonafide industry still rings true. If you find yourselves against this particular problem; go back to the value added.
The PMO fails to evolve with the business.
Five years is the average 'life' of a PMO - according to all the research. On the day a brief exercise showed that the average table PMO service age with one company was a mere 4 years old. How do we stop the 5 year-itch? PMOs need to adapt with the business and avoid staying in the dangerous waters of “this is the way we always did it”. Evolve or die.

Gary Mitchell spoke about Value Adding PMOs
Lindsay Scott; Arras people, How to Manage a Camel and co-author of People in Project Management, kindly provided her synopsis on Gary’s presentation which you can see below.

Huw James from Network Rail showed the delegates how his very large PMO has evolved over time
With over 4,000 projects and 1,800 project managers it has been a very interesting journey so far!
Huw talked about the complexity of having to bring governance to such a large project community and explained some of the challenges that his team faced such as having no strategy to begin with but a need for accurate information and governance to ensure real transparency to internal and external stakeholders.

The team set about getting to ‘one version of the truth’ using a change programme focused on data via system integrations and creation of reporting tools that would be used consistently. As a result, a PMO emerged that worked and flexed as the business changed into a project oriented organisation.

Huw talked to the delegates about the formation of the Network Rail P3M strategy which started with defining key terms that would be used across the whole organisation to create a common language. The delegates were reminded that the length of time and level of investment required to change your entire organisation in this way is significant. It took more than three years to embed portfolio management into Network Rail and included obtaining APM Accreditation, a new community of practice and the engagement of a significant number of stakeholders.

Chris Mills, Hi Q-Sigma discussed the benefits profile of the MoD submarine dismantling programme
As well as talking about some of the challenges that they have faced and will continue to face for several years.

Emma Arnaz-Pemberton and Samantha Blunt from Office Depot spoke about the innovative way that they categorise their projects.
Going back to being pragmatic; the team devised a tool that allows anyone in the organisation to identify what kind of governance an initiative needs right from the start of its lifecycle and aligned the project type to animals. Why animals? It works in every language - no matter where you are in the world, a horse is a horse..
Their presentation was followed by a short exercise to get delegates thinking outside of the box.

And as if that wasn’t enough practical advice;
Vanessa Randle from Thinking Visually taught the delegates how to draw and how drawing can be utilised in organisations for visual effect. Everyone received a packet of Sharpie pens to practice at home!

Overall the day was a success. The feedback from the delegates include an overall score of 4.6 for the day with 9 out of 10 people saying that they would recommend the day to others.

Value Adding PMOs - Lindsay Scott

Are PMOs valued by the businesses in which they exist? The May conference from PMO SIG set out to answer this question with a presentation by PMO SIG committee member Gary Mitchell. Gary, who works for Atkins following a PMO career across many government organisations talked to the assembled audience of over 70 PMO practitioners about recognising and demonstrating value.

PMOs are valued differently depending on the services they provide and the types of projects and programmes an organisation delivers. A PMO with a remit to report on progress allows visibility – visibility of the current programmes and projects running a fundamental value that a PMO can bring to an organisation. Another basic value is ensuring consistency of approach – the PMO which provides guidance on standards, methods and processes and supports the delivery of project and programmes. Efficiency – being able to support project delivery with a fixed headcount is a value welcomed by cost conscious organisations that need a PMO yet need to keep the costs in check.

How about reducing duplication? A value many organisations would recognise and welcome – after all if projects and programmes can be streamlined with processes and methods that remove unnecessary bureaucracy couldn’t that time saved be spent doing something else more useful instead? Risk reduction; lowering costs; increasing revenues are all values that organisations place on their PMOs – creating a link to the bottom-line of the business. Coherency – the PMO makes it fit together – the strategy through to programme and project delivery. These values of course can be spoken of as the benefits of having a PMO and one area that PMO professionals have a strong concern is ensuring the benefits of being there are constantly monitored, kept in check and even changed as the business they serve changes. The PMO in working closely with its customers and stakeholders – understanding their requirements and ultimately their needs (are we straying into Maslow territory? Yes I think we are) is the obvious first step. Obvious but not necessarily easy!

A further, more comfortable step, an area which helps the PMO maintain, improve and strengthen their value is the service catalogue. Almost every PMO in existence has a catalogue or menu of services that it offers. Again, the services vary from organisation to organisation and its creation is strongly linked to the initial blueprint and implementation of the PMO – in other words, what the business wants the PMO to do. The service catalogue forms the backbone of its existence and it stands to reason that the catalogue has an element of fluidity to be able to adapt and change as necessary.

Alongside the service catalogue, the PMO should have KPIs (key performance indicators) along each service they provide so simple metrics can be produced to actively demonstrate service levels – are they delivering the services they promise with a high level of quality and timeliness. Members of the PMO should also be completing their own timesheets to uncover the effort of each service they provide and of course keeping tabs on which of the services are deemed to be most valuable to the users of the service. With these elements the ROI (return on investment) of the PMO becomes much more tangible – the value or benefits can be robustly measured and demonstrated. It is at this point that the PMO can adjust, add or delete its services bringing it in line with what its main customers and stakeholders need. To ensure the PMO remains in a healthy strong position in an organisation, it is the PMO that should take the lead on recognising the value it has and can bring to an organisation – equally, it should take the lead on actively demonstrating its value, every day in every service that it delivers.

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

Upcoming events and dates for your diary

Project leadership webinar

Are we too busy with the urgent to focus on the important? This is a thought provoking webinar on project leadership that will help you to lead yourself and others more effectively in a project context.
Tuesday 2nd September 2014 Webinar

IPMA World Congress - Innovation through dialogue

Over 120 speakers in three days filled with the latest experiences and insight about Innovating the world through dialogue. Dialogue within projects, dialogue between projects (portfolio’s), dialogue over time (programs) and dialogue outside projects, with project-owners, users and stakeholders. And of course the dialogue between the business and academic world.

29th September - 1st October 2014 Rotterdam, Holland

APM Presents...

Project management in practice that will incorporate one session from each, targeted at people new to the profession to give delegates a grounding in the basics of the topic areas covered by the SIGs.

Thursday 16th October 2014 London

PMO SIG autumn conference

The PMO SIG autumn conference will move into the world of technology and whether it enables or disables PMOs from succeeding. Get involved on LinkedIn to give us your views over the coming months and keep your eyes peeled for more information.

26th - 27th November 2014 TBC

Presentation skills workshop

During this one day workshop, Peter Taylor takes you on a journey of understanding as to what makes a good presentation and how you can improve your own style and skills with simple steps.

Thursday 5th February 2015 London

PMO SIG out & about
Enabling Portfolio Knowledge

Knowledge SIG PMO Café & AGM (June 4th) - David Powell

On 4th June I attended a joint session between the PMO SIG and Knowledge SIG from the APM. Entitled "Knowledge Management and the PMO" it used a café format with 4 "courses" on the menu:

  • How to move knowledge into the 21st century
  • What are the opportunities for PMO AND knowledge management
  • What knowledge is and isn't to PMO
  • Lessons learned - The myths

On each table, the topics generated passionate conversations and there was a shared frustration that companies generally do not fully utilise lessons learned when projects hit a snag or go off track. Generally there is a root cause that has arisen before and could have been prevented.

We discussed that lessons learned/ knowledge management is not about storing records but about enabling records, having conversations, questioning what did or did not go well in order to challenge and change the way we do things in the future. It is about sharing knowledge, networking and building communities.

Many organisations log lessons learned; but as a bit of a chore, a paperwork exercise. It is almost as if we have worked long and hard to deliver the project, now we just want to sign it off have the party and move on to the next big thing!

So why do many businesses spend time to record lessons, only to file them away and not use them? Why is the lessons learned process often an afterthought when the project is closed?

My take away from this event was that businesses do not see the value add in recording lessons learned; otherwise there would be a pull from the business to ensure this is captured through the project life cycle and that previous knowledge is consulted in the start-up of new projects.

To resolve this, it seems that a PMO has some PR to do in selling the benefits of lessons learned. How often do we communicate lessons learned and the common themes to the business? Can we turn this analysis into SMART KPIs (key performance indicators)? i.e cold hard cash! If we can demonstrate for example that the lack of time invested in the project planning phase is costing £xx then the business may be more receptive to implementing lessons learned at the planning phase.

Therefore the knowledge sharing process has to be seen to be adding value, if it adds value, then it has greater chance of being adopted. If it is adopted it has a better chance of adding value. To achieve this cycle, then in my view the PMO has to "market" the values of lessons learned.

We also concluded that instead of just a database of records, the true value of a knowledge sharing system is to enable a conversation between someone who is embarking on a task with someone who can help. The conversation can be more important than a written report and a collaborative session pre-project should be a vital step in planning.

PMO can help here by acting as a "data broker" by assisting to filter and sort the knowledge to help people navigate and easily identify the key stakeholders to engage with. The PMO effectively can use the knowledge database to network and engage stakeholders to have conversations and collaborate regarding planning pre project.


PMO Flashmob Live & Learn (June 26th) - Emma Arnaz-Pemberton

My first ever PMO Flashmob ended up in a pub – which is no bad thing from a networking point of view! The format of the evening revolved around the typical word café menu. The menu included 5 topics of conversation to challenge PMOs and the PMO Manifesto.

A musical chairs style atmosphere enabled all delegates to attend three discussions that were of particular interest. I selected 'how do we make the PMO an enabler for change?', 'how can we get PMO to become a permanent business fixture?' and 'how do we bring the PMO Manifesto to life?'.

The enabling change discussion really started off covering items such as having the right people in the right jobs and how PMO can support communicating with the wider audience as well as education. It swiftly moved onto what PMOs could add as a change enabler in the higher echelons of business strategy. It was commonly agreed that for a PMO to work at such a level and not have to concentrate too much on the delivery aspect that all the project and programme people would have to be absolutely trusted to the right job every time. I don’t know about you but I would say that this ‘nirvana’ state for PMOs has not been achieved by many leaders.
The conversation swiftly then moved onto what PMOs add as a change enabler and we decided on the integration of projects and programmes, process management and getting to the ‘sweet spot’ between strategy & delivery.

My second topic was around making the PMO a permanent business fixture which turned out to be a fairly controversial topic as some of the table proposed that PMOs shouldn’t be a permanent fixture but in fact should only exist to support one programme or project and then disband. The other side of the table felt quite strongly that there should be permanent PMO who operate as the key to the centre of excellence for the company holding the standards and methods for successful project and programme management. Finally, after much debate it was agreed that PMO should be a capability within the business – in whatever form the business requires it to be. It should flex with the business and adapt to its needs.

During the 'bringing the PMO Manifesto to life' discussion, there was discussion around how the manifesto itself could be used as a selling document; but it was widely agreed that the manifesto is not written as a sales document but is in fact a document for those already converted to PMO. This led onto a debate on how to sell the PMO and the manifesto and we focused on taking away the pain of the PMO stakeholders and educating them to understand that PMO enable people to make decisions. The group spent some time reviewing the manifesto itself and some improvements were discussed at the end of the session. Some of these improvements included the links between the values and the principles as well as the fact that there should not be any ‘highest priorities’ as it gives the impression that everything else is irrelevant. The teams felt that the language for aficionados of PMO and not those that the teams may need to sell it to. The PMO Manifesto team committed to taking away the feedback for future revisions.

For me, it was interesting to see that again, PMO can be many things to many people but I like the debate around it being a capability in a business as his gives enough flexibility to make it whatever it needs to be. flashmob logoFor the PMO Manifesto itself, unless we all sign up to the PMO Manifesto, get it into businesses via our missions, visions and values, get measured against it and educate the non-believers, it is simply a code of principles that PMOs can choose to work towards that looks nice on the wall – more work needed for me.

You can check it out and get involved in the debate here.

PMO curator

For each newsletter 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:

  • Making of organisational change management agents
  • PMI expands requirements management offerings
  • Process vs. project management
  • PMO thought leadership
  • The true value of project management
  • Project management feat of Dubai in focus
  • New project management partnership drives Honda's success

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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