June 2012 newsletter



Welcome to the latest edition of the Newsletter.

In this issue we take a look at PMO leadership and competitive advantages for the PMO. There is a round up from the PMO SIG and also 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

Lindsay Scott & Emma Arnaz-Pemberton

Stay connected with the PMO SIG

Celebrating PMO leaders

To celebrate PMO Management, the PMO SIG spoke to Rob McKinnon, a recent nominee for the PMO Leader of the Year award. Rob was nominated for his work at InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), the global hotel company with brands such as including InterContinental and Holiday Inn.

Rob was tasked with creating a new PMO for the organisation driven by the vision to double its revenues by 2020. The business need for a PMO was driven fundamentally by the need to make the programmes and projects more transparent and to increase the disciplines of project initiation and control.

On taking on the challenge, Rob knew that there were three main areas that would need his attention to be able to meet the business objectives;

• Achieving quick wins to justify the investment in the PMO
• Raising the morale and self-belief of the PMO team
• Adapting the PMO’s approach to better reflect the organisation’s culture and values – balancing project rigour with a focus on people and change.

Quick Wins

The quick wins included; portfolio management, reporting processes, health checks and governance. For the portfolio structuring, 80 ‘priority’ projects were whittled down to 20. I asked Rob about the assessment he made to be able to do this, “This combined three perspectives – an analytical assessment of the importance of the projects according to 3 criteria (scale, complexity and strategic importance), a more qualitative assessment using interviews with senior managers to highlight strategic priorities and a portfolio assessment to look to establish balance, sequencing and scope (in some cases we merged two projects with similar scopes).

Increasing the transparency of programme and project management activity for senior management has long been a focus for PMOs. Rob tackled the reporting process, using a simple dashboard and common templates for reporting. Senior management receive just a one page report with an objective assessment of each priority, highlighted risks and issues, and identified where critical decisions were required.

Health checks were also rolled out across the 20 priority projects, almost like a MOT for the projects. Rob said, “It had a part that looked at the project essentials with an objective lens - governance, scope, benefits, resources and project plan – things which needed to be in place. It then also provided some tips on what project managers might do to improve their projects, using best practice from across the group for example, they may have a risk register, but what can they do to really bring it to life in the project. It was also helpful in identifying overall themes we needed to address, as well as project-specific issues for example, formalising terms of reference”

Project sponsorship, often identified as one of the critical areas for ensuring project success, was also addressed in a quick win focused on governance. Crucial to gaining stronger governance was clearer accountability across the portfolio. Rob believes that engaging and coaching senior management on their roles within the portfolio is just one way in gaining their trust. “It’s important to engage them in a way that they are interested in and understand, which means focusing on the impact it will have on the business for example, the problem it will solve and the benefit it will bring”. Rob went on to say, “It’s for us (the PMO) to translate it into a project management thinking, rather than teach them project management thinking. Secondly, focusing on what’s important - the key issues - means you really focus on what key decisions you need from them.”

The PMO team

With external consultancy services Rob gained help to establish the PMO framework and controls, giving him immediate access to expertise. The real aim was to become self-sufficient so prioritisation was given to developing internal capability - uniting and recruiting a diverse group of project management professionals into a single team.

“Most of the people were already working for the organisation and the initial steps involved “joining-up” people across the business. Most came from operating units, and the biggest adjustment was thinking and acting at a Group level, and recognising a broader context. We were lucky in that we could use the development of our framework as a means of building alignment across the team. We found using a maturity curve very helpful in getting alignment across the team.”

I was intrigued to see how Rob manages a PMO where some of the staff may be limited in their PMO and project management experience, a challenge that many PMO face. “Using a sports analogy, it’s a bit like “zone defence” rather than “man-to-man” marking. The junior team members aren’t working in isolation. While they are dealing with project managers, more experienced colleagues are interfacing with more senior people in the business, to gather a complete picture.”

The PMO includes project managers within the PMO structure and also has virtual working to incorporate with some of the staff based in the US. Maintaining a ‘one-world approach’ to managing a PMO virtually starts with a hub. A core team that develops processes and leads the effort has to be established. The risk of course is that the PMO becomes too centralised. It’s important to have staff in local offices that provide a link to each office, providing accurate information on the status of priorities and helping ensure delivery happens. Establishing PMO leads in each region and function go some way to help achieve the ‘one-world approach’ yet technology also plays a part.

With a virtual team, desktop messaging tools are a great way to quickly fire messages between staff in the group. Setting up an intranet to support the PMO framework with information on tools, processes and templates also goes some way to ensuring consistency across the portfolio, regardless where the implementations are taking place.

The PMO and culture

Each organisation has its own culture and ways of working and any new PMO not only has to fit that culture but also ensure that the project management framework also fits the culture. Taking it one step further Rob was responsible for ensuring that there was an ‘IHG way of project management’, the framework, processes and tools designed to fit hotel operations and the IHG brand. Through training and coaching, the IHG Way has become part of the culture and in some ways part of the furniture.

I asked Rob about those all important softer skills that often get overlooked when talking about PMO management. I was interested to gain his view on whether he believes a PMO’s success is largely down to the manager’s approach and style? Where is the balance between knowledge/experience and the more behavioural characteristics? “It’s clearly the mix of the two that is important, but I tend to focus on behaviours, given my background in consumer industries. I see the development of a PMO, with the project sponsors, managers and teams as your stakeholders. You need to know how they think, what their hopes and fears are, and position what you want to do in that context. I also have a bias that a good PMO is about bringing simplicity to complex situations – sometimes too much knowledge creates complexity.”

PMO management trademarks

If we were to pick out three ‘trademarks’ that make a great PMO leader, Rob has achieved success through these three areas:

• Stakeholder management
• Team management
• Role modelling

Through building an effective network in an organisation; coaching skills and a ‘lead other leaders’ skill set, Rob was able to influence and manage the stakeholders. Moving away from micro-management, building trust and allowing staff to take risks, his approach to team management is concentrated more on shaping and coaching. A management style which includes a positive outlook, strategic focus and a style that can challenge without conflict are just some of the role modelling highlighted in his PMO leadership position.

Article written by Lindsay Scott – Marketing Manager, PMO SIG in interview with Rob McKinnon of InterContinental Hotels Group.

PMO's and competitive advantage

Like the majority of you who had the International Journal of Project Management* drop through your letterbox, I unwrapped it and placed it in my laptop bag with a ‘to-do later’ tag and did not really expect it to be re-opened any time soon (give or take the odd sleepless night).

Surprisingly (and because I had flicked through and the contents page peaked my interest) I set aside some time to read through the first paper. As this was a special issue on project and portfolio management and following lasts months piece in this newsletter covering portfolio management insights I thought it would be a pertinent topic.

The first paper deals with applying strategic management theories to project and portfolio management and having attended several workshops and webinars (with varying degrees of success) to talk about the future of programme management offices as a value-adding function within an organisation I found the content very thought provoking.

In the wider context, project management is and always has been an operational ‘function’ that deals with delivering change outputs that subsequently enable the business to change the way it operates. At the other end of the scale, portfolio management (if it is used at all) is seen as a measure of how good the operations are at project management but is not often aligned to the longer term strategic planning of an organisation.

With this in mind; and with the current economic situation that we find ourselves in, it is inconceivable that project and portfolio management should and could be seen as a source of competitive advantage to a business. Isn’t it? The paper maintains that there are several management theories that if applied to project and portfolio research (and thereby practice) can provide a unique insight into how project and portfolio management can and will keep an organisation ahead of the game.

The premise is that by identifying the resources (and when we talk about resources we are not talking about human or budgetary resource we are talking intellectual property and brand) and capabilities that exist within an organisation, in conjunction with external knowledge resources can inform an organisation’s strategic planning.

Why should this matter to your PMO?

When you get into the detail of the resources that an organisation has – a proportion is owned and affected by the programme management office.

If you think about your bespoke internal project management methodology; it is valuable to your organisation, it is rare in that it is bespoke, it is inimitable in that there is only one and requires organisational focus for it to work. As a tangible resource your methodology is powerful.

Now think about the culture and processes that support your methodology; the project management culture that you harness and are responsible for, or the knowledge sharing activities that you facilitate (what you do with your lessons learned). These are intangible – you can’t necessarily reach out and touch them but they are significant and influential in the way your organisation works.

Think about it. As a PMO, you have to be dynamic and forward thinking by default! As change agents it is your responsibility to do everything in your power to enable your organisation to respond to change. In our article last month, we suggested that the future holds change management offices rather than programme management offices – maybe giving you more ability to leverage existing resources and keep your company ahead of its competitors?

* The International Journal of Project Management is available at an additional annual cost for APM members.

PMO SIG roundup

During June, the PMO SIG committee have been working hard following the AGM at the last conference. Planning is underway for the next 2 day conference; local meetings in London and Manchester and we’ll be appearing at other APM branch meetings spreading the word about PMOs.

PMO SIG Volunteers

Are you interested in getting involved in some way with the PMO SIG? There are various streams of work that we have planned which would be ideal for you to get involved in. Time commitments can be a difficulty and it can also be hard to commit to something in the long term that’s why there are a variety of ways to get stuck in and help.

Please contact us and express your interest today

Date for the diary

10th and 11th October 2012

The PMOSIG Autumn conference has now been scheduled for the 10th and 11th October in the West Midlands area. More news on the conference will be available during July.

PMO Curator

Each month we like to pick out some of the more interesting PMO related news from other sources. All neatly packaged, here are the picks for June, just click here

This month we take a look at:

• The fall of the project management office – from Australia
• Sharepoint for project management – book review from Ken Burrell
• Help! My team doesn’t believe in the schedule – a series of articles from PM4Girls
• All things PMO – blog from Gantthead
• A PMO implementation plan – from Slideshare
• Practical PMO

Contact us if you’d like to share something of interest with the group.

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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