September 2013 newsletter



Welcome to the latest edition of the APM PMO Specific Interest Group quarterly newsletter.

Our new chairman Stuart Dixon talks about the PMO SIG and the changes it has gone through.

You can meet one of our committee members, check out a book review from Ken Burrell and upcoming events as well as how you can get involved.

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 PMO SIG Chairman

Welcome to the new look APM PMO SIG!

After more than a few years delivering for the SIG some of our long term committee members decided to stand down at the last AGM, they do have a day job to do as well! On behalf of the current committee members, I would thank those who have contributed in the past to make the SIG the success it has been.

Stuart.jpgLooking ahead for the remainder of the year there are some opportunities that we will be looking for some contributions from volunteers for. As you may have noticed the APM BoK went to version 6 and expanded to include the BoK plus, which is the online version. This allows for contributions in terms of blogs, articles, white papers etc. I think this is something that you as the PMO community could help expand the body of knowledge. I know we have experts out there, and people with opinions which want to be voiced, so we will be looking for contributions from all types and levels of PMO to help provide a PMO perspective on the BoK.

In line with the new Body of Knowledge the APM is looking to update the Competence framework. This is another opportunity for the SIG to get involved.

As a committee we will be looking to help the APM shape up this piece of work, and we will be asking for suggestions from the SIG as to the best way to develop this work.

Outside the world of APM there are other challenges with the new joint venture of the Cabinet Office and Capita (Axelos) to enhance the best practice manuals including P3O. I know some past and present members of the committee have contributed to the P3O refresh and that will be something to look forward to.

There will not be an autumn event on this year, due to a lack of elected committee members we are restricted by what we are able to do directly from the committee and the autumn event has been the item to suffer there, but this does mean that we will need more contributions from volunteers to help run the SIG over the next year. We will be putting on some local events, both inside and outside of London. We are starting to work on what the event will look like for Spring next year.

If you have any suggestions on what you want the PMO SIG to do then please feel free to write to me directly or submit a question on the APM website or PMO SIG linked in page and member of the committee will respond.

Wishing you all a good autumn,

Stuart Dixon  
(your new chair)

LinkedIn hot topics


ISO Standard on Project Management – Help or Hindrance?

With pressure on business for faster and cheaper result, the belief is that a new ISO standard for good practice will increase efficiency and maximise the effect of investments.

ISO 21500 is the first in a planned family of project management standards. It is designed to align with related international standards such as:

  • ISO 10006:2003, Quality management systems − Guidelines for quality management in projects
  • ISO 10007:2003, Quality management systems − Guidelines for configuration management
  • ISO 31000:2009, Risk management – Principles and guidelines
  • Sector-specific standards in industries such as aerospace and IT

You can read more about it and visit the ISO store here which tells you all about it.

Conversations have started on our Linked In group about the ISO 21500. Click the button above to get involved!


In each of the PMO SIG Newsletters, we will be introducing you to one of the team so you can get to know their background and areas of expertise.

This month we asked Gary Mitchell  to tell us a bit about himself.

What is your current role?

I have been involved in Atkins Ltd Programme and Project Management assignments for 15 years predominantly helping clients with their project and programme management capabilities in the IT environment.
I have designed project management systems and trained client project managers in programme and project management; I have advised and helped programme managers across public and private sectors in delivering their programmes and projects following standards such as PRINCE2 and MSP (Government endorsed methods and frameworks for projects and programmes), and the Association for Project Management (APM) body of knowledge.

Tell us a bit about your professional background

For many years I was a PRINCE2 accredited trainer, but most notably over the last 10 years I have gained the reputation for building high performing Programme Management Offices (PMOs), quickly developing and aligning staff, stakeholder and client expectations.
I managed the central PMO team as part of one of our PMOs covering a vast portfolio of IT, business process, and facilities programmes and projects amounting to over £200 Million per annum. The team of 20 operated within a PMO of over 100 and constituted one of the largest PMOs in Europe.
I have also designed, implemented and managed our Junior Consultant Development Programme (JCDP).
The JCDP was a hugely rewarding and motivating challenge, and our Junior Consultants (mostly fresh out of University) have been great to work with. I found it hugely energising to direct, watch and chart their development.

Why PMO?!

I started off in a PSO role supporting a desktop migration project at Exports, Credit Guarantee Department (ECGD) who were one of our (Atkins) clients. I then moved into being a software development project manager while also managing our PRINCE2 software support product (PRINCESS).
I then found myself developing and promoting the processes for our large PMO service that we operate for one of our clients in the South West of England. This combined my training and tools best practice with my project management experience. 
Although I really enjoyed this work it was only when I became involved in setting up new PMOs for clients that I really hit my stride as I found I was very good at leading PMO teams through change!
So why did I start to work in PMOs? I suppose because they were there and growing in significance at the same time as I was in my career - over the last 15 years the project and programme and portfolio environment has really grown and developed.

Any PMO hints & tips?

I believe one of the keys to designing effective PMOs is to always find the answer to the question: what does the business care about getting done?, and then designing a PMO to ensure it gets done through efficient evaluation and measurement. 

What do you enjoy in your spare time?

I work away from home most weeks so my weekends are spent either exhausted on the sofa, or catching up on jobs around the house. I enjoy relaxing with a good book (or ebook) in the evenings particularly the modern classics and challenging or experimental literature - I can get quite boring about it I am afraid if encouraged!

Tell us..

Something people might not know about you:
Along with my wife we breed and show Burmilla pedigree cats: www.gemsburmillas.co.uk.  
This has been a great way to make friends from around the world as we have exported and imported Burmillas from as far away as Australia. Every year we also try to attend the World Show which is held across Europe.
This year we are travelling with ‘Snowy’; one of our Burmillas to Denmark for the World Show and are really looking forward to it!

Something you love:
I love lots of ‘things’ – wine, football (specifically Southampton FC), food, even my job, and I suppose these all make up a big chunk of my life which at the moment I very much love. In addition to these ‘things’ I love my wife (very happily married for the last 21 years) and our cats who mean the world to me. They are great stress relievers after a week at work!

Something you hate:
The word BUT. I always try to ban this word from my vocabulary as it is such a negative one, and it always finds its way back in somehow. I suppose because projects and change always provoke the BUT word because they are always challenging and most of us just want a quiet life

PMOSIG review

The Agile PMO
Leading the Effective, Value Driven, Project Management Office


Michael Nir


Self-published by the Author as a Kindle eBook on Amazon.com

Book Length:

46 pages (estimated, 10,400 words)


£2.05 RRP (review copy supplied free of charge)



This book leads with a single central principle - that a PMO's sole reason for existence is the creation of value for the organisation, and that the single most effective way it can do that is by managing the allocation of resources to projects. Of course, tools, methodology and processes are all good things to have, but identifying how to deploy resources for the best return on that investment is where a PMO really comes into its own.

I initially found such a forceful statement a little hard to swallow, but the book shows (using example scenarios drawn from the author’s consulting experience) several ways how the PMO can fail if it chooses to focus its efforts in other directions.

If a PMO fails to establish the necessary authority and credibility with the project manager (PM) community at a sufficiently early stage, it becomes relegated to performing only supportive, administrative work. This is so time-consuming that there is no time to develop more useful services, value delivery is limited and the PMO will be cut as soon as funding decreases.

AgilepMO.jpgIf a PMO focuses on methodology, the PMs may superficially complete templates and processes just to keep the PMO quiet, but the completed templates and processes may bear little relation to reality. Unless the methodology is focused tightly on improving project delivery, this type of PMO merely increases administrative burden on PMs without enhancing value. Again, the PMO will be cut as soon as funding decreases.

PMOs that function mainly as a home for PMs do little to create value (other than managing the PMs as resources). Despite this it can persist for a long time as business value is not even considered, and the PMO duties are usually carried out by fairly junior (cheap) people.

PMOs that try to implement everything (resource management, methodology, templates, etc.) at once can appear to PMs as dictatorial rather than collaborative. This results in resistance to change and ultimately wasted effort in a failed implementation.

PMOs that focus on software tools before methodology, processes and templates spend a lot of time and effort customising the tool to accommodate the variety of approaches in the organisation. This is a very labour-intensive and expensive activity!

PMOs that implement an unsuitable methodology risk creating unnecessary barriers to implementation that slow down project delivery and upset customers.

So then, having covered several interesting (and familiar!) ways in which the PMO can fail, how is it to succeed? By treating the implementation of a PMO as a change process, it is possible to increase the likelihood of success. Steps include: creating a sense of urgency; creating a coalition of supportive stakeholders and engaging them to avoid surprises; creating a vision with SMART short and long term objectives to instil pride; communicating the vision regularly and consistently to instil trust; empowering people to contribute and help to remove obstacles; generating quick wins to gain support; and embedding the changes in organisational culture.

Doing all this while focussing effort and new initiatives on the areas that will deliver the most benefit to the organisation soonest (and it helps if these also have influential and vocal stakeholders!) brings the best results.

The value created can be measured in terms of increasing the number of projects being delivered in a given time (since completed projects create value). As the availability of resources (people and/or money) is usually the single largest barrier to delivering more projects, increasing project delivery is often best achieved by creating a view of project and resource status to enable the most effective utilisation of resources across the project portfolio.

This is not a heavyweight book - you can read it from cover to virtual cover in about half an hour. Although it doesn't go into detail describing the ideal approach (which in any case would differ in the detail from organisation to organisation), for me just as much of the real value in this book comes from the examples of what not to do and how that leads to failure.

Well worth the purchase price.

Copyright © 2013 Ken Burrell
Ken Burrell PMP®
Freelance PMO Professional
Brilliant Baselines Ltd

Ken Burell.jpgAbout the Reviewer: The Managing Director of Brilliant Baselines Ltd, Ken Burrell is a Masters degree-educated and PMP®-certified freelance PMO Manager with four years' PMO experience and five years’ project management experience in Engineering and Financial Services. Ken gives senior managers analysis to make project portfolio decisions, and gives project and programme managers support to deliver solutions. Ken is motivated by challenge and adding value in the Project/Programme/Portfolio arena.

PMO SIG events

Upcoming events and Dates for your diary

The team is currently organising our 2014 Spring Conference, we would welcome your ideas and suggestions so please get in touch.

In addition to the below dates for your diary, a local London event will be scheduled for quarter four 2013 featuring a discussion around PMO and the Role of Assurance – keep an eye out for an email direct from the APM with more information.

Dates for your diary

PMO Flashmob 19th September  London

PMO Flashmob 3rd October  Manchester

Spring Conference:   to be confirmed


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.

Your contribution will be invaluable so please contact us to see if you can help!

PMO SIG 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:

  • In case you missed it; The Times report on Project Management
  • An overview of how Project Management is evolving with a view on Waterfall Agile and Scrum
  • SKY’s article on how Project Management is Key to Managing Change
  • Information on a Project Management conference which is being organized for the Real Estate industry
  • Information on how CalTech (LA) are proposing a move to a statewide Project Management Office

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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