Against THIS HOUSE BELIEVES PMOs ARE IN DECLINE

If you’ve not read the opening argument for the motion, take a look at it here

againstEileen Roden, Senior Manager at QA and author of the recent P3O Refresh took up the mantle to argue against the motion:

THIS HOUSE BELIEVES PMOs ARE IN DECLINE

Here’s how Eileen argued against the motion:

“First of all we need to congratulate Lindsay on her research, and I’m not going to dispute any of the facts that Lindsay has brought up today (funnily enough!). What I am going to dispute is some of the conclusions that were drawn from the facts.

There was research carried out when refreshing the P3O guide that looked at organisations that had PMOs and if your organisation had a PMO you were more far more likely to cancel projects, that can be negative however it can be incredibly positive because it shows that with the right information available – through the PMO – it can stop good money being thrown after bad. This point can be used as you begin to think about the motion.

I’d like to talk about some of the inferences Lindsay made from her facts. And first of all, I’d like to talk about, what is a PMO? The vast majority of the reports given in Lindsay’s argument  are surveys that are responded to by programme and project managers, people who are regularly involved in delivery – not the PMO people. In my experience, many programme and project managers don’t actually recognise or know that the PMO can do anything other than provide some admin. They have absolutely no visibility of organisational departments that might be called Centre of Excellence or might be involved in strategic plannng, they don’t actually recognise these as part of a traditional PMO.

So people’s understanding of PMOs when answering these surveys tends to be from a room at the end of the office with PMO written on the door, rather than a group of individuals in various specialist functions who provide the right information, at the right time to the right people who make decisions on projects. The fact that they may not be called PMO doesn’t mean they are not part of a PMO in a bigger, wider P3O sense.

I also want address the point about PMOs being closed. I don’t disagree with that either as I see this in many organisations I work with. I would argue about the reasons for that or the purpose of shutting the PMO.

One of the greatest predators of a PMO are the PMO people themselves

or worse still, those who have decided they want a career as a Portfolio Manager! Not Portfolio Analysts, that sounds too junior, but Portfolio Managers with all the glory of owning the PMO for the organisation without any of the responsibility for delivery. They end up trying to get the PMO to make decisions about projects which are outside of their remit and they put in structures which are far too rigid for how that organisation runs their projects. It becomes recognised as an ‘overhead’.

So that’s one problem, the other problem organisations where they have established a PMO and that PMO adds value, which organisation doesn’t go through regular restructure? If the PMOs are not joined up, what you end up with is lots of disparate PMOs that continue to proliferate around the organisation.

At some point the organisation recognises that having 27 PMOs (which are POOs or POTs – project office of one person, project office of two people) cannot go on and end up shutting these offices down.

They end up with smaller group of experienced individuals who can then drive a centre of excellence with the accountability of driving the maturity of the organisation forward. Those other people within the POOs or POTs that for the most part will have been carrying out administrative support will be reallocated back to the project community. Within that PM community they not only get to do a PMO role but also to do some project delivery as well to strengthen their skills and their credibility in the delivery of projects. In the future when working with programme and project managers they are then able to say we have been there, we’ve seen it and we’ve done it.

This sounds like a really good argument but does it really happen in reality?

I’m going to give two examples.

A large utilities organisation which has really embraced the PMO and P3O ethos and has continued to grow and develop their PMO. The PMO has grown to a point where it is now out of proportion to the level of support that is actually required. They have decided to have a focused central PMO which allocates personnel out to the individual projects. The overall number in the centralised PMO may now be lower, but the overall number of people still working in what might seem like a disbanded PMO has actually remained the same.

Another example, a public organisation which has been through a number of transitions. They had multiple POTs and POOs around the organisation, and they had lost consistency in method development and project delivery. They have spent a lot of time and effort creating a PMO that is right for their organisation.

So shutting down PMOs at a title level looks fine but what they are actually doing is demonstrating not their immaturity but their maturity in demonstrating that they understand where the value is to an organisation and the services they offer.

So value and PMOs, it’s an issue we can’t get away from.  We find it difficult to articulate the value and the services that we bring. In the P3O manual, we found that there was very limited numbers of organisations that actually had a business case for their PMO. Steve Jenner said “All business cases are a lie and once we all agree with that we are all in a far better position. ” Projects have got used to doing monetised benefits. It is a skill that the PMO has yet to learn but we will continue to see PMOs at both a strategic level and a support level for many years to come and it will continue to grow.

>> Read on to see the final arguments and verdict from the audience

 

 

About Lindsay Scott

Lindsay is the founder of PMO Flashmob. She's also the creator of London's first dedicated PMO Conference; Director of Arras People and PMO enthusiast

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