PMO Town Hall or Old Folks Home

Here’s a little exercise for you.  Grab a piece of paper and a box of wax crayons and draw me a picture of the Loch Ness Monster. Sure it doesn’t exist in any tangible form but you know of it and you can give me your interpretation… Three humps, water, wearing a Tam O’Shanter and kilt… That kind of thing.

Now… turn the page over and draw me a picture of a PMO. Not quite so easy, huh? For a start it’s unlikely to be wearing any fetching head gear – but it’s a much more difficult concept to draw than old Nessie. You can explain in words what a PMO is and does… but what it looks like is far more complex to articulate – even Michelangelo would struggle to paint a masterpiece called “PMO”.

At a recent PMO Flashmob event, I was asked how I saw a PMO and described my vision in a form that seemed to resonate with many attending – I saw the PMO as the Town Hall. (For some Town Hall has a different meaning, so Council Offices or Civic Centre will be fine as alternatives).

I know many expected that if the PMO was going to be anything it was either the pub or the Old Folks Home… But hear me out. Think of all of the services provided by your local council and think about the services you provide as a PMO. Can you think of the similarities? Let’s go for a quick tour to help illustrate my point.

On your left is the Council Chamber. Debates are held, new ideas scrutinised, budgets approved and resolutions passed in an open and transparent forum under the auspices of the Council Leader. Sound familiar? Is this not your classic Programme Board led by your Programme Director?

Downstairs is the basement – the Accounting Trolls live down here counting their beans and balancing their budgets.  They keep an eye on how much the council is spending in the same way that you look at the P&L for your programme, especially if you are in the Public Sector.

Also down here is the Planning Department under the sign “Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here”. You want to add a two-story extension to your bungalow? I’m afraid you’re going to have to get it past these guys. Want to knock down your Grade II listed castle? You’ll need to justify your actions, costs, implications to these people – sound familiar? Yes, it’s the Change Board looking at each request, comparing it against set criteria and approving if possible.

Finally, there is the library – full of documents, processes, guides and “The Rules”. Next door to that is the Customer Service Centre. General queries come in here “How do I do such and such?” and “Where can I find X,Y and Z?”

So next time someone asks what a PMO looks like – point them in the direction of your local council. Now who would have thought local Government could be a role model?

This article was published first on the ESI International PM Perspectives blog

About Andy Hessey

Andy Hessey is a Global Programme and PMO Consultant who has been involved in IT projects for around 10 years. After studying Journalism at Southampton Solent University, Andy started out as a freelance broadcast journalist before turning his hand to IT and Project Management. Andy has worked for a number of well-known organisations such as EDF Energy, Serco Global Services (Formally The Listening Company), Connaught PLC and law-firm Norton Rose Fulbright providing a mix of Programme Management and PMO Management for both technical infrastructure and network implementations and Business Transformation programmes. Currently studying for his MBA, Andy lives in the Docklands area of East London.

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