Last Thursday was the second PMO Flashmob in Birmingham.  We met on a wetter than expected night in Le Truc in the Arcadian and took over a corner of the bar to discuss PMO roles and job titles.  I’d gone prepared with several sets of laminated cards to play ‘agree the hierarchy’ and ‘what role does what activity?’ to get the conversations started.  But, as often happens in the Flashmob, the conversations were off and running and kept going throughout the night without the need for any prompts from me!  Here are a few of the discussions:

Does the PMO have a role to play as custodian of the organisation’s business model?

Seems a bit of a strange one to start but this question came up as a result of a discussion on the role of the PMO in lessons learned (learnt?).  Often the project deliverables and outcomes can change the way the organisation undertakes its business as usual activities (surely the whole purpose of projects!).  As part of the project, the project team will have modelled the current and future (the new current) business processes.  Once the project has closed – where does the business process go to?  In many smaller organisations (and possibly some larger ones too), there is no overall business model and no ownership of the individual elements/sections which have been documented a part of the project.

One of the often quoted benefits of a PMO is its continuity and the ability for it to develop a corporate memory that can be used to improve future project and programme delivery.  Surely having an up to date documented process model would save time and effort on a future project?

We could all see the logic to this but were concerned that it may lead to the PMO being seen to be taking over the world (is that a bad thing?).  It certainly is a new perspective on PMOs – do we have any role in business as usual?

Should the PMO have authority to stop projects?

This is a recurring theme that has been discussed at the London Flashmob a few times – where the opinion was divided! However, on this occasion, we all seemed to be in agreement – that the PMO should not have authority to stop projects.  We also agreed that the PMO can have significant influence over the decision, where the PMO have become trusted and respected advisors to the ‘decision makers’.

What is the route for a non-PM individual into the PMO?

Very often, we disdain those individuals who join the PMO to learn about Project Management so they can grow up to be a Project Manager (implying that this is a promotion).  Unpicking this disagreement, it may not be quite the PMO snub it first appears to be.  For those PMOs that hold line accountability for Project Managers, it is absolutely the right place to join as a Junior Project Manager and learn the trade.

However, our discussion then turned to how you can break into the PMO if you wish to be a bona fida, career PMO person but have no project experience.  Our first thoughts were at the ‘PMO Junior’ level, or as it more often named, the Project Administrator.  Our experience was very similar – at this junior level – more often than not the role was akin to or an extension of a business as usual administration role, and most often internally appointed.

But what about taking a more senior role with no project experience.  Between us, we couldn’t recall an external being recruited without prior experience.  Back to that old chicken and egg situation – no job with experience, no experience because you can’t get a job without experience.

How do you do resource management?

I can’t remember how we got onto this subject, but the challenges of implementing resource management resonated with the group.  Everybody had found this a desire of the current or previous organisation they had worked with, but few had seen any real success.

We tried to work out why this particular aspect of the PMO functions and services continues to reside on the ‘too hard’ pile. Here are some of the contributing factors we identified:

  • It is hard! If it were easy we’d all have it sorted by now.
  • You can’t just switch on resource management – there are a number of pre-requisites that are all challenges in their own right, such as role profiles, good planning/estimates etc.
  • Organisations want a level of detail which is not feasible i.e., by week, or even worse day, consolidated across the whole organisation that continues to be aligned to the current project and business as usual plans

So, a great night had by all!

For those of you who weren’t there, please join in the conversation here, or even better, come and join us at the next Birmingham Flashmob on Thursday 17 September – location and topic will be circulated nearer the date. You can book now for September here.