Back in 2014 PMO Flashmob threw its hat into the ring and offered to write a chapter about the Programme Office for Gower’s upcoming second edition of The Handbook of Programme Management. So alongside Eileen Roden, we set about understanding what the first edition had to say about Programme Offices (published in 2006) and how that might have changed over the years.
In the first edition there was a lot of focus on tools – which of course, as many of us know that is just one tiny part of the picture. Plus we wanted to make sure it was totally focused on programmes – not projects or portfolios – so we had to think about structures, reporting lines, specific functions and services that are a programme level – rather than get dragged into talking about projects or portfolios.
The book was finally published this year and it’s a lovely brick of a book that pretty much covers just about everything you would want to know about programme management – a must if you’re working predominantly in the programme office field.
If you’re interested there is a 20% discount available using this Gower Handbook of Programme Management Flyer
So what did we write about?
Here we share the section – challenges for the PMO of the future:
A PMO within an organization with a mature approach to programmes and projects, with well-developed and skilled staff and the right tools to support delivery in a flexible and adaptive way should face few challenges. But a PMO operating without these optimum conditions can expect to face challenges from the very people it supports and serves. Some of these challenges are as follows:
- Bureaucracy. A charge often levelled at the PMO is that it is ‘overly bureaucratic’ which relates to the problems that can occur when trying to find the balance between supporting the delivery side (the programme manager, project managers and teams) and providing the oversight required by stakeholders like senior managers. Too much process and control or rigidly enforced standards tend to be seen in immature delivery organizations and are often a consequence of repeatedly failing programmes or projects. Also, an under-skilled PMO team can find it difficult to bring pragmatism into their work; they stick doggedly to checklists and processes without understanding the nuances of project and programme delivery.
- Funding. If the programme manager sets the business case for the PMO resources and services needed, the funding will come directly from the programme. In organizations where a departmental or enterprise portfolio office already exists there will also be additional requirements needed from the PMO (which the programme manager might not want and might therefore not see the value or justification for those extra costs). That could include, for example providing additional reporting requirements needed at the department or enterprise level.
- Services. Programme office functions and services have to be current and in line with customer expectations. New services require time to embed and become standard. Some service areas are considered to be too difficult to implement at all. A frequently highlighted service area causing a challenge for PMOs is resource management (ESI International, 2015). Within many knowledge economy based organizations there is still a lack of organizational processes, standards or tools for allocating the workforce. That has a knock on effect for resource capacity planning, allocation and demand management at programme and project levels. The basics of understanding current resource capacity and capability levels in an organization are simply not available, offering nothing to the PMO to benefit from. Further, resource management at programme/project level also suffers from a lack of investment – not only in creating a robust system but also in the supporting technology.
- Technology. Investment in technology to support the work of the programme office is still lacking, regardless of the fact that there has been an explosion of project management tools available. The ability to use increasingly sophisticated project management tools relies heavily on resolution of the bigger problem of organizations being able to ‘unify communications’ across their business. While we wait for organizations to invest in technology that supports the collaborative nature of programmes and projects, the PMO will continue to rely on common desktop products from Microsoft which are still considered as PMO staples. The difficulty facing PMOs is that as programmes become increasingly more complex they will continue to battle with customized spreadsheets to drive complex data collation and reporting. Where that is the case, PMOs that are opting for ‘consumer grade solutions’ for tools, starting a new trend for programme offices.
If you’d like to be in with the chance of getting your hands on a free copy, why not visit us at Project Challenge and get into the prize draw. It takes place on the 11th and 12th October at London’s Olympia. PMO Flashmob have a stand and we’ll be presenting on the second day too.
See you there?