Last month’s PMO Flashmob was all about taking a look at our PMOs with a P3O lens. P3O, Portfolio, Programme and Project Offices, first created as a piece of guidance back in 2008 from the same stable as PRINCE2, and refreshed in 2013 is one of the more prominent literatures in this field.
Many people within the PMO world have either read it or taken the step further and taken the training course and accreditation. One of the most prominent pieces of feedback has long been that P3O is a good place to start if you’re setting up a PMO for the first time or indeed looking to reboot an existing one. What it has never done or claimed to do is set out how to manage a PMO or looked in any detail at the types of functions and services a PMO provides – and how to do them.
We were lucky on Thursday night to have refresh author Eileen Roden run a session for us at QA’s International House training venue (fabulous views BTW). We wanted to think about the world of PMO post P3O in so much that yes we have some good useful practice that is written and available but really we want to understand what has changed since 2008.
We decided to have an interactive session in that PMO Flashmobbers would take a moment to stop and reflect. We asked the question:
What has your PMO stopped doing?
We wanted to know what services or functions has your PMO stopped doing while you have been there. As a wider timeframe, the PMO Flashmobbers could also look back over a career to date and answer the same question.
We also wanted to know:
In other words, what does the organisation like to see from the PMO? What about the PMO customers, what do they really like?
What has your PMO started doing that it didn’t do before?
In this 90 minute session, the aim was to bring together over 30 PMO Flashmobbers views from different organisations and sectors to see what commonality there is; what obvious differences there may be and of course provide some insights to others on where their PMO might be heading.
What PMOs Have Stopped Doing
An interesting thing happened when the groups came back from discussing the three areas of Stop, Do More Of and Start. Some groups choose to hear what would we like to stop rather than what have they already stopped. A subtle difference that you could probably read a lot into and you wouldn’t be too far off with your observations! Anyhow let’s take a look at what the PMO has stopped doing.
- PMOs have stopped or cut down on administration tasksMundane tasks like stocking the stationery cupboard, booking meeting rooms, holding holiday calendars, carrying out the Health & Safety process for the office and acting as Fire Marshals has stopped.
- Manual reporting has reduced or stoppedMore and more of our PMO Flashmobbers were moving to automation of project reporting. Whilst some were reluctant to denounce Excel, it certainly seems that manual reporting and all the empty hours of configuration, formatting, chasing for information and checking are on the slide. PMOs are sick of data and even more sick of useless data that no-one ever wants to see.
- Template production has reduced or stopped
Maybe the PMO has already produced all the templates you’ll ever need on a project or programme to last a lifetime, or maybe it’s a realisation that many of the templates never got used anyway. Either way, the PMO are stopping this time-wasting activity.
- Single project support has stoppedAt one time the role of the Project Support Office (PSO) grew out of the need to support an organisation’s small project delivery efforts. This meant supporting one or two projects plus all the administration surrounding that. As organisation’s become more project centric, PMOs don’t tend to provide hands on support to one project anymore. Is this because there are biggest fish to fry in programmes and portfolios?
- PMOs have quit the bureaucracyNo one ever liked a jobsworth or the ‘project police’. Is the new age of PMO really about collaboration over control? We will see as we address the next two questions.
- More assurance
Project assurance and quality assurance especially in areas such as quality of the initial business case, benefits management and how progress is monitored. The answer to how to do all of these better is asking more questions.
- Management ReportingBut of the right kind that is really needed and gets read. The key here is automation of the data sets, freeing up time to spend on interpreting the information. Good information – or as one group put it, “the real or one truth” allows for better more informed decisions. Another group highlighted exception reporting as the way forward. Isn’t this the lifeblood of a PMO?
- TrainingA PMO role not often talked about much is the role they play in ensuring good delivery capability, in other words, training the people within the PPM community who need it. It is not about training in “task management” but rather the wider project management skillsets which include the softer side. They are doing this by collaborating more with the people who need the development and choosing other types of learning structures such as hosting ‘lunch and learns’.
- TailoringIf a process is not fit for purpose, change it. As a result of more collaboration with the people who used the PMO or are aligned to it in some way, the PMO is able to better understand what works and what doesn’t and crucially they’re able to do this earlier than before. The PMO is taking less control on the standards perhaps showing agility and flexibility in how they choose to support delivery capability in their organisations.
- Challenge, scrutiny,visibilityIt has often been said that the PMO’s close proximity to the delivery action means they’re in the perfect place to shine a spotlight on activities and work that are on the way to problems both large and small. One group put it, “encourage people to make a dignified exit”. Perhaps the word people should be changed to projects? Another quote, “telling people that what they are doing isn’t project management” and “ensuring stakeholders take accountability” are all examples of the PMO growing up, finding their voices and using that combination of close proximity and experience to provide real insights AND provide solutions to the problems.
- Financial reportingDepending on the type of organisation PMOs are in, the financial area is one which organisations want the PMO to do more of. More of what? It seems that forecasting is prominent. As is transparency of project costs. Other areas include programme level financial reporting,
- Tell me stuffThe PMO’s role in assisting and guiding – mentoring others. There is more value in assisting people in the delivery of projects and programmes than there is in booking a meeting room. Full stop.
- Portfolio managementIt’s at the end of this Keep Going list, yet it’s also prominent on the Start Doing list too. I think that tells you a lot about where PMOs are today, and it certainly stacks up with my own experiences and other people’s anecdotes too. Portfolio management, portfolio offices, whatever it is called collectively in an organisation is the area getting talked about the most today. For those PMOs which are already focused on portfolio management, doing more includes ‘balancing the portfolio’, focusing more on benefits, being involved in everything from portfolio prioritization through to realising the benefits.
What are PMOs Starting to do?
- Portfolio managementLinked in with all of this is the realisation that PMOs can really bridge the gap between the strategy of the business and the delivery capability. That grey area that sits between the two of these was made for a PMO. That’s why PMOs are talking about portfolios. Is it their big opportunity to add more value? Be more visible? Get more exec support? Stop being challenged about overheads and the like?PMO Flashmobbers talk about the need to start portfolio reporting, understanding more about the business culture, taking a role in business level planning, understanding the strategy, mapping the portfolio etc etc
- Automation and collaborationThe two biggest words that sum up the ambition of PMOs moving forward and beyond P3O. The automation needs little introduction. PMOs are fed up of using cobbled together systems to try to get decent information that organisations can use to make good decisions about how they’re managing multi million pound projects that their organisation’s existence depends on!
Collaboration because PMOs are not going away. Before PMOs existed, organisations didn’t really do large projects and programmes. Now as an organisation’s ambitions and strategic growth gets ever more competitive, the projects and programmes are getting ever more complex and resource heavy. They can’t do this without a PMO. There is no one else in their business who are geared up to support and report on all this activity.PMOs don’t want to be forced on people, that’s why collaboration is the shift change a PMO needs in order to grow with an organisation’s ambitions.
- Change managementIt’s not a new kid on the block in project management but change management is becoming more prominent due to work from the Change Management Institute. The PMO’s role in supporting change management practices, in my opinion anyway, is unclear. I would also go as far as to say, change management practices in programmes and projects is still relatively unclear so the PMO is not alone. Something clearly we need to be looking into and understanding more about how CM will manifest itself in our own organisations and how the PMO can be leading or supporting that.
- Lessons Really Being LearntThe PMO name has always been closely linked to knowledge management and areas like lessons learnt, yet we still haven’t cracked it. Learning from project to project, programme to programme, across the project community, across the organisation. It feels like a holy grail. Yet do we really know what benefits an organisation would gain from really tackling knowledge management, indeed can it even be done. It sounds like an area that PMO should be investigating and researching more, carry out pilot projects and making recommendations. We need to move beyond post-implementation workshops that just capture words and look at the whole subject of knowledge management.
- Risk managementIt’s good to see risk management highlighted, for me it is THE area that makes programmes and projects exist in the first place. That’s why we’re here. To make advances in businesses using programmes and projects to do that being ever mindful that these activities are by their very nature risky because what we’re doing is often new, innovative or complex.
The PMO Flashmobbers talked about starting risk management from the get go. If portfolio management is important than surely risk management from the strategic level and all way through the business, programmes and projects is too.