Can PMOs make more effective use of social networks and virtual communications to increase their influence and knock down barriers?

Another question from the PMO SIG conference.

One of the things that a PMO should be doing is linking up to others as that is how they can get involved with what the organisation is trying to achieve via the projects and programmes. Some of the better PMOs I know are effective because they know ‘stuff’.

It therefore makes sense for the PMO to get involved in social networks such as PMO Flashmob, APM PMO SIG, linked in discussions and Twitter (#PMOT) to see what the profession is doing and saying. There are a lots of good sources out there which have advice and studies that a PMO can pick up and try to apply in their own organisation. Not all of these can be applied, nor should they, but it is about sitting through the mass of material that exists and helping the organisation understand and process this that is where the PMO will add benefit

In order to increase the knowledge in the world of PMO I therefore encourage all PMOs to contribute to a virtual social network and challenge received wisdom. By questioning and having a willingness to learn, all individuals in a PMOs will improve and be able to add the mythical value that is the holy grail for PMOs

What are the implications for the roles, skills and competencies of the person who works in a PMO of the future

Another question from the PMO SIG conference. Or to reword this in another way, what skills will be needed in the next 5 or 10 years from the PMO and how will social be involved in this.

In order to look forward sometimes it is worth looking back on what we have already done and where the PMO has got to. Over the past 10 years we have seen a transformation in the worth of the PMO. The PMO started out as an administrator helping the project manager with the filing of documentation and updating of risk and issue logs, with dedicated Poole helping out with planning. Over the intervening years they have moved up to be first programme office and then portfolio office. Doing this has increased their visibility and worth within the organisations for which they work. I certainly see more people coming into the role and staying there rather than just passing through.

Having looked back where will the PMO go? The easiest answer to this is where the organisation wants it to. There will certainly still be a need for the project and programme office roles. Where the development should be is in the portfolio office and the centre of excellence roles.

For the portfolio office the PMO needs to aid their organisations to translate the strategy to the delivery, a role that is missing in most organisations I come across. This doesn’t mean that organisations don’t do projects or don’t have a strategy, it’s more that organisations are unable to see how to turn dreams into reality (or strategy to delivery if you want to be a bit less prosaic). In order to do this the PMO will need to understand the business they work for (this may require permanent roles to do the rather than contact roles). They will need to build up the connections within the business to enable the decisions to get made, which will mean the PMO becoming more social, engaging with all parts of the business and building up the contacts they have. This is an extension of what PMOs currently do, although they would need to speak to more CxO individuals.

For the Centre of Excellence role then the PMO will need to embrace new standards/concepts above and beyond the traditional PRINCE2, AXELOS standards such as lean, change management and agile enabling the organisation to operate these methods in a way that fit their business and enable the organisation to understand when projects are in control and when they are not. This will mean that PMOs may need to become more pragmatic in how the rules are applied.

With the rise of project management roles there will be a rise in PMO roles. We will finally start to be in a position that no project or programme will be started without the support of a PMO and that the strategy department will start to incorporate the portfolio office within its midst. At that point we won’t have the debate about why have a PMO, but more on how effective PMOs have been in transforming and streamlining the internal business model and processes.

Will the roles of the PMO analyst and reporter be redundant in an on-demand real time data-rich environment

Another question from the PMO SIG event.
One of the stops on the PMO maturity train is the desire to move to one central source of truth, so the organisation installs a centralised database where all of the data that a PMO used to spend time collecting is now stored in one place. This includes schedules, finances, risks, issues, changes, documentation, progress, benefits. The exact list depends on the technical solutions chosen and the licence that the organisation has paid for.
Having installed the tool with the desire that the senior management are able to get real-time on-demand information, what happens? In my experience the senior management don’t change the behaviours and ask for the information to be sent to them. Even in organisation’s which include time recording it is typically someone lower down the hierarchy who inputs the senior management time, or they are exe lets from having to use the tool. By the time the data is entered and available (in real-time of course) you then need the senior manager to reset their password (normally spelt Password) and the be explain how to view the data.
The other issue is that although the data can be presented in real-time, the data, especially time sheets or progress reports are entered on a timetabled basis, so looking at them more frequently that that becomes futile. Imaging getting the Sunday papers, reading them one Sunday and having a look at them on Wednesday and wonder why nothing has changed (expect someone has half filled the crossword in)
Another issue and is it where the PMO Is expected to perform their role, is that the data that goes into the tool is just that data. What the PMO provides, or should provide, is information. Having someone analyse the data and turn that into something that can be used to make decisions is important.
The PMO can verify the information entered into the system is actually correct (a report looks much better without the typos and abbreviations). They can validate that something entered into one part of the system matches up with another part of the system e.g. If the risks are all Red, then the progress report should not have the risks as Green. If the milestone says the document is signed off, is there a copy in the document storage?
The PMO can then collate and summarise the data so that the information presented to the senior management is consistent and has sufficient commentary that it is obvious what is going on and if any actions are required what needs to happen to, by when,  by whom. Then the information becomes information rather than a gathering of data on the page.
For me a sign of a good report is one that makes the recipient take an action, even if that is to ask (demand) all the information is accurate and up to date (something that normally comes back to the Project Managers rather than the PMO)
If you want an era where senior managers get data on demand, then I suspect you will move to an era where poor decisions will be made as each person will interpret the data differently, using it to back up their own point of view.
However in an era of big data the need for analysts to interpret this and make sense of the world are needed more than ever.


This post is the first in a series of questions that were brought up at the APM PMO SIG conference in October 2015

In the future will status reports be tweeted?

The immediate gut feeling is no, but that is based on the openness of Twitter, rather than the concept behind it.
If you think for a bit longer about this and ask yourself a question why not, then you come up with a different answer, or at least a different reason, I am going to go with ‘sort of’

What do I mean by that? Well I don’t think that any company is going to use Twitter to announce to the world that there project is going on, let alone the status. However one of the things that Twitter brings is brevity. How many people have seen the reports that go up to the executive board within the company? They are normally presented via PowerPoint, which gives enough room for about 140 characters worth of text to say what is going on in the project at that point. Compare that with some progress reports I have read which take over half of a page of A3 not to say anything. Which one is easier to read?

I like the idea to using #tags to denote what is going on with the project. A series of tags such as #deadlock or #breakthough or #hardwork or #signoff may tell the person reading the project more about the project than 140 words may do.

Although I like the brevity that tweeting could bring, where I think the problem comes is the politics. If you were to tweet, even in a closed group, the status of the project and the first thing that a senior manager reads is #broken then you will have problems as the senior manager comes into ‘help’ and suddenly you are distracted from running to project to sort out what the senior manager wants. Or you have the issue that the senior manager hasn’t read their Twitter feed, but one of their colleagues has. This means that senior manager then feels on the back foot and wants to know why the project hasn’t told them first.

In answer to the question I don’t think that you can tweet progress, but you can apply some of the techniques into your progress reporting. Perhaps this is one way of transitioning new project managers into the profession. By getting some new techniques into an age old problem.
It would be good to hear your thoughts.

PMO conference 22/10

It has been a while since the APM PMO SIG put on a conference and I was keen to see what the new committee could deliver. When I arrived the first difference was obvious, they had some stands in the entrance hall, which I must admit I didn’t see in previous conferences. However they had a reasonable range, and as a nice touch they had a person taking professional headshot photos. This was definitely oversubscribed, and was the hit of the whole stands available, even if they queue was the longest of them all. 

As for the conference, it took as its theme the social PMO and was split into 2 parts. The morning was made up of the normal conference fare of presentations, but the afternoon split into individual sessions where you could go into more detail on a particular subject. 

The first part of the morning was hit with a few technical problems, as they prepared podcasts had not sound, this was resolved after lunch. This meant that it didn’t start with the wow that they were aiming for. 

I thought it interesting that the majority of speakers in the morning weren’t PMO practioners, this is quite telling as it means that being social is something that isn’t mainstream yet. In fact speaking to a few of the people at the afternoon sessions they confirmed that fact as the use of social tools e.g. Yammer were either Unknown, frowned upon, or only just introduced. Maybe if we come back in a couple of years then this would be more common. 

The other interesting thing for the day was the confusion between being social and social tools. It became easy to confuse socialising and talking to people with the use of a tool such as Twitter, trello, yammer etc. So although PMOs may not be using tools we are socialising the project as we do get involved with stakeholders at all levels. We are also using tools already such as progress reporting and meetings (although perhaps meetings could be described as a technique)

The day finished off with a presentation from Dr Eddie Obeng, who was just the right person to finish off a day, being informative, entertaining and interactive; at one point reducing the entire audience to laughter. Who said PMOs were boring?

Overall my thoughts were that it was a good conference. The mechanics and organisation could have been better e.g. People to sign you in, working technology, smoother transitions between presenters. I don’t remember it being that chaotic in the past few years. 

I thought the subject was a difficult one as it was leading edge, which what I expect the PMO SIG to deliver, to get me thinking how I can do different things or things differently. 

I am looking forward to see what happens at the next one. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another 18 months to deliver.