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. 

You’re Great

We're Grrreat
We’re Grrreat

I am prompted to write this following a few discussions I have seen and contributed to over the past month. It was initially the discussion on Linked In about the value of the PDF CV (apparently from a recruiter’s point of view it’s terrible). Then at the PMO flashmob I was handed a different style business card, which just had PMO on one side, and the person’s details on the other. I then saw the write-up from that flashmob. All of this tumbled around a bit and it got me thinking where are we?

How recruiters see CVs

Chatting to Lindsay Scott from Arras People it was clear that she (as a recruiter) sees things differently from the rest of the people who I spoke to about a CV. In order for the recruiter to see your CV (which is obviously great), then a keyword search is done, so if you don’t have the correct combination of keywords then you aren’t going to appear in the short(er) list that is going to be presented to the recruiter.

Only once you have passed the keyword test, which by the way is done against a database and not your CV will someone then actually look at your CV.

How candidates want CVs to appear

You (like me) have probably spent hours poring over your CV, making sure that aligns to the keywords that are in the job advert. Making sure not only the spelling, but the grammar is perfect. Therefore when you send your CV it is so sparkling everyone is dazzled and therefore it must be the one that is read, and everything else is ignored. You get an immediate pass into the interview round, because it is so obviously you are made for the role.

Reading a CV

I have spent some time reading CVs when I have wanted to recruit. The first thing to say is that I read a CV for a contract role differently from a CV for a permanent role. Why? Well put simply the contract person is one I want to come in and be able to start the job first day. Whereas the permanent person I want to see an element of where they are going to be, what will be their future in the organization? So yes, even at CV reading stage I am looking at career development.

There are other things I look at regarding career history, looking for length of contracts, renewals, drive and ambition as well as technical skills. If I am then interested in them I may do some research on Linked In to find out a bit more about them. I typically get a second opinion as well. This is normally done by getting the other person to read the CVs and then we compare notes, so as not to influence the other person. To ensure a level playing field I try and sort them in surname order as well.

A new generation of CVs?

As we all seem to want different things from a CV, perhaps this is the wrong format. We are using something that is paper based (what ever happened to that electronic office?). Perhaps we should start to go the HTML route (for those non technical think of it as a web page). This would then allow the recruiters to be happy as we could all stuff our web pages with those wonderful META tags which have all of the buzz words. We can get the fancy formatting that the person writing the CV wants. We can even get a nice picture included as well. It then means that the format is contained. If the recruiter then wants to put their contact details as a header & footer, then all they need to do is to put a frame around the CV content and put their information at the top & bottom. For those people who like paper, as it allows it to be scrawled on and the o’s and a’s coloured in during a dull meeting moment, you can print the pages as well.

 

Hang on a minute though …… this sounds like I have just described linked in? If we have that, then remind me, why do we all have a CV and a business card?

P3O and Beyond

As a follow up from my last post on the future of the P3O I attended the PMO flashmob to hear what Eileen Roden had to say. You can find the full write-up here, but I thought I would give my perspective on the matter.

After a brief career history from Eileen on how she had become the author of the P3O manual, we separated into groups to look at what PMOs had stopped doing, were being asked to do more of and where staring to be asked to do. The full write-up is on the flashmob site.

What I took from the meeting was that some things had changed for the PMOs, and we were moving away from being secretaries and admin people, as shown in the balance of the individuals in the room, there was a fair split between males and females. When I first started in PMOs about 20 years ago there were many more females than males in the profession and those males that were there saw it as a pathway to doing something else.

The role was starting to form as there were many things in the PMOs can do category, with more being added all the time. However there was no real agreement in what a PMO can do in the future.

I was therefore disappointed in the flashmob as it didn’t tell me what I wanted to hear, which was where are PMOs going, what is the vision that we need to aspire to, who are the thought leaders in the field of PMOs. It was quite clear from the people I spoke to during the event, and afterwards in the more social surroundings of the local pub, that most PMOs are struggling to get on with the day job and can’t think about what is happening this afternoon let alone where will PMOs go in 20 months let alone 20 years.

I am not sure based on the output of the flashmob whether there is anything that can be used and taken forward as what a PMO should do, as it did seem to link into the maturity of the organisation, the competence of the individuals within the PMO and project management community. What was obvious though is that a lot activities nowadays are being managed as a project within organisations, so the need for Project Managers and PMOs to support them and the organisation is required.

PMOs are here to stay, we just need the individuals within them to become better in understanding the organisations they work within and therefore how the PMO can transform the organisation.

The future of P3O

Where does P3O go from here?

I am writing this in advance of the PMO flashmob talk on the future of p3o by Eileen Roden the lead author of the the p3o refresh. I wanted to get my thoughts on P3O and where the profession should go down before I heard and got influenced by others.

What has worked?

The P3O manual has been really good for putting portfolio management on the map. It has enabled organisations to understand how having a portfolio office can really benefit their organisation. It has moved the role from a support office to an integral part of the organisation. In fact it has removed the word support from the vocabulary entirely.
It has given organisations a structure to setup their portfolio office saying how they can be organised.
It provided the PMO world with appendix F, which has been invaluable for all those discussions with people as to whether some was or should be a part of the PMO role. If it was in appendix F, then it could be part of the PMO role. If it isn’t then this is something that could be done by a PMO person, it it wasn’t necessarily part of the role e.g. Being a fire warden.

What hasn’t worked?

Through the training I did on P3O I found that at least half, if not more of the people coming along were not in a portfolio office. In fact some organisations didn’t understand the word programme let alone portfolio. The P3O guide offered little for the people who weren’t going to manage the P3O it didn’t tell you how to do the job. It didn’t show you how to do configuration management, risk, issue, change management or setup the structures that would be needed to make those things happen. So for a large majority of the people in a PMO it didn’t help them do the day job.
It also didn’t clearly define what the word PMO means, after all the guide is portfolio office, programme office and project office guide. Hence the P3O. Well at least it could be trademarked!

Where do we go from here?
I suggest that we don’t have a P3O guide. This is not to say that we don’t have a guide on what the role does, but more that we need different guides for the different jobs within a P3O structure. Along with that we need different names for those roles. I accept that these can do with some refining, and I am hoping that others will contribute to this, but my suggestions are:

Programme Delivery Office – this needs to be a companion guide to MSP (Managing Successful Programmes). This needs to define the role of a programme management office. It needs to build on what is already included in the MSP guide, include most of what is in the PPSO books and where possible include the work from the pop up programme office book. This has to be a practical book for people doing a PMO analyst role. The appendices for this should include what the roles for the PMO, junior, senior and manager are in a programme office. They need to list what is included in a progress report, risk log, dependency log, change log. There needed to be practical examples of what a configuration management role does, how it is setup, and perhaps even as detailed as some advice on how to setup a version control system.
This office is the temporary office that will close when the programme it supports closes.

Strategic Delivery Office – this needs to be the companion guide to the MoP (Management of Portfolios) and Benefits Management manuals. Quite a lot of the existing P3O manual could be used here. This manual needed to be aimed at the Portfolio Office analyst role that is currently defined within the P3O manual. This can include the techniques around prioritisation, resource plans, force ranking, knowledge management etc. As this is a permanent office it needs to include the Centre of Excellence functions that are currently in the P3O manual.

Setting up successful PMOs. – this is the guide for all senior managers and PMO managers. This can be what is left of the P3O manual once you have taken out the doing part. There is still the need for a guide for the PMO manager role, and that the P3O guide does do very well. In fact I think this should go further and describe how to setup the portfolio, programme, project delivery structure as well and how they can be linked together, as well as the team to support them.

Why the need for different manuals?
You may think that by dividing the P3O manual up you are just splitting up the role of PMO into all smaller portions just to get revenue from the different qualifications that would spring up around this. However I see this fit together in the same way that the ITIL framework does. You have a basic knowledge, which is the junior role and then you expand on this by getting the manager qualification. You can either come to the manager qualification through the programme or portfolio route.
There is still no definition of PMO that is agreed on, so I suggest dividing that up into the 3 main roles that exist. Support of a temporary endeavour along with the manager of that temporary endeavour (I will leave if for other to argue whether it is a project or programme). Support of entire group of temporary endeavours to help drive the organisation forward (portfolio office). Management of both of these groups, which would apply to the medium to larger organisations.

Is there anything else?

The only thing I see out there speaking to individuals who do a PMO role is those who don’t support just one project, but multiple as a permanent office. For these people I suggest they would benefit from the Programme Delivery Office guide, although they would not disband at the end of a project or programme they are doing the things that would be mentioned in that guide. If they are then asked to look at portfolio management, then they need the Strategic Delivery Office guide.
The other thing that isn’t included above are the softer skills that are required in the role such as influencing, negotiation, coaching, training, leadership and teamwork. But then again they aren’t in the rest of the AXELOS guide either. Perhaps it is time for the PMOs to lead on this and start to include these in there as well.

Ever since the APM BoK 6 came out a couple of years ago I have thought that what was needed for the PMO space were guides saying how each of those items in the BoK that are split by project, programme and portfolio also needed a PMO section as well. If the above books get written then perhaps that will happen.

I wait with interest to see what Eileen has to suggest.

Trainer, Mentor, Coach or Counsellor?

I attended the PMO Flashmob the other week on coaching and the PMO. This talk was given by Suzanne Masden, who based on her qualification has had a bit of experience in being a coach to a variety of people, plus was once a project manager.

During the short talk one of the questions that came up was what exactly is a coach anyway? I am sure that you can go and look this up on the web, but the reason it came up was that it is an expression that we as PMO’s seem to use all the time. However we don’t have a correct understanding of what this really means. Most of the time when we say we are coaching the project managers, we aren’t actually doing this at all.

So I thought I would post something up which was my understanding of the difference we have between the 4 roles outlined in the title

Trainer Arrow
Assistance spectrum

 

 

Trainer – at this level a PMO would be teaching something to a project manager. e.g. This is how to fill in the progress report. Most likely to say: “Do it this way”

Mentor – normally a more experienced PMO person who is assisting the project manager with a topic, based on their own personal experience and giving the knowledge as though they were the individual in the job. e.g. This is how I would deal with stakeholders when going through the design stage of the project. Most likely to say: “This is how I would approach it”

Coach – an individual who is qualified as a coach (yes there are qualifications) who will assist the project manager by asking them questions about how they are likely to achieve their goals. e.g. How can you get the best out of your project team? Most likely to say: “What can you do to improve?” or “Is that working for you?”

Counsellor – an individual who is qualified as a counsellor who can help and individual reflect on what is happening to them and consider alternative ways of doing things. As such this individual will not be dealing with items specifically linked into the world of project management, but will be looking at an individual’s life problems and how they can be overcome.

There was an interesting part of the discussion where we talked about the difference between the mentor and coach roles. Based on the experiences of the individuals within the room it is most likely that when a PMO individual is saying that they are coaching project manager, what in fact they are doing is either training them or at best mentoring them.

I came away feeling that a coach would be very useful in all sorts of circumstances, and it shouldn’t be limited to just PMOs coaching project managers, but should be PMOs coaching other PMOs, or at least PMOs seeking coaching for themselves. This was where the difference was made between a coach and a counsellor. In order to be coached the person being coached must want to make some changes to the way that they are doing things. If changes are required, but the individual is unwilling to want to make any changes then that will go into counselling, and is above and beyond what a coach would want to do.

I thought the session at the PMO Flashmob was informative, and I have gone away with a fresh understanding of not only what I do, but also what I could do to develop myself. After all isn’t that why we go to such events?