#Progress

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 Maturity first steps

Make us better

I wonder how many times people in PMOs have heard something similar to this. You get pulled aside by one of the senior managers in the department and get asked to improve what you are doing. It’s simple they explain, if you are such an expert, then all you need to do is suggest a few things, get them implemented and the world will be a better place.

So where to start?

I received one of these challenges the other day, so I thought it would be easy to ‘just make the PMO more mature’. However that seems sometimes like saying to a kid to ‘grow up’. Does it mean that the kid should get a job, worry about the mortgage rate and pensions? Or does it mean something completely different?

So when looking at the maturity level of the PMO I started  by looking to see if I could find anything about PMO Maturity levels. I was very surprised to find only one thing that directly related to a PMO maturity level, something called a PMO Maturity cube, which did help to a certain extent, but I couldn’t see it tie up with other things I had read.

I then fell back on the good old P3O manual, and that advised when improving a P3o where you needed to start with was a P3M3 assessment, and there is one of those in the P3O manual, however I thought that it would be good to see if I could download one from the AXELOS website. At the time of writing this is no longe available as a free download from their store, but if I wanted to pay several hundreds of pounds I could have access to one.

Then where?

Having drawn a blank there I decided that perhaps I could make do with the information that was in the P3O manual. Having got my assessment, and bear in mind that the P3O manual suggests that at level 3 or above we would have a virtual model, and I was definitely not in one of those, then I had to be below level 3, what things could I get the PMO to do? If should therefore be quite simple. All I would need to do is have a look in the wonderful Appendix F and it would tell me that in orer to increase my maturity here are the simple things I need to do at a level 1, then I can add the following things in for level 2 etc, all nicely split down into categories such as risk, benefits i.e. nicely aligned to a P3M3 assessment model. After all they all come from AXELOS right, so everything should be nicely aligned.

Well I was sadly disappointed. In Appendix F of the P3O manual then there is nothing that mentions a P3M3 level, so that has drawn a blank.

Where next?

So if I can’t do something so simple then do I have to make it up each time. Is there nothing out there that suggests how we can improve from level to level. After all if the PMO aren’t helping the organisation improve, who is doing it. Yes the senior management can suggest and promote ‘betterness’, but they aren’t the people who actually get involved in the detail.

So I welcome sensible suggestions in the comments below for where I (and anyone else reading this) can go to to find out the steps to improve their maturity within their PMO

 

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.

Adding value?

I was going to entitle this one – PMO’s – so much more than admin. But the phrase that comes up when I speak to PMOs who want to make the move away from admin and support is into ‘adding value’.

Whenever I then probe what they want to actually do then it all gets a bit vague, with people repeating the phrases ‘not admin’ and ‘more value’. So I have had a think about what it is that a PMO should be doing and acting in order to provide ‘more value’.

The best analogy I could come up with for a PMO as to compare the work of a PMO to that of a valet. I was reminded of the stories by P.G. Wodehouse of Jeeves and Wooster and of all of the scrapes that Bertie Wooster gets into, only to be rescued by Jeeves. I see a great deal of similarity in the dealings of a PMO and their PM’s.

After all the hero of the story should be Wooster, with all of the goings on, and you only actually hear of Jeeeves’ involvement when it all gets a little bit too hairy. So I see the role of the PMO, we allow the PM to have all of the fun, dealing with the stakeholders, going to all of the meetings, gaining the prize of the deliverables done on time. Only if there are hurdles to be overcome, tricky stakeholders to be dealt with, deadlines to be achieved does the PMO come into view and quietly and efficiently save the day. They ask not for any extra award or applause, but are grateful of a job well done. Therefore in the mind of the PM the PMO is worth their weight in gold, and wouldn’t be shared with anyone else.

Don’t you think it is about time that the PMO’s become a bit more like the Jeeves of the world? Quiet, unassuming, problem solving, competent and always around when a problem arises, with the solution readily available.