Do you know what you do?

I was out at the PMO Flashmob last night and we were talking about PMO Competencies.

Several things emerged from this discussion, which are thoughts for further posts on the matter. However the central concern that came out of the discussion is that for quite a few people in the room it was difficult to articulate what they actually did or why they did it.

This was before we got into any discussion about what does the P stand for in PMO.

It was a bit like asking a Project Manager what they do and being told they Manage Projects. Which of course is an answer, but it just might not be the most helpful one.

The evening did get better as amongst the assembled group we did manage to work out some of the things that we did, or at least that some of us did. However we found it difficult to group this information into any logical order.

Will we get some competencies from this? Let’s hope so for the sake of our profession.

And for those of you who know what you do then congratulations, now can you articulate that to others?

The Agile PMO

As part of the PMO flashmob I went along to a talk given by Jennifer Stapleton the author of the agile PMO pocketbook. Jennifer has a background in agile having been involved with DSDM since its beginning 20 years ago (which on my estimation makes it older than PRINCE2). In this session Jennifer talked us through what a PMO can do to support agile projects, rather than what makes a PMO agile.

There are various things that PMOs can do to support agile, including using some of their techniques when prioritising projects. Using a MoSCoW method for selecting which projects are more important, and this can be used on agile and non agile projects together as part of a portfolio role. Jennifer did suggest more than once that by selecting an agile project that would of course mean that benefits come earlier with the initial delivery from the agile project. Jennifer discussed the sorts of things that a PMO may need to do differently when looking at an agile project, including reporting and gate reviews. These she said can still be done, but they would focus on different things, with the reporting looking at velocity and user engagement rather than focussing on a Gantt chart and finances.

There were over 20 people present from different PMOs, not just those who were running a PMO with agile projects, but those people who were doing a project manager role and those people who were looking to find out more about agile.

Having received a copy of the pocket book that Jennifer I think it is a useful practical way of looking about how a PMO needed to change to be applicable to the agile world, giving actual examples of how some of the things that a PMO get asked to do can change for the better. In fact Jennifer said that actually having a PMO involved with an agile project was a benefit for the project. Although Jennifer was unable to stay for the social at the local pub afterwards she was able to answer everyone’s questions as part of the session.

The other thing that struck me was how some of the subjects that Jennifer mentioned about user engagement, focussing on what is important for the project rather than what is important for the PMO and having the PMO adapt to organisation style were important regardless of whether the organisation runs agile projects, non agile projects or a combination of both.

Pop-Up PMOs

I read a book recently called Pop-Up PMOs by Mertine Middlekoop, which made me think again about what is important in setting up and running the PMO within an organisation.

When quite a lot of the books and articles I read seem to be about a portfolio office, it is nice to see a book which covers just the fundamental aspects of setting up and running as a Programme or Project Office. This book guides you through what is required to setup and run a PMO, and with a view to projects and programmes being temporary endeavours covers closure and how you can leave the organisation in a better position for it to run the next pop-up PMO.

On the way Mertine covers some of the practical services that such an office could do, and covers the risks that could be encountered if the service is not done, or not done right.

I particularly liked the chapter towards the end which covered the human side of the PMO, rather than just the focus on the tools and process. In particualr it covered how people working a PMO can learn and grow to develop into better PMO people.

I would recommend this book to anyone who has been charged to setup a PMO, from the novice to the experienced PMO individual as we can all learn from books like these.