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.

PMO Competencies

At the PMO Flashmob last night we were talking about PMO competencies. It was good to start a discussion on what is required to be a PMO person. If we can start as a profession to understand what is required from the role then we can start to get people who can improve and lead the profession onwards.

However as a group of people gathered in the room we found that difficult to do. I found it interesting that we found it easy to talk about some of the technical competencies that were required for the role e.g. updating logs, registers, dependency maps, starting projects.

What we found difficult to do was to put down anything around the soft skills (not sure why they are called that as they are quite hard to get right). On a lot of the linked in discussions I see we talk about what is required for a successful PMO. The answers seem to come back to the same things. It’s about the behaviours that people demonstrate. This includes leadership, influencing, learnability, inquisitiveness, pragmatism. Not sure that some of those can exactly be linked to competencies. However it surely has to be worth a try.

As a starter for 10 we looked at the competencies that have been developed for project managers, which gave a framework we could look at. We had a discussion about how different was the competencies required for a PMO person from that list. It should be noted that the list didn’t have behavioural attributes on it. I suggest that this is probably missing the competencies that you might find in an Analyst role,

I do wait to see what the Flashmob make of the consolidated lists that will come out, and I would like to see if we can get the necessary people together to get a competency framework together and off the ground. That then will give us something to judge ourselves against.


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.