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.

3 thoughts to “The future of P3O”

  1. Hi Stuart

    Totally agree with everything you’ve said here (which makes the start of my comment sound very boring!)
    I think most people who have worked in PMOs would say this sounds ideal for them, yet why haven’t the guides been written yet, why hasn’t someone seen the real potential in the resulting training courses coming from these guides?

    1. Lindsay
      I think we need the manuals first, as I suggested in my previous post. Then you can get the training courses that are linked into ‘passing’ the manual with some form of accreditation.
      Not sure if AXELOS are interested so soon after the P3O manual has been introduced. APM don’t seem to understand the world of PMO, as it isn’t quite a PM role. PMI have produced some material, but not sure you could train it.

      Time for another article – what training is required for PMOs

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