Despite increasing understanding that the PMO is so much more than project administration and number/data crunching – if you asked people to describe PMO you might get a picture of a small team of people with clipboards and pens ticking off boxes and producing loads of reports.
Some people describe PMO in even less positive ways, the project police, paper chasers and even time-eaters. Have you ever noticed that when a project is under pressure it’s often the responsibilities relating to PMO assigned activity that are the first to be dropped?
Obviously yes, PMOs are merely there to catch you out and do some running about for you to ‘just get it in’ if push comes to shove.
Of course we enlightened people know better and make it our mission to educate others, both by example and evangelising what PMO really means.
It’s not just administration. In video meetings, I often pick up Stuart Dixon’s excellent and weighty tome ‘The PMO Service Catalogue’ which identifies 25 unique services that the PMO can offer.
Just one of those services is Administration and the section is just a tiny fraction of the total content. 25 unique services people, 25 services; that’s everything from Change Control, to Project Finances to Portfolio Prioritisation*.
It’s a good visual demonstration of the depth and breadth of the value of PMO. I use this book when I am assessing PMOs, to understand just what they are doing versus what their parent organisation actually needs them to do. I also use it when coaching to show what PMO really entails. To be honest, explained properly PMO is an easy sell.
And a confession dear Stuart, other than to make this point, I tend to ignore this section now. I mean, what role doesn’t have some element of administration in it? Administration is part of any role. Administration does not define PMO; not even slightly. I challenge you my non-PMO reader, have you ever had an ‘administration’ day? Do you call that your PMO day?
So lingers the belief that PMO is just an administrative unit. There is, and will continue to be, great effort to move people away from this view. To help people ‘get’ that PMO is a critical, valuable function. One intervention is the quick and simple ‘Let’s call it something else’. Not confusing at all.
Client: ‘Welcome to the CCDH
Me: <<blank face>>
Client : Sorry! I mean the Central Change Delivery Hub
Me: <<blank face>>
Client: You know, where we monitor and provide insight on delivery progress, facilitate effective prioritisation decisions and coach people in how to best deliver projects
Me: Ahhh, PMO! Cool!’
And just to address anyone who wonders if this perception of old school PMO really does exist, I have to report yes it does. Still alive and kicking and even in some huge big brand corporations. To be fair, if that remains the right model for that organisation and if it truly works then go for it. Interestingly though, I have also found that some of those services that form part of the PMO offering are actually valued and identified as vital to these organisations; they just aren’t recognised as being PMO!
So, here is my challenge for you. Let’s keep PMO; not as an acronym but as a word.
Forget that PMO stands for Project/Programme/Portfolio Management Office. Think about what the definition of PMO is and how you use it to describe activity. Maybe we need to write it as pmo when it’s a verb and PMO when used as a noun? If you really think about it, us in the PMO gang already do that. I work with my clients to find out how we need to apply PMO to their organisation.
We just need to socialise it more in the wider community.
- A function which enables prioritisation, delivery and assurance of change initiatives.
“we’ll need a PMO if we want confidence we are going get this transformation in”
- A set of services critical to the successful delivery of change
“we need to establish good PMO practice in this organisation”
- A person who enables prioritisation, delivery and assurance of change initiatives
“we need to get in a great PMO who can lead the team to meet our strategic objectives”
- To perform the activity of PMO
“I think we can pmo our way out of this mess”
“I reckon there must have been some good pmo-ing going on to pull this project off”
So come on people let’s pmo this world!
Ref: Stuart Dixon: The PMO Service Catalogue 2021
*PS a great PMO doesn’t mean offering all of the services, just the right combination of services to meet the needs of that organisation