Lodger Graham answers a number of questions from Members to celebrate International “Ask a Stupid Question” Day

In this one its all about setting up a PMO and what to think about.


Here’s the transcript from the video:

Okay. So the next question that we had was where do you start when putting a PMO in place now, this is great question again, these are real questions by the way going because – I don’t think I said that Graham not only does this role for a living but he has also taught on this subject as well.

The starting point is what is the business change challenge or what’s the challenge that’s vexing the leadership group of the business the most – the challenge really does need to be top-down. What is the business facing, where does it want to be in a year three years five years?

What is the strategy? Ideally what sort of strategic objectives are there? Okay. So do we want to have one wide corporate- entire company portfolio office. Or are we just looking at one very big really key critical program for the business. All of those things will start to lead you down a certain path. First of those scenarios will be a portfolio office, the second would be a program office.

So it’s really driven from what the business challenge is and if you’re designing a function from scratch, the PMO you design will be the most optimal solution but remember – with world events what might be optimal now or a plan for years time may not be quite what’s required in three years.

So it’s a plan that shouldn’t sit and gather dust on a shelf. It should be a plan that you iterate regularly.

It could even be a plan that has a series of stepping stones or phases or transition states, whatever you use in your vernacular.

So what’s really important to support this very big program? Okay. So let’s create a program office for that. Let’s make it one and a half times resource so that half of that resource can be using some of what they’re learning and developing for the program office.

We could fold that into some sort of program management framework for the business because that doesn’t exist yet and then the PMO Manager,if you had one, they could take on the role at the beginning of some sort of portfolio office that reports on the program but starts to delve into some of the functions and some of that strategic change.

Setting up a PMO comes from the top down and I’d want to make sure I had really good sponsorship to do that. It needs to be from the top of the house- board level, director level whatever the top of the house is. It doesn’t really matter who that is. But as long as they are director board level and will champion your cause and give you the best chance of success.

If you set up that PMO structure and design correctly it could lead to quite challenging conversations ie why we still letting people sit on this project when we said two weeks ago or three meetings ago it’s canned because I tell you why because it’s pet project for such and such and you’ll need your sponsor to go we don’t do pet projects. We follow the agreed criteria. So some of those conversations could be quite challenging. So really important you have good senior level sponsorship.

I think one of the things we’ve learned recently in a number of sessions at the House of PMO conference and where there’s been a few case studies where they won PMO of the Year award. They’re doing pretty good and the insights you tend to remember they’ve got to the level where it’s about strategic objectives and the objective of the PMO.

They are offering services, putting in place roadmaps, which seem to work really well because you need to make sure everybody else knows what the steps are along the way –  making it really visual and getting people bought into it.  They’re doing it in a kind of rolling wave planning way.

Setting up the PMO function – there is a huge amount of effort in the ‘hearts and minds’, people side of change.

As we had on the top one of the other questions, you know that the PM with 20 years experience. They have never done it the way we want to do it before I’m not gonna play there’s all sorts of interpersonal people dynamics that need to manage along the way,  road maps, transition states, Change management etc. How are you going to implement a PPM framework? That’s a change management piece.

Absolutely big subject then! Lots of people like yourself out there doing it for organizations today and the fact that you know, you are doing it and been doing it for a while just goes to show it’s not an easy thing. Yeah, and perhaps we should say that there’s a lot of science around PPM and project management offices and portfolio and value management offices and agile or waterfall.

But there’s also that we have to be pragmatic and apply some common sense. There is no real right and wrong answer to that question where to start-  it’s about understanding the organization which you are operating in, their challenges and what’s going to be a pragmatic fit for purpose. And additionally I would say, you know, look at MVPs. What’s the minimum viable product of a PMO?

Don’t try and go all guns blazing all at once – 20% of effort in terms of PMO setup can create 80% of the benefit and then never try and do the 20% on top, right? Because what’s the point,  just do MVP over and over and over? Yeah, you know, you said yourself you talk about POOs and POTs. I don’t know if you explained it but POO (PMO-of-One) and POTs (PMO-of-Two) you can’t do all so you’ve actually got to really pick and choose and and provide a level of service that you can do amazingly well to gain support and people to follow you –  that by definition limits the breadth of what you’re doing.