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PMO and Value

Author – Emma-Ruth Arnaz Pemberton, Chair of APM PMO SIG

According to research, the value of PMO is called into question time and again – this is demonstrated by one of the key reasons that PMOs fail is due to a lack of proactive Sponsorship.

So what could the future hold?

By being able to answer and demonstrate their understanding of the value question, PMOs can accomplish the seemingly impossible – to be accepted in an organisation as a value adding business partner.

The workshop I will be running at Future PMO will provide critical ways of working to develop a new or existing PMO to be able to respond to the dreaded question: What is the point of a PMO?

One thing I have found throughout my career in the PMO and project world is that things come in and out of ‘fashion’, Agile, Earned Value, etc. These things are definitely working in some organisations; but although fashion comes and goes, there are always some topics that continue to crop up.

Think about the last two years’ worth of survey data from The State of Project Management UK survey. Hundreds of people respond to this and we see the same problems and concerns with Maturity, Sponsorship, Lessons Learned, and Benefits.

Now think about the last LinkedIn post you read about PMO – I will suggest that it was probably a fairly negative one around PMO failure, or how to improve the chances of survival.

Americo Pinto, told us at the PMO Value Ring event earlier this year that Sponsorship being the biggest issue around PMOs is just a myth – it is actually a symptom of a bigger problem.

When you think about all of those together, there has to be a reason we are ‘rubbish’ at dealing with the same recurring ‘dark arts’ that don’t appear to be easily tamed?

During 2016, the Association for Project Management (APM) PMO Specific Interest Group (SIG) held a ‘Lessons Learned’ Roadshow to try to tame the beast that is the third and second toughest process to embed in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Thanks to those that attended in either London or Warrington, the SIG are putting together some guidance on the topic with some key enablers for success.

I hear you saying already “Yeah but surely that’s an easy one, what about the really hard ones?”

Let us take value as an example. Every organisation is different and maybe the problem is not in the tried and tested methods we all have for getting things embedded. Maybe the problem is that our tried and tested methods are not actually what the Customer(s) need, want, or believe in.

I heard someone say recently that PMOs are very theoretical and therefore not action oriented or driven by the business. Instead, they are driven by their own want and need to build the ‘Nirvana PMO’ – that all elusive ivory tower for them to sit in and define processes.

For me personally, it’s a shame that this is the perception of someone actively working in the PMO industry; but this is what people think, so we can’t pull them up for having an opinion based on their own experiences.

So, why don’t we take the hard stuff by the scruff of the neck and deal with it? I asked a group of people this and the consensus was “Because it’s hard”. I myself am not in this industry to make life easy for myself – it would be immensely boring! Nevertheless, if the words we are saying to our Customer(s) sound like “It’s too hard to track benefits”, or “It’s too hard to fully understand what value PMO adds”, you can’t blame organisations and outsiders looking in to try to figure out what the point is.

Now, many times I have heard that you wouldn’t question the finance department or audit department, but organisations continue to ‘not back’ PMOs. For me, it’s simple: it’s because we cannot prove it.

The PMO of the Future needs to nail this attitude and think outside of the box (It’s even in my bio!) to bring new thinking into the industry that supports us all in conversing more proactively and more confidently with our Customers.

At the Future PMO conference, I will help you to explore this topic in more detail to give you an opportunity to learn what has worked for your peers and other organisations, what is out there to help you do this better, and what the future holds for our newly Chartered Industry!

I will try to equip you with enough to go away thinking differently about your Future PMO.