PMO Principle #3: Serving the Customer

Becoming a Customer-Centric PMO

A fortnight ago, we introduced our readers to the Principles that make a PMO and PMO regardless of style, maturity level, and strategy. We reached out to the PMO Community to bring to life each principle through experience and thought-provoking articles that will help organisations to develop their PMO to the next level.

This week we have the first from that series and introduce Laura Barnard from IMPACT by Laura who helps organisations use the PMO construct to drive business transformation and deliver high-IMPACT outcomes across their strategic initiative portfolio. Laura chose PMO Principle #3: Serving the Customer.

This principle derives from the fact that PMOs are born to serve. They do not exist in a vacuum but rather invest time in understanding what the needs of their customers are and their perception of value is, and they align their functions and services to these.

Laura brings to life this through her hints and tips on ensuring that your PMO team have a customer centric mindset.

As we get into the thick of building and running a PMO, we often get caught up in the templates and process or figuring out how we are going to get all the projects delivered. We fight with a never-ending scenario of not enough (time, resources, funding, etc.) and must delicately balance all the competing priorities on our time and energy.  As a result, we might forget why we are there in the first place.

Impact by Laura - PMO Principle - FuturePMOThe PMO is a service organisation

We provide a litany of services that, when leveraged effectively, can drive ever-higher IMPACT for our customers and the broader organisation. Everything we do, every product we produce, and every service we create should be with that customer in mind. Follow these practical steps to ensure that you and your team have a customer-centric mindset:

  1. Identify your customer
    Before we can build anything that will have a chance of delivering IMPACT, we must focus on identifying and understanding who we serve. What value do they provide to the organisation? Who do they serve? How are they motivated? What are their highest priorities? Take the time to dig here, so you have a good sense of your customer avatar.
  2. Learn what they value
    Once we know who they are and how they serve, we must ask “why?” Why do they need the PMO? We must know what they value enough to ask for or need help and once we ask questions, we should follow with silence. Our objective here is to listen, not talk. How successful have they been in getting their projects delivered with high-IMPACT outcomes? Listen to their story and let them talk about what matters most to them.
  3. Discover the customer journey
    It’s so easy to start building services that we “just know” the customer needs and wants. I mean, why wouldn’t they want a complete set of templates to help them walk through the project process? The reality is that if your customer is drowning in chaos, they probably cannot even look up long enough to grab a template. We must always meet them where they are and then gently guide them where they need to go. This means that we may have to start with making their lives easier so that they have the time and space to learn something new. Fix the pain. Then worry about growing capabilities.
  4. Develop a road map together
    The journey starts with the customer in their current state and is developed together based on pain points they identify and business objectives they must accomplish. Make sure that you look at the biggest pain points they are experiencing and evaluate which ones you could solve quickly. Do those first. This creates momentum off which everything else will run. Then, establish a thoughtful plan of capabilities you can roll out over time. Remember that it will take them a lot longer to implement new capabilities or engage in new services and see value than it will for you to create them.
  5. Speak their language
    As you identify the services that you can deliver to provide IMPACT for the customer, consider how you will talk to them about the capabilities. Don’t underestimate your role in marketing. The art of marketing is speaking to someone in the way they need to hear information and helping them understand how they can benefit from services you provide. They need to hear about the outcomes you will create for them, not the PM speak you will use behind the scenes to get them there. We must resist the urge to tell them about the medicine they must take and instead focus on how their life will get easier.
  6. Treat them like a partner
    You need them and they need you. Without them, the PMO has no value. Work with them to establish a set of guiding principles that you will both follow to ensure strategic alignment, transparency, predictability, reliability, and ultimate return on investment
    (ROI). Make sure that everyone in your PMO is clear on the importance and their role in providing a stellar customer experience.
  7. Remember that while the customer might not always be right, they are always right.
    Never underestimate the power of an unhappy customer to derail your PMO sustainability. Your goal will be to cultivate that relationship with your customer, hearing them along the way as they express concerns or frustration. While it’s so easy to tell them how we know better when it comes to the things your PMO can provide, if they can’t yet see it for themselves, it doesn’t exist. Go back to the values they hold dear and see how you can align your services and offerings with what matters most to them. That, my friend, is how you ensure your PMO can deliver IMPACT.

The PMO principles are covered in depth in the APM Accredited PMO Practitioner 2-day Course.