Last month we sponsored Criterion’s second annual PMO Leadership Conference in Sydney. PMOs are a vitally important stakeholder for us and we felt this would be a great opportunity to hear from a range of PMO representatives, thought leaders, vendors and project managers. PMOs are typically our main engagement point in an organisation and certainly a group that ends up knowing a lot about Zeno.pm. They are typically charged with its set up, configuration, training and roll out. They are the voice of their customer(s) and a key user. What was clear from the presentations, round tables and speaking with conference delegates was that although much has been written about evolving the PMO, making it more ‘agile’ and efficient, there is still much to be done in positioning this function and setting it up for ongoing success.

Here are the main conference take-aways and observations. I hope they resonate and the guidance we provide for addressing them is helpful.

  • PMOs need to find relevance – who is it that you are servicing?
  • There is no single ‘correct’ PMO
  • It’s all about Value
  • Little or no executive managers were there, or at least I didn’t meet any. What does this say about the value they place on the PMO?

Some of the themes we found appearing more consistently throughout the two days were:

1. Delivery Assurance – Providing guidance, training, best practice and access to people was considered a massive plus for PMOs. Simply (en)forcing a methodology, framework or delivery mantra was old school. PMOs should be there as a trusted adviser and delivery partner for the PM community; using their knowledge (or access to people with it) to help coach and mentor PMs for better outcomes and greater engagement.

2. Training and talent acquisition – Kind of in step with the above, but really understanding what good looks like in terms of PMs and project/program teams, then aligning them to projects. Essentially using some of the softer skills to ensure people and groups that work well are retained and developed and utilised on the right projects/activities.

3. Business Value alignment – There’s a lot that could be written on this but overwhelmingly the concept of value kept coming up. Value is a subjective thing so it will vary for different organisations/stakeholders. It was seen as vitally important to work with the business (including executives, business partners and those outside of the project community) to understand what they saw as valuable. Challenge some of the conventional thinking on ‘good’ reporting practices to make sure they are still relevant.

4. MVG – “Minimum Viable Governance”. The “G” word was not seen as a negative but rather it has to be re-imagined to ensure it supports consistency and quality. It still appeared some PMOs felt more is good, or at least maintaining a role as ‘interceptor’ or ‘good cop’ was imperative. If the PMO was not enabling a smooth pathway from project to decision-maker, it was in the way.

5. Keeping it relevant. Keep working with project participants to develop strategies that proactively address ‘business’ user problems, in their language, using other projects/dependencies as a source knowledge or prior experience.

6. Engage directly, don’t rely on PMs for feedback. A number of PMO representatives stressed the importance of regularly seeking direct feedback from business stakeholders. This was on a number of points; reporting formats, KPIs, quality. Sounds a little obvious, but being able to insert yourself in between the business and project delivery and facilitate a smoother more meaningful transaction was seen as a measure of a successful PMO.

All in all we learned a lot from supporting Criterion and the delegates at this event. There are many elements to making a successful transition to PMO 2.0, but interestingly, most were about common sense more than they were about new methodologies, tools or techniques.

  • Understand your stakeholders
  • Identify business value
  • Enable delivery through MVG