by Chris Walters

Chris Walters on PMOs


APM PMOSIG chairman, Chris Walters told The Project Manager that there is no "generic PMO methodology" in SA, during an exclusive interview.
Chris Walters on PMO's

Chris Walters is the chairman of the APM PMOSIG (Project Management Office Specific Interest Group). He currently works for Vodafone and over the last 20 years has held a number of project management, PMO leadership, consulting and business management roles in companies that deliver technology products and solutions, during an exclusive interview, we talk to him about the role of the PMO.

Is there a PMO methodology?

There isn’t a generic PMO methodology, and I remain to be convinced that there should be one as the diversity of function is too great to be prescriptive.

The Cabinet Office’s P3O® (Portfolio, Programme and Project Offices) publication was however a breakthrough for helping organisations understand the value that a good PMO can add, and how you might go about designing, setting up and operating a PMO.

Before that there was no real assembly of knowledge that went beyond the pure support elements.

What P3O® has done is to organisationally position PMOs and highlight that there should be an organisational construct that is accountable for the project delivery ecosystem.

Should every project have a PMO?

This is a question I’d have to answer with “it depends”.

We can look at two aspects: Does an organisation need a PMO? I think if a company devotes significant resource to multiple change or innovation projects, then the company does need a PMO of some description.

Firstly to help the organisation select the best blend of projects to achieve the company’s strategic aims, secondly to create and apply standards to deliver the projects to expectations, and finally to use knowledge gained during each project to drive continuous improvement to the overall project delivery record.

What is the best PMO tool?

We get asked this question a lot. I follow the maxim that “a fool with a tool is still a fool”.

People and process are the main ingredients for success, but just as any DIY enthusiast will tell you, selecting and expertly using the right tool for the job can really save time and improve quality.

There are some really good enterprise project management, collaboration and other associated tools out there.

But the reality is that they have to be properly adopted and used if they are to deliver the promised value.

PMOs have to be very careful to implement tools that add value to project managers as well as collecting the information that the PMO needs to provide to decision makers. I

f project managers don’t get value then they will de-prioritise using the tools with the result that the overall value of the tool is eroded.

This is especially important to keep on top of for PMOs operating in the portfolio or programme areas, where the data will be providing the basis for resourcing and funding decisions – you can’t afford to be making these decisions based on incomplete or stale information.

As a slight diversion from the question, one thing rarely considered when staffing PMOs is the need for a tools and data expert.

I continually see unskilled people trying to make sense of data using the wrong tools.

PMOs need to be trusted to curate and extract actionable knowledge from data, so it makes real sense to have a technical data expert as part of your PMO.

What advice would you give to PMOs to develop their capability?

The first thing is to gain a clear understanding of what capability is needed in their organisation.

PMOs need to be constantly asking themselves and their customers whether they’re adding appropriate value.

I’ve seen PMOs get bogged down trying to do too much and not focusing on the real basics that their stakeholders expect.

Secondly, I would really recommend getting the most experienced staff you can, especially when it is a PMO with a remit including COE.

As an ex-project manager myself, I can really recommend to project managers that spending some time working in a PMO is a valuable addition to your CV (I’ve enjoyed it so much, it consciously became my career path).

A PMO with credible staff will be able to build strong relationships with project managers and ultimately become a place where the project and programme management community naturally congregates, shares and develops.

Finally, seek out and network with your peers in the profession.

Driving maturity of PMO practice is just beginning, and all practitioners can take part in this evolution.

PMOSIG provides a great opportunity to share your PMO problems and gain new perspectives and possibly even solutions – and we have a lot of fun too.

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