If ever there was a time to deliver efficient and consistent business change in an organization it is now, particularly with ever-increasing budgetary pressures to do more with less. What the Portfolio, Programme and Project Office (P3O®) guidance provides is a decision enabling and delivery support structure for all business change within an organization. It helps align portfolios, programmes and projects to continually answer these critical questions:
- Are we doing the right things?
- Are we doing them the right way?
- Are we getting the right business benefits?
- Are we getting them done well?
But given there is no “one size fits all” P3O model, Project and Portfolio Management (PPM) leaders must decide which type of P3O model and design will deliver the most value for their organization.
What are the P3O benefits?
What an effective P3O model provides an organization, department and/or business area is:
- Organizational governance and control – supporting governance (including structures and accountabilities) through scrutiny and challenge, ensuring portfolio return on investment through effective management of delivery and potential risk threats and change control.
- Transparency – relevant, accurate and timely (single source) information to support informed decision making.
- Delivery support – ensuring programme, project managers and operational business managers do things right (competency and skills) and do them well (quality assurance), reducing bureaucracy and encouraging P3M3 programme and project management consistency.
- Reusability – embedding industry and sector portfolio, programme and project management and gateway assurance best practice and sharing lessons learned.
- Traceability – portfolio, programme and project history and information repository. That is, evidence of informed decision making based upon a continually optimized (balanced) portfolio plan.
What are the P3O functional areas?
It does this through three key functional areas that may be divided into separate functional teams within a single office, or individuals may specialize in one or more of the functional areas. But these three functional areas require different competencies, skills and experience. It is worth noting that organizations will often use generic terms for the various offices within the P3O model, which do not always clearly indicate the role or the importance of the office. The industry terms for these offices are:
- Strategic planning or portfolio support – focuses on supporting senior management decision making, includes the continuous portfolio definition practices of understand, categorize, prioritize, balance and plan, management dashboards, and most importantly the provision of challenge, scrutiny and oversight.
- Tactical or delivery support – focuses on the practical hands-on support to the successful delivery of change, sometimes through a flexible pool of delivery programme and project resources to enable fast mobilization.
- Centre of excellence or capability support – focuses on the development of standard processes, promoting consistent portfolio, programme and project working practices and ensuring their adoption and appropriate tailoring to suit the programme and project’s environment, size, complexity, importance, capability and risk. Best practice only continues to evolve as the understanding of what makes organizations perform well grows and is actively supported with senior management commitment.
Why have a P3O?
An effective P3O can increase an organization’s chance of successfully delivering on its strategic objectives by maximizing benefits realized from its continued investment in business change programmes and projects by:
- maintaining a ‘big picture’ understanding of the business change portfolio
- providing decision support to ensure the right programmes and projects are launched
- providing standards and processes to ensure consistency of delivery
- providing independent oversight, scrutiny and challenging to ensure things are done right
- providing assurance, coaching and mentoring to build a competent workforce capable of first-class programme and project delivery
- providing a ‘single source of truth’ reporting function to deliver effective management information
- improving organizational accountability, decision-making, transparency and visibility
- identifying, understanding and managing multiple and inter-dependent risks
- protecting revenue and spend, and enhancing value for money
- executing change more effectively and efficiently to improve programme and project delivery
- protecting reputation and stakeholder confidence.
In summary, without the involvement of an effective P3O model in change management, organizational strategic objectives may still be reached but potentially in a fragmented or unstructured way. This can generate significant threats to the best use of scarce resources (the term that covers people, assets, materials, funding and services) and achievement of required outcomes.
P3O is not a methodology, but guidance as to how to link strategy and policy with the delivery arm of the organization. P3O does this by providing best practice guidance in the establishment of an effective environment for running multiple business change programmes and projects, whilst ensuring change is balanced with business as usual.