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Author  Mark Sutton

Head of Programme Office

June 22, 2022 |

 6 min read

  • Blog
  • Programme management

Having a programme management office (PMO) which delivers PMO services reflects how an organization wishes to govern change.

The PMO – something that fits within Axelos’ Portfolio, Programme and Project Offices (P3O) “centre of excellence” thinking – is a collection of people providing decision-enabling and delivery support-services to others working across these different change initiatives.

While organization size and geography are factors dictating the number of people providing such services, so is the amount of change taking place, and enterprise maturity; more mature organizations tend to see the value of PMO services and are content to receive them from a central point.

A “takeaway menu” of services

In my experience leading a PMO, the mission is all about supporting governance. I say to my team: “we are a customer delivery mechanism, delivering a ‘takeaway menu’ of dishes from our restaurant.” That means we are providing customer services such as project management support to projects in a programme, or reporting services to a programme, project or risk board.

So, how does a PMO get a clear understanding of what services to include in the “takeaway menu”?

1. Consult with stakeholders

Programme management specialists need to engage with stakeholders: find out what they think they want and educate them on what they need to do the job. For example, I have recently worked with stakeholders to understand their requirement of management dashboards that capture progress of a programme to enable decision-making. This has been a collaborative journey with stakeholders, understanding what’s helping and adjusting the service accordingly.

2. Using the P3O value matrix

This technique within the P3O guidance – part of the Axelos ProPath Programme Leader designation – is about supporting people to do their job more effectively but also about placing restraints/limitations upon how they work: while this may not please everyone, it’s done for the good of the programme – e.g. analysis of a business case to justify a specific project approach to managing a change, when such justification has not been required before. This involves a delicate balancing act, as some people will push back against a particular service, while welcoming others.

The PMO service provider is there to give the customer what they want (an enabling or support service), but also what they need; selling them a “healthy dish” for their project or programme, even if it’s not their preferred choice (an assurance or restraining service). Therefore, you need to build personal relationships with people to explain the wider, organizational benefit of complying with a particular approach.

Also, by using the P3O guidance appendix – which shows different functions and services – you can assess what is relevant to your programme. This helps you to crystallize what types of services the PMO can offer within a particular change context – whether portfolio, programme or project – and engage with stakeholders to discuss.

The discipline of a framework such as P3O also means you can question whether services are already – or could be better – offered from somewhere else in the organization, therefore avoiding duplication or sub-optimal service provision.

Equally, by understanding the maturity of the organization, you can identify which PMO services it’s ready for, or not. For example, only once an organization is mature enough to understand that change should realize benefits, can a central office offer a benefits-tracking service within and beyond the programme lifecycle.

Taking teams on a PMO services journey

What skills does the PMO team need to help people adopt the portfolio, programme and project services available?

Broadly, when working with professionals who are not yet certified in methods such as PRINCE2 or Managing Successful Programmes, the team’s job is to take best practice and apply it proportionately – and engage with people in a language they’ll understand.

By removing jargon, it’s possible to introduce best practice ideas into everyday language and offer relatable examples that show why these techniques are helpful to them and a wider programme of change. And if any mistakes are made in the process of adopting best practice, these become useful lessons learned.

Essentially, we are there to guide people at a pace they can cope with. People are on a journey of building up knowledge of how to run projects/programmes effectively, therefore they need to understand PMO services and the value of them.