Thoughts on the PMO Leadership Forum 2016

Thoughts on the PMO Leadership Forum 2016

In June I attended the PMO Leadership Forum. The forum was held in Wellington over two days and was marketed as ‘Delivering PMO process excellence, best practices and next level thinking for Project, Programme and Portfolio Managers’.

There were a number of key themes that I picked up and I reflect on these below.

PMO’s must understand where they fit within an organisation

Is your PMO a Portfolio, Programme or Project Management office? Is it enterprise wide or does it just support a part of the business? Working out what type of PMO you are and how you support the business will help define your role within the organisation. Who your PMO reports to is important and some attendees had a strong view this should be the head of Strategy (or similar role).

Possibly the key learning from the PMO Forum for me was that PMO’s must clearly understand the culture of the organisation they operate in and align themselves to this.

In the work I have been doing in my time with IQANZ, I’ve seen organisation with various PMO models and there is no ‘one size that fits all’ model. From my experience however, the PMO’s (and therefore organisations) that are most successful is where they are enterprise wide and support the entire organisation in a consistent manner (e.g. frameworks, processes, templates, governance and reporting).

PMO’s must be clear in its role and it must add value

PMO’s have a limited shelf life if they don’t quickly add value and continue to add value to an organisation. As an organisation matures, the value the PMO adds to an organisation must continue to mature and they must constantly evolve and adapt to the changing priorities and needs of the organisation.

Robust reporting, showing how programmes and projects are adding value and contributing to the organisation’s strategy, should be a priority for PMO’s. If programmes or projects are not contributing to the strategy, then they should be closed down. One presenter quoted 8 out of 10 organisations failed to execute their strategy! There was a suggestion by one presenter that all reporting, whether it be portfolio, programme or project, should focus purely on outcomes and that this shift had made a huge difference within their organisation.

I have completed a number of independent quality assurance reviews across a range of projects where the project’s focus is often on the achievement of process rather than the achievement of outcomes. Whilst both are important, I agree outcomes should be the key focus.

Similarly, I have completed a few P3M3® maturity assessments and the maturity of organisations and PMOs’ differs enormously. PMO’s must therefore play a pivotal role in helping an organisation in its maturity journey and there are some good examples of this within the P3M3® Levels where PMO’s can help actively drive maturity. Level 2 (Repeatable) for example talks about a ‘Local process being used or a centrally defined process, not consistently followed’). Level 3 (Defined) notes ‘A formally documented centralised process that is consistently applied’).  Various studies of P3M3 scores since its introduction show 80% of organisations globally to be at Level 2 and below, 50% of organisations are at Level 1.5 and below.

In summary, I think a key role of any PMO must clearly be to support the organisation in the achievement of its strategy, facilitating the business outcomes, rather than trying to own project and programmes. A PMO’s value is having a focus on strategy, transparency and robust reporting/communications across the organisation. It must constantly evolve and improve as the organisation and market/industry matures.

PMO’s must be flexible and cater for the different needs of projects

No two projects are the same and having fit for purpose frameworks and templates that can be tailored to each project can greatly help to drive successful project delivery within acceptable timeframes. Frameworks, whether they be a project framework or systems development lifecycle (SDLC), need to add value and not hinder projects. Presenters suggested having both full and light versions of templates, completing project tailoring, agreeing upfront pre-approval for passing through stages gates and agreeing delegated authority for budget or change request decisions all assist with this.

I certainly have seen many instances where low value, low risk projects are forced to follow a set framework along with completing all the artefacts and go through all the stage gates. Change requests for tiny amounts often require senior management sign off. This creates both unnecessary complexity and often long delays. The same is true for projects implementing cloud solutions. Projects (especially those small/medium – less risky ones) are more likely to successfully deliver where the ability to tailor exists. I’m not saying project should not follow a defined process or complete required artefacts – they should just be fit for purpose on the merit of each project.


Lastly, I was interested to hear one of the presenters admit he didn’t believe in internal assurance as they were often ‘too soft’. My view is that there is clearly an increasing reliance being placed on assurance within projects and programmes, as a means for an organisation to increase their confidence around the likelihood of successful delivery of the agreed outputs and outcomes. Using external assurance providers, such as IQANZ, provides a fresh pair of eyes, depth and breadth of real life delivery experience and an unbiased view…and surely that can only increase delivery success!!

If you’d like to talk about any of this further, then feel free to drop me a line at