Seven tips for PMO-as-a-Service (PMOaaS) using a co-sourcing model

In Part 2 of a discussion series, Chris Greenway offers practical advice for delivering a successful PMO engagement.

Innovation is a strange thing. It does not always mean developing something completely new, sometimes it is about changing the way we fundamentally do things.

In part one of this series (Read: Is PMO-as-a-Service the solution to rising failure rates?) I suggested a change of focus for the Project Management Office (PMO) as a solution to the rising PMO failure rate. The suggestion of co-sourcing allows the Client and Service provider to collaborate to develop the PMO whilst not interfering with the base objectives of the business.

There is no ‘silver bullet’ when it comes to embedding a PMO into an organisation. In fact, the issues faced by PMO’s are the same issues for any cultural or process organisational change. What you can do is recognise the key areas which allow success and manage them. The co-sourcing service model is simply a tool which will assist in focusing on these areas.

The Seven Wonders of the Organisational Change World

For millennia, the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World have inspired people as illustrative works of some of the greatest civilizations. In terms of imaginative design, sophisticated construction and industrial genius, they are a symbol of man reaching beyond what was perceived as achievable. They continue to inspire and bring together people in a mutual journey of innovative extremes and creativity.

So what can we learn from the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World?

They were all driven by great leadership; They all had dedicated resources with a self-interest (granted, in some cases this was to avoid whipping or death); They used the appropriate tools to achieve their goal; They developed the skills required to complete the task; They adjust and adapted to change during their development; They had people who understood there role in development and what they were trying to achieve; and They understood the value they were delivering for the greater good.

Applying this thinking to PMOaaS and co-sourcing

The following seven items are key to any change, but I have paid particular focus on how to deliver a successful PMO engagement. In relation to my previous thinking on PMO-as-a-Service, I will identify where the co-sourcing model will assist in addressing these items.

1. Get Executive Commitment

Secure executive buy-in so the PMO’s value is understood by the whole organisation. A successful PMO implementation needs to have executive commitment, support and involvement. Senior management cannot be in every meeting, but they do need to empower the PMO manager to make decisions as well as provide political and logistical support to the PMO. The co-source model helps this process, in identifying and engaging a service provider to partner with, through a procurement process that will require executive sign off. The key result should be an executive champion who will not only communicate the mission, but will work to gain engagement from stakeholders.

KEY MESSAGE – Delivery of responsibility, governance and oversight

2. Support the Business

Err on the side of collaboration, over policing, to boost support and longevity. In collaboration, the client and the service provider need to give project management guidance and understanding to resources in business areas. Provide an advisory service through internal consulting and mentoring, advising employees about best practices. Portfolio management – assist in managing and controlling resources across the portfolio and identifying in advance resource needs, shortages and allocation of resources. The PMO should encourage collaboration between project professionals and functional departments.

KEY MESSAGE – Viewed as supporting the business and IT strategy

3. Implement Project Management Information Systems (PMIS)

The key here is to get the service provider to work with the client’s experienced project managers to determine systems. A key principle is to ‘Keep it Simple’. Too often tools fall over if they are over-complicated, too burdensome or unnecessary. Focus on tools that are scalable and will help project managers become more efficient, not ones that will make their jobs more difficult. A PMIS should focus on the project controls through automation wherever possible, minimising the necessary paperwork and bureaucracy.

KEY MESSAGE – Established methodologies and framework for project management with a key focus on scalable and minimalistic overhead

4. Assist Inexperienced Project Managers

Provide processes, coaching and mentoring to inexperienced project managers. They're the ones who need help. Experienced project managers know from experience what needs to be done and to what extent (the way of getting things done). They also know where they can cut corners. Place inexperienced project managers under an experienced project manager. Let them do the busy work for the experienced project manager (for example: manage the project schedule, change management process, etc.). This will be a win-win for both project managers. The experienced project manager will free up time to focus on high-value activities. The inexperienced project manager will learn by watching the experienced project manager in action. Set-up a peer review process whereby the experienced project managers conduct project mentor reviews on the inexperienced project managers. Most experienced project managers would be happy to mentor the rookies. Use service provider expertise to provide training to the project managers or encourage the experienced project managers to conduct the training programs.

KEY MESSAGE – Develop your capability to allow an outward focus on business needs, not inward focus on processes

5. Promote Flexibility and Adaptability

PMOs vary by organisation, but establishing the necessary processes and culture does not require starting from scratch each time. The strength of the co-source model means quick adaption, knowing that “what works at one company does not necessarily work at other companies”. Implementing a successful PMO is not an exact science. The PMO manager needs to constantly review what is working and what is not working. Each organisation has unique drivers, personalities and pain points. The people, process and tools that the PMO manager puts into place need to reflect the motivations of the key stakeholders and the culture of the organisation. The co-sourcing model helps deal with the past within your organisation through the involvement of your organisations resources and also helps learn from the past through the service providers experience in PMO implementations.

KEY MESSAGE – Practice good relationship management, from executive sponsorship to project management, to allow for an adaptable organisation

6. Ensure the PMO is clearly understood

Ensure every member of the PMO team understands his or her individual value and the value of the PMO. The value and purpose of the PMO needs to be well understood by the business (i.e. do those outside the PMO know its purpose?). A clear goal should be for recognition of expertise. The project professionals working with the PMO need to have a strategy to improve the level of respect that project management receives within the organisation. This needs to be part of the focus of supporting the business and receiving executive support. The joint management through co-sourcing helps to define the message and deliver it in an appropriate method.

KEY MESSAGE – Well-defined and achievable objectives, actively communicated

7. Add Value

A PMO needs to be seen as adding value to an organisation, if it does not, the systems and processes it implements will be ignored, altered and its use will diminish over time. An executive will not support a PMO which is ineffective, therefore marketing your PMO, involving the staff and focusing on the improvements to their work day is key. I am not talking about Benefit Realisation, I am talking about what I call Value Realisation. This is more subjective and generally based on perception (not necessarily reality). The key is to not set yourself up for failure when setting goals and targets (I have seen this done many times). The key is to make sure you set goals which you know you will achieve and involve your staff to propagate the successes.

KEY MESSAGE – Demonstrate the realisation of value

About the Author

Chris Greenway is a Senior Consultant at CSC Consulting with extensive experience, predominantly in the IT industry.

His career started in Sport and Event Management, including 6 years employment at the Australian Olympic Committee and selection onto the Sydney Olympic Team as an official.

He has in-depth knowledge of Project and Program Management including a Masters of Project Management, and experience with PMBoK®, PRINCE2® and MSP®.