The Program Management Office Advantage

Authors: Lia Tjahjana, Paul Dwyer and Mohsin Habib
Publisher: Amacom

PMO (Programme Management Office) is still relatively new in the field of programme and project management, a browse through the business books tell us that it’s an area which is still under represented. For people working within the field of PMO there has been a distinct lack of guidance and for some people they often feel like reluctant pioneers. We know that there is “no size fits all” for PMOs, there are no “off the shelf” templates for setting up a PMO and there are no right or wrong answers. The PMO professional knows they need to carry on learning and developing, watching and listening and using their skills, experiences and lessons learnt in the environment they work in. In 2008, the OGC launched the P3O (Portfolio, Programme and Project Offices) guidance which pulled together much of the information and knowledge that existed, both “out there” in the public domain and from seasoned professionals. A thorough guidance, it was well-received in the PMO community by the practitioners.

The Program Management Office Advantage is a new text which also brings something to the PMO table. Ideally it should be read alongside P3O if you’re a practitioner, or given to senior management if they prefer a business book that not only delivers an overview but also just enough depth to be useful in decision making.

The Program Management Office Advantage delivers nuggets that are thought-provoking and written specifically to “guide readers to find the answers”. Covering the overview of the PMO, in Chapter 1, which includes the definition, the justification and the role the PMO plays within the organisation. The scene is quickly set and fully understood from the clear and well articulated text, as well as the supporting case studies which run throughout the book centred on one organisation’s journey. Part 2 focuses on the core competences of the PMO and includes areas such as Customer Management, Vendor Management, Project Knowledge Management and Project Resource Management. The Customer Management section was of particular interest as it is an area which should receive a lot of focus (how many new and existing PMOs face customer resistance?). The chapter gives some food for thought, especially in customer service excellence. It certainly made me think about the “customers” of the PMO further and the types of relationships I would be looking to build as users of the PMO.

The terminology is a little off in places for a UK audience but don’t let that distract you: As you continue reading it becomes much easier to put it into your own context. The authors have also been careful not to cover certain project management topics in detail. For example, project scope, resource management, etc., have all been covered in other project management books. After reading a few chapters and thinking about certain aspects of what I’d just read, it did lead me to do a little research elsewhere (the Knowledge Management section was particularly of interest, just how do we gain use from lessons learnt?) And that’s what The Program Management Office Advantage does: it points you in the direction of what is important in PMOs and allows you to think about how you can apply them to your own situation.

Apart from the concepts there is also a whole host of practical advice and “how to” guides. There are example documents and checklists in areas such as project selection, quality audits, things to consider when thinking about a project management system, various ingredients to consider when implementing a PMO, example PMO chapter etc. The chapters continue by looking at the processes (selection, control, monitoring and audit) and the PMO as a business division (establishing a PMO, implementing a PMO, PMO leadership and careers in the PMO).

Compared to the P3O manual, the text flows easily and it is an easy to read and understand book. It covers pretty much the same areas as the P3O guidance but I preferred the case studies in The PMO Advantage (they felt much more in context with the text and helped drive some points home). There are a lot of new thoughts in PMO, too: I especially like the change management approach when setting up a PMO and the leadership style of the PMO Manager. Both are areas which are not covered in much depth in the P3O guidance. The PMO Advantage is also pretty much methodology independent (there are some mentions of PMI and OGC but not overly) and doesn’t rely on readers having PRINCE2 or MSP (the P3O guidance is very MSP heavy when describing how to set up a PMO). Currently priced at around £16, it’s also a book which I found provided value for money and should definitely be picked up by the PMO practitioner and added to their library.

Reviewed by Lindsay Scott of Arras People – December 2009

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