What does it REALLY mean & how can the PMO achieve it?
The truth is, it’s not up to the PMO to determine whether it is adding value or not – that decision is made by its customers. Also, the perceived value added will be different depending on the operational context of that PMO i.e. what the “P” stands for. A good starting point is to understand who those customers actually are & what kind of PMO they want.
How do you know if your customers are getting what they want, if you don’t know who they are?
At Portfolio level, the customer will usually be the organisation in which the PMO operates; this could be a global or country-specific operation, but it will be the whole organisation. The interests of that organisation will usually be represented by a management board of CXOs, and that is the level at which the PMO should measure its impact in terms of adding value.
At Programme and Project level, the PMO’s customer is usually the business area that stands to benefit most from the successful delivery of those projects & programmes. Which business area this is should be clear by looking at which area the Sponsor represents.
Confusion often occurs when the PMO tries to be too many things to too many people; the operational context becomes blurred.
How do you know if your customers are getting what they want, unless you ask them?
This is where the PMO could find some business analysis skills very handy.
The following are based on the defined Knowledge Areas within the BABOK® Guide (courtesy of the IIBA UK); underpinning each of these Knowledge Areas are Tasks, which include a list of relevant techniques; some are specific to the task whereas others are more general.
In this context the solution would be the services that the PMO offers:
- Planning & monitoring
How to determine the activities necessary to complete the analysis, such as identifying stakeholders, selecting techniques, managing requirements, and assessing progress.
How to work with stakeholders to identify and understand their needs, concerns and their working environment.
- Requirements management & communication
How to manage conflicts, issues and changes so that agreement is maintained on solution scope, on how requirements are communicated to stakeholders, and how knowledge will be maintained for future use.
- Enterprise analysis
How business needs are identified, the definitions refined and clarified, and feasible solution scopes defined that can be implemented by the business.
- Requirements analysis
How solution requirements are prioritised and progressively elaborated to enable the implementation of a solution that meets the needs of stakeholders and the organisation.
- Solution assessment & validation
How proposed solutions are assessed to determine the best fit for business needs, with gaps and shortcomings identified and necessary workarounds or changes determined; also how the performance and effectiveness of solutions deployed are assessed against how well they meet the business needs.
- Underlying competencies
The behaviours, knowledge and other characteristics which support effective performance.
How do you know if your customers are still getting what they want?
The PMO helps an organisation or business area to:
- identify what real value a project or programme will bring
- articulate how benefits will be measured & realised
- monitor the progress of delivery against a defined set of KPIs
By adopting a similar approach to identifying the value, articulating the benefits & monitoring the progress of its own service offering, the PMO should be able to implement a programme of continuous improvement & re-assess that service offering on a regular basis. This approach should also enable the PMO to highlight any discrepancies between what the customer wants & what they actually need.
The ability to reflect the changing priorities of the customer is critical for the ongoing success of the PMO; those that are not prepared to evolve their services will place themselves at risk of redundancy as the perception of the value they add diminishes.
A PMO that actively seeks feedback on a regular basis from its customers regarding the services offered is arguably already a long way towards adding value.