Why Don’t PMOs Get Piloted? The Beta PMO

It’s the AIPMO IPMO-Expert residential course coming up in June and it got me flicking through my own course notes to pull out a fascinating insight or two to give people an idea about what it’s like to do the Expert course.

I’m spoilt for choice because there are so many to pick from but I’ve opted for the module which focuses on Assessing the Need, Building and/or Extending Existing PMOs. A big subject you’ll agree, it covers things like:

  1. The direct and indirect business needs for the PMO
  2. Benchmarking and creating a sense of urgency
  3. Identification of existing PMOs and potential PMO needs
  4. Evaluating existing and new PMO opportunities within an organisational context
  5. Strategising how the PMO will best support organisational needs
  6. Building the PMO business case
  7. Design, pilot and implementation of the PMO/s
  8. Defining metrics and tools
  9. Planning for quality
  10. Leveraging organisation process assets.

One of the areas I wanted to focus on was something that everyone on the course had a good discussion about – why don’t we see PMOs being piloted? Why does it always seem to be a rush from a PMO being touted as a need to people being hired and a PMO pushed out the door and ready to operate?

There isn’t just one answer.

Is it a case of the business has identified a need so let’s just get on and do it? Is it a cash issue? A timing issue? We don’t have the cash or time to stand about, we need to see some kind of positive outcome straightaway.

Perhaps its a case of using a pre-existing best practice approach to PMO set up and just going with that because, well, it’s best practice so it’ll be OK.

Maybe it doesn’t even figure at all – why not just get on and do it and we’ll change things later if they’re not working.

For anyone who has worked in PMO management for a while, you’ll know how hard it can be to change people’s negative feelings about bad PMOs, so why not look at the pilot concept if it means a more managed introduction can be devised?

The AIPMO IPMO-Expert level course goes into detail about the design of the PMO first – the different inputs that are required throughout including the design concepts of different types of PMOs; the different roles the PMO offers; the governance models needed to support the objectives of the PMO; sizing options; system dynamics in modelling; success factors. . . the list goes on. Very comprehensive! The Expert level course is aimed at those PMO Managers and Directors that are responsible for overseeing multiple PMOs within the business – also known as Enterprise PMOs.

After the design phase, it’s the pilot.

The Piloted PMO

The idea of a pilot is a ‘small scale preliminary study conducted to evaluate the feasibility, time, cost, adverse elements and effect size to improve upon the study design before a full-scale implementation’.

It’s also a good idea due to the often politically sensitive nature of introducing a new PMO into an organisation – based on what that new PMO’s objectives are.

While we often don’t see new PMOs being piloted what we do see more of is new services or improvements on existing services being piloted.

On the course we looked at the measures of success for a newly piloted PMO, that was after we all agreed that we like the sound of a ‘Beta PMO’ instead of a pilot:

The PMO Pilot – Measures of Success

The pilot of a new PMO or service introduction should be time bound to prove their design, governance structure and services. Pilots are generally between two weeks to three months – depending on several factors, an obvious one would be incorporating several reporting cycles for example. For a temporary PMO, this is considered to be around 10% of the length of the project/programme that the PMO is being implemented to support (a figure that is found in P3O).

To move on to the implementation phase, the pilot success criteria is defined and agreed at the beginning and linked to the PMO business case.

To measure the success of the pilot, examples include;

  • Customer satisfaction – senior management, project managers, teams etc
  • People trained in and using project methodologies including the PMO supporting processes
  • Project management processes, tools, templates are being used by the teams
  • PMO milestones and project milestones are being met
  • Assessment of PMO and project maturity is higher than at the start
  • Constantly changing factors are being identified and managing within the PMO

Throughout the pilot, lessons are being captured and being incorporated into the full version of the PMO. Cue, the course attendees looked at the Deming Cycle. A simple process that should be embedded into the psyche of any PMO team member. Plan-Do-Check-Act (Figure 1) before moving onto the full-scale roll out of the new PMO and its services.

The AIPMO IPMO-Expert course is full of different models and techniques which are designed to be utilised in the development of your PMO. The course includes a case study throughout which means these approaches are practised during the week of the course.

If you’re looking for an advanced course in PMO Management and Directorship, this is the one for you to check out. [Find out more about the AIPMO IPMO-Expert course]

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