P3O®, From the Author

If you work in PMOs, it’s likely that you’ve heard of the AXELOS P3O Best Management Practice and certifications, and if you haven’t – you should have!

The P3O (that’s Portfolio, Programme and Project Offices) guide and associated Foundation and Practitioner certifications, are the most popular and widespread PMO certifications in the UK. The Foundation course is aimed at anyone working within a PMO and the Practitioner course is for PMO Managers, those setting up or re-energising a PMO.

I sat down with the Lead Author of the P3O 2nd Edition, Eileen Roden, who just happens to be one of the founders of PMO Learning.  I wanted to get her thoughts on P3O, from its original release to continued success today.

When did you first hear of P3O?

When the first P3O manual came out in 2008, I was Managing PMProfessional Learning Ltd, a project management training company.  As a PMO practitioner, I was delighted to hear of a certification specifically for PMO people.  I was in the first cohort of delegates to go through the training and I still have my original P3O Accredited Trainer Certificate, registration number 001 and PMProfessional Learning became the very first P3O Accredited Training Organisation.

What did you think of it?

In my time working in PMOs and then working as a consultant in PMOs, I had picked up lots of knowledge, lots of good ‘stuff’ but, it was like having accumulated lots of books with no shelves or library to put them on.

P3O reinforced lots of things from my experience, and provided a structured approach, models and frameworks that I could hook my knowledge onto that made it more usable, teachable and shareable.

While you obviously still teach P3O courses, do you still use what you learnt from the course in your day-to-day work as a trainer and consultant?

P3O still provides the basis for any discussion on what a PMO is (decision enabling and delivery support business model) and what it can and ‘should’ do, who it does it for and how its success will be measured. I use it at the start of every coaching session, every training need analysis assignment and every consultancy assignment.

What’s your favourite chapter?

My favourite, and undoubtedly the most useful part of the guidance has to be Appendix F – a comprehensive list of PMO functions and services. It’s a great starting point for understanding the potential breadth of scope PMOs can and do cover.  However, it does sometimes end up being a double-edged sword, as every now and then, somebody takes it as a list of services that every PMO needs to deliver.

Similarly Appendix A.  It has a role description for each of the 21 roles mentioned within the guidance and is a great tool for organisations to use when developing job descriptions and , it has such great tools for writing job roles and really aids recruitment.

How did you become the author of the second edition?

When the first edition was written by Sue Vowler, I was involved within the wider PMO community but really wasn’t taking any kind of leading role and I’d had limited contact with OGC (the government department who owned P3O prior to establishing AXELOS).  However, on the back of the first edition, I did much more work in the PMO/ P3O space, including volunteering to speak at conferences etc.  When the call for Authors came out for the second edition, I was keen to be involved in developing the guidance further.  I had to apply showing my relevant knowledge and experience (supported by references) along with the ability to write!  I was both excited and daunted by the opportunity.  Following on from Sue’s clear messages about PMO being strategically important to an organisation and just not an admin function; the second edition needed to align to the recently published Management of Portfolios (MoP®) guidance. (Credit also needs to go to the wide reference and review group who were great support and source for information).

You are still teaching P3O, now as the lead trainer for PMO Learning, how do you go about teaching the material?

I’ve never been a trainer who has ploughs through the material with focus on getting delegates through the exam.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m very conscious of the exam at the end of the course, but what I feel is really important is the for the delegates to understand the guidance in the context of their own organisation. It has to be real to them.

Whether it be at Foundation or Practioner level, remembering and understanding the textbook is much easier when you can frame it around what you already know.

PMOs have changed so much in the last 10 years, are the P3O courses still relevant?

One of the aspects I really like about P3O is that it provides the questions to ask to determine the design of the PMO/ P3O best fits your organisation.  These questions are all still relevant, though the end designs may be different to what we were seeing 3 – 5 years ago.

One other aspect of the guidance that we’re seeing much more of is the set up of P3Os, not just PMOs.  I think it’s often forgotten that a P3O is an infrastructure of PMOs, not a single one. So, we should be encouraging people to look at what their PMOs need to do across an entire organisation, whether that’s for agile projects, waterfall or bimodal.

And don’t forget that the book talks about establishing P3Os, but also reenergising them. It’s not a one-off process to set up a PMO and leave it. Your PMO needs to be revisited regularly to ensure its still delivering what your organisation needs.

Finally, what’s your favourite thing about teaching the P3O courses?

I still genuinely love teaching the P3O courses and whether I’m training Foundation or Practitioner students I can see them having the same ‘lightbulb’ moments that I had when I first took the course. It puts what they know intuitively into a structure so they can use it in the workplace.


Studying P3O courses

If you’d like to attend a P3O course taught by the author, you can see the full P3O Foundation and Practitioner course contents from the P3O certification page.

All our upcoming courses are available to book from our training schedule.


P3O® is a registered trademark of AXELOS


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