Introduction to the interviewee:
Lindsay Scott is Director at PMO Learning - The Learning Company for PMO Professionals, founder of the House of PMO, and Co-Editor of Handbook of People in Project Management.
Q1. Why did you found the House of PMO?
Lindsay Scott: Creating the House of PMO has been a 20-year journey really. We had been a part of a voluntary group of individuals who ran an independent group over ten years called the PPSOSIG (Programme and Project Support Office Specialist Interest Group) before it became part of the Association for Project Management (APM) in 2011. We left soon afterwards because we wanted more freedom to choose how we could bring PMO professionals together and started the PMO Flashmob soon after. PMO Flashmob is a networking and learning group, with informal, social events and the more educational and corporate sessions which have enabled us to produce insightful industry reports over the last seven years. We also created the PMO Conference (an annual event in London, UK) which is the largest event outside of the United States dedicated to PMO professionals. It was a natural progression to bring together these individual parts and create one place where PMO professionals can come together. What better place to bring people together than a House of PMO?
Q2. In your view, what is the importance of setting up a PMO in an organization? Do you believe that every organization should have a PMO?
Lindsay Scott: All organizations have been impacted in the last 12 months and most have had to instigate some kind of change. Each organisation should seriously consider implementing a PMO in their organisation if they’re serious about delivering change through programmes and projects. The more projects and programmes an organisation has, the greater the need to not only understand which work is needed to meet strategic objectives (a portfolio management approach) but also how the work will be delivered (robust programme and project management tools, techniques and approaches etc.). A PMO is a function that helps to support the organisation in delivering change through enabling effective decision-making; good governance processes and lots of support through the different PMO services carefully selected to meet the individual needs of the organization. If a PMO finds itself continuously having to justify its existence, the core purpose and mandate of the PMO is not aligned to what senior executives and stakeholders need, a refresh and refocus is required to strengthen support.
Q3. What are the main roles of a perfect PMO?
Lindsay Scott: A perfect PMO is one that is perfect for a particular organisation – based on the types and numbers of portfolio, programmes and projects they are delivering. There are many roles within the PMO profession, including those that support individual projects by providing an administrative service such as meeting support, updating logs and registers and producing reports (PMO Administrators). There are PMO Analysts who provide a much more analytical and decision-support role across portfolios, programmes and projects – or create and implement individual services for the departmental or organisation-wide PMO. PMO Managers can be in place at a project, programme or portfolio office level and be responsible for designing, setting up, running and closing down PMOs. PMO Managers manage the PMO whilst Project Managers manage the project. Finally, at a senior level, the PMO Director takes control of the organisation-wide PMOs, developing organization-wide vision, strategy and overall design of the PMO provision in the organisation.
Those are the main roles; however, there are a myriad of specialist roles to be found within a PMO depending on the PMO services required such as specialists in finance, benefits management, change and planning.
Q4. What are the top competencies of PMO managers?
Lindsay Scott: In line with the new PMO Competency Framework there are between nine and 24 difference competences which PMO Managers should be competent in. There are competences aligned with the delivery support of projects, programmes and projects, such as benefits management, financial management, change management and planning. There is also a competence aligned with setting up and running PMOs. Finally, there are competences which align with enabling a delivery organization and providing an environment for projects to succeed, such as capability development, delivery tools and PPM tools.
Which competences are required for each PMO Manager will depend heavily on the type of PMO they are managing and the type of delivery organization it supports.
Q5. Based on your observation, what mistakes are common in PMO practice?
Lindsay Scott: Something which is seen frequently when a PMO is set up for the first time is often the person that is setting it up is the one to determine what the PMO is going to do and what services it will offer. It needs a wider range of stakeholders to really determine what will work for the organisation and not just one view of the person who will implement it.
We often see further down the line that the PMO does not have the support it needs as a result of this lack of initial engagement, or is providing services which are not needed. A clear objective is needed, one which meets the requirements of various stakeholders and it needs senior executive support, someone who has the authority to own the mandate for the PMO.
Q6. What metrics shall we use to measure the success of a PMO?
Lindsay Scott: In a recent PMO Flashmob report “Inside PMO: KPIs, Metrics and Measures” (https://pmoflashmob.org/inside-pmo-metrics-measures/), it highlights the difference between measures for successful programme and project management delivery and measures that show the success of a PMO. There is often confusion around the two.
There are many different areas where the PMO can be measured such as service levels, customer satisfaction, utilization and process compliance. The one which we like is, “How much has the PMO solved the problem it was set up to solve?” It ties back to a clear objective in setting one up in the first place and looks at the impact the PMO has had.
Q7. PMO Competency Framework is the first-ever book about PMO competences. Why do you think of publishing such a book? What is the purpose of the book? Would you please introduce the main contents of the book?
Lindsay Scott: The PMO Competency Framework
is has taken three years to create and it is mainly driven by the fact that competency frameworks provide enormous value to people in their careers generally and we wanted PMO professionals to have that available for their careers.
Its purpose is to allow PMO professionals to assess themselves against a standard and specific PMO roles in order to identify their knowledge, skills and behaviours required to be competent in their role. From a purely development angle, it enables PMO professionals to identify skills gaps and address those through learning and professional development. A competency framework is also useful when looking to move up the career path, understanding what is needed to perform that level of role and planning the steps to get there.
The PMO Competency Framework
covers the four main role profiles (PMO Administrator, PMO Analyst, PMO Managers, PMO Director) found in PMO and the knowledge, skills and behaviours required to perform competently in a PMO role. It covers the four different contexts of PMO – project, programme, portfolio and centre of excellence and the four different levels of proficiency: Foundation, Intermediate, Advanced and Expert levels. It also contains the self-assessments to enable PMO professionals to complete their assessments.
Q8. There will be a certification by APMG based on the PMO Competency Framework, right? Will the certification exam-based?
Lindsay Scott: Yes, that’s correct and it will be exam-based. There will be four levels of certifications available, being released throughout 2021. All four are based on the role profiles found within the Competency Framework. These are: House of PMO - Essentials for PMO Administrators; House of PMO - Essentials for PMO Analysts; House of PMO - Essentials for PMO Managers; House of PMO - Essentials for PMO Directors.
Q9. As far as you can see, what should an Agile PMO look like?
Lindsay Scott: Over the last few years we have seen the conversations around Agile and PMO move from “how to support Agile-led projects”, to “how to support both traditional and Agile led projects (hybrid)” and finally “how to support Agile at scale in an organisation (agile portfolio management)”. All three of those scenarios still exist in organizations today and the PMO is responding to what the individual needs of the organisation are. There are no definitive with how an Agile PMO should look and the services it should offer, it all depends on what the organization needs and the ability of the PMO to respond to that.
Q10. What are the questions that you are frequently asked in PMO training?
Lindsay Scott: The one we get asked the most is which training to do. There are lots of different options for PMO professionals which range from PMO specific training such as P3O and the new House of PMO Essentials. There is training based on the different contexts – portfolio management, programme management and project management. There are practical courses such as using PPM tools or people-based training such as leadership skills. There are different delivery methods to consider such as Agile and also business management skills such as finance and strategy. It’s easy to see why people need help in deciding what to do – the PMO Competency Framework goes some way to helping professionals choose which development to pursue based on their own self-assessment and the evident skills gaps which the assessment will uncover.
Q11. I noticed that you majored in psychology in college. Why did you choose PMO as your career? How does psychology learning help you in PMO work?
Lindsay Scott: I didn’t, but PMO chose me! I was lucky enough to gain a position in a project management department at Hewlett Packard soon after graduation. I knew nothing about project management initially but quickly learnt that successful projects are all about people working together, which fits perfectly with my education in psychology. I still find it fascinating today, how different strands of psychology (such as neuro, organizational and social) feature heavily in project delivery. I’ve often thought how useful some psychology education would be for anyone working in project management because ultimately it’s about bringing people together to work towards a common goal. People are at the heart of projects.
Q12. As you said, people are at the heart of projects. In fact, you’ve co-edited a book titled Handbook of People in Project Management on this topic. As PMO professionals, would you please offer some tips on how to manage people in projects?
Lindsay Scott: The key word for what the PMO does within an organization is support.
The PMO is there to support projects and by proxy the people working within projects – but they are not directly responsible for leading or managing the people in projects.
The work of the PMO is focused on ensuring the people can get on and perform in their roles. The PMO is there to remove blockers and that can take many different shapes – from facilitating a workshop so the team members can focus on collaborating and finding the solutions to their challenges. The PMO can flex and adapt processes and methods which slow down delivery; they can coach or mentor others in areas of processes and procedures; conduct training sessions or provide scrutiny and challenge in the decision-making process.