On a grey Wednesday morning, two intrepid Gate One Consultants prepared themselves for what was sure to be an insightful and unusual day.

This was the ‘PMO Global Awards’: a veritable ‘World Cup’ of project management, which was, for some reason, Star Wars themed. Amongst the X-wing fighters, spaceships and full-sized ‘Jabba the Hut’ replicas were PMO professionals from around the world representing the full spectrum of industries, each with their own stories to tell about their journeys in setting up and running PMO offices.

At Gate One, we understand that delivering successful change takes more than just an effective PMO, but, without it, leaders of transformational change programmes can easily be left in the dark and out of control. With this in mind, we have distilled the key lessons from the day. These lessons should be useful for any leader, regardless of industry alignment and current level of PMO maturity. Or previous world-cup wins for that matter.

Below is a cross-section of some of the most interesting case studies from the day, the challenges they faced, the lessons they learned and the key ‘pearl of wisdom’ from each.

The range of sectors and challenges shown here is a testament to both the diversity of the day and to the fact that, in our view, there is a small number of core PMO principles which can be applied fruitfully to tackle complex business challenges.

The Global Sports Event Organiser

PMO challenge

  • Extreme programme complexities
  • Significant levels of programme interdependencies
  • Unmovable programme end date

Biggest lessons to date

  • Develop a single source of the truth from the outset
  • Identify and review knowledge gaps early and often
  • Review and act on lessons learnt monthly
  • Build your team with established and trusted individuals
  • Gain the full trust and respect of your stakeholders
  • Use defined language for progress reporting and be highly visual

Pearl of wisdom

“Interview your Project Managers personally. They are critical to the success of your legacy.”

The Sustainable Energy Regulator

PMO challenge

  • Misunderstood role and responsibility of the PMO
  • Lack of executive buy-in
  • Lack of proven delivery track record

Biggest lessons to date

  • Gain greater traction with incremental process adjustments
  • Know your audience and how they digest information
  • Know precisely what you need to report on before you implement a tool
  • Consistently review available data and develop a plan to improve it
  • Recognise capability gaps and bring in appropriate specialists if required
  • Ensure offline processes are correct before moving to online tools

Pearl of wisdom

“Without traceability, everything is considered a success.”

THE LOCAL
CITY COUNCIL

PMO challenge

  • Funding and resource are consistently limited across programmes
  • Programme prioritisation is often driven purely by potential cost savings
  • Public-facing programmes are often emotionally loaded

Biggest lessons to date

  • Develop and communicate the PMO value proposition and service offering
  • Invest time in building relevant knowledge and subject matter understanding
  • Celebrate your successes along the way
  • Continuously assess existing ways of working and identify ways to improve
  • Develop a prioritisation method that aligns to the organisation strategy

Pearl of wisdom

“Reflect on how you can increase your positive influence and impact on your stakeholders.”

THE INTERNATIONAL INVESTMENT COMPANY

PMO challenge

  • Fluctuating executive buy-in
  • Resistance to process changes
  • PMO milestones out of sync with wider business milestones

Biggest lessons to date

  • Regularly reassess process and performance and adjust accordingly
  • Establish a direct reporting line from the PMO to ExCo
  • Ensure that the PMO is filled with empowered individuals
  • Eliminate traditional reporting, and build self-serve dashboards
  • Recognise that the biggest blockers to progress will often be culturally driven

Pearl of wisdom

“Anything that falls outside of the established reporting system does not count.”

The Global Sports Event Organiser

PMO challenge

  • Extreme programme complexities
  • Significant levels of programme interdependencies
  • Unmovable programme end date

Biggest lessons to date

  • Develop a single source of the truth from the outset
  • Identify and review knowledge gaps early and often
  • Review and act on lessons learnt monthly
  • Build your team with established and trusted individuals
  • Gain the full trust and respect of your stakeholders
  • Use defined language for progress reporting and be highly visual

Pearl of wisdom

“Interview your Project Managers personally. They are critical to the success of your legacy.”

The Sustainable Energy Regulator

PMO challenge

  • Misunderstood role and responsibility of the PMO
  • Lack of executive buy-in
  • Lack of proven delivery track record

Biggest lessons to date

  • Gain greater traction with incremental process adjustments
  • Know your audience and how they digest information
  • Know precisely what you need to report on before you implement a tool
  • Consistently review available data and develop a plan to improve it
  • Recognise capability gaps and bring in appropriate specialists if required
  • Ensure offline processes are correct before moving to online tools

Pearl of wisdom

“Without traceability, everything is considered a success.”

THE LOCAL
CITY COUNCIL

PMO challenge

  • Funding and resource are consistently limited across programmes
  • Programme prioritisation is often driven purely by potential cost savings
  • Public-facing programmes are often emotionally loaded

Biggest lessons to date

  • Develop and communicate the PMO value proposition and service offering
  • Invest time in building relevant knowledge and subject matter understanding
  • Celebrate your successes along the way
  • Continuously assess existing ways of working and identify ways to improve
  • Develop a prioritisation method that aligns to the organisation strategy

Pearl of wisdom

“Reflect on how you can increase your positive influence and impact on your stakeholders.”

THE INTERNATIONAL INVESTMENT COMPANY

PMO challenge

  • Fluctuating executive buy-in
  • Resistance to process changes
  • PMO milestones out of sync with wider business milestones

Biggest lessons to date

  • Regularly reassess process and performance and adjust accordingly
  • Establish a direct reporting line from the PMO to ExCo
  • Ensure that the PMO is filled with empowered individuals
  • Eliminate traditional reporting, and build self-serve dashboards
  • Recognise that the biggest blockers to progress will often be culturally driven

Pearl of wisdom

“Anything that falls outside of the established reporting system does not count.”

Looking across the examples of established PMOs we saw on the day, we noticed that all of them had a number of common ingredients behind their team’s success.

  • Clearly defined roles and responsibilities.
  • Established, high-value catalogue of services.
  • Reputation within the business as being a critical element to delivering change.
  • Committed and available leadership sponsors.
  • Regular self-assessments of the PMOs maturity levels.
  • Defined strategy and an agreed PMO development roadmap.
  • Leveraged and applied technology only where there is a clear value-add.
  • A culture of effective project management and a focus on mentoring, developing and empowering individuals.

When embarking on ambitious change programmes, an effective PMO, while not a ‘silver bullet’, is an essential tool for leadership to be able to oversee, control and drive successful change.

Gate One has helped clients to set up world-class PMO functions and deliver change that counts in sectors as diverse as Pharmaceuticals, Retail, Travel & Tourism, Financial Services, Health and Government, to name just a few. Don’t hesitate to contact myself or the team if you would like to find out more about how we can help.

ALEX JEWKES | SENIOR CONSULTANT

Alex is experienced in delivering digital transformation programmes and business change projects. He is currently supporting a major European packaging firm with a customer segmentation project. Alex is also involved in supporting the growth of our digital proposition and capabilities in the travel and transport sector while supporting an incubator business concept.

JAMES BREWIN | SENIOR CONSULTANT

James is a Senior Consultant with extensive experience in major transformation programmes across the Government, Retail, Health & Financial Services sectors. He is skilled in project and programme management, digital strategy and delivery, business case development and operating model design.