While there is no one size Portfolio, Programme, Project Management Office (PMO) model that fits all, any organisation can scale a PMO model to suit their unique business requirements based on budget, size and/or functions and services. At this point, let’s define a PMO as the decision enabling and business support model for all business change in an organisation through programmes, projects and other work. This may form a single or multiple, physical or virtual office structure, either permanent or temporary, providing a mix of centralised or localised functions and services. The PMO model should also seamlessly integrate with existing corporate governance arrangements and business support functions such as finance, HR and procurement. It exists to build capability and maturity improvements through a constant clear line of sight between strategic intent and the realisation of agreed outputs, capabilities, outcomes, benefits and/or value to the customer.
In this context, PMO Lite as the name suggests is a PMO model that best caters for those smaller organisations where the PMO functions and services are typically provisioned by a few people. In essence, PMO Lite is about delivering greater value to customers with fewer resources (e.g. people, assets, materials, funding and services). It does so by working smarter, providing continuous improvement services to those who direct, manage and deliver programmes, projects and other work. It is all about thinking outside the box, doing more with less and tailoring services around those “important” and “urgent” organisational needs.
There a number of considerations to factor when designing a PMO model, particularly PMO Lite. If scaling by budget, then the PMO should be based on a relative percentage of approximately 3 - 5% of the total capital investment, not annual investment. That is, the totality of an organisation’s investments (or segment thereof) of the transformational business changes (through programmes, projects and other work) required to achieve both strategic and emergent objectives. If direct capital investment is not an option, then the PMO budget could be alternatively sourced through cost recovery or levies paid by the programmes and projects.
Alternatively, if scaling by size, the PMO should be based on a relative percentage of the total average headcount (including both employees and any contractors) from concept development through to programme and project completion. If total headcount is constrained, then consider seconding resources from programmes and projects into the PMO on a rotational basis. A project manager could be invited to work within the PMO for a period of 3 - 6 months to deliver those important and urgent organisational needs. It also helps to build internal capability and a better understanding of what the PMO provides to the organisation as a collective.
Lastly, if by function and services, then the PMO should be based on actual business needs following a maturity assessment so any improvements are targeted particularly towards any quick wins. This should be driven by a bottom up approach where functions and services are continuously assessed in terms of customer demand and required effort per month.
How to make it happen?
When designing the portfolio planning support, delivery support and capability support functions, organisations must consider what is possible using existing people resources, skill sets and capacity as this will inform maximum service level expectations.
In supporting the main investment board, a PMO Lite model should create and maintain a holistic understanding of the portfolio. That is, totality of an organisation’s investment (or segment thereof) of the changes required to achieve the desired future state. This should include pertinent investment details about pipeline and inflight initiatives as well as existing services, assets and end-of-product life arrangements that ultimately informs a circular portfolio, program and project lifecycle. As maturity improves, then progress can be made towards achieving continuous portfolio management processes (of understand, categorise, prioritise, optimise and plan) that in turn develops into the portfolio plan for the immediate future.
In terms of delivery support, rather than establish an in-house pool of internal programme and project management resources, a PMO Lite model would explore contractual relationships with external human capital specialists whilst maintaining a sustainable budget position, operational stability and performance. Depending on the number of programmes and projects, facilitated start-ups and controlled closures maybe possible. Alternatively emphasis is placed on developing appropriate guidance materials to support these delivery support processes.
Lastly, any capability support services should focus on developing pragmatic programme and project management standards and templates. Quality assurance and advice will be possible but gateway assurance activities would need to be outsourced for it to be truly independent and objective.
Naturally, PMO-as-a-Service can be used to provide ‘on demand’ portfolio planning support, delivery support and capability support functions and services not currently resourced or provisioned within the organisation. This takes advantage of the vast number of project portfolio management (PPM) products and tools now provisioned over the internet rather than hosted locally or on-site within an organisation. With this approach, organisations require little upfront investment and support services can be scaled based on organisational needs and demand. It enables organisations to invest their finite capital into their area of expertise and to focus on what they do best to deliver ongoing value to their customers.
Typically within a mature and large organisation, the core functions of portfolio support, delivery support and capability support within a PMO are often established as separate organisational structures with its own people, practices and processes. However, for small organisations with a PMO of a few people, it is still worth taking the time to regularly assess what your PMO does, who values it, what is offered and what could be offered. Is there support and business justification to expand the functions and services? Can further investment be justified?
With PMO Lite, it’s important to develop a service charter along with your purpose (vision), noting who your customers are and how you serve them, and highlighting recent successes. Often people are not aware of the services you can or could provide and the skills you can bring to help them succeed. By regularly communicating what you do, you improve awareness and continue to build the credibility of PMO Lite. As demand for your services grow, you can take the opportunity to re-assess the PMO design model to best suit the organisational needs.
- Global Best Practice (2013) Management of Portfolios (MoP®). The Stationery Office, Norwich.
- Global Best Practice (2013) Portfolio, Programme and Project Offices (P3O®). The Stationery Office, Norwich.
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OGC Gateway Assurance Expert | Author | Agile, Project, Programme & Portfolio Management and Better Business Cases Specialist