Creating a business focused PMO





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There is something gratifying in being able to create order from a previously erratic project management landscape. In 2009 I was part of a team which was specifically set up as a PMO in response to a business problem. It was exciting to be part of a developing profession in the organisation, and by the time I left change was better controlled and implemented. Equally, project managers had raised their profile as skilled professionals and we were beginning to see positive effects on our budget and resources.

In some circles PMOs have had a bad press. They have been perceived as collators of information, constrained by cumbersome reporting processes and detached from the business as usual activities. In striving to offer value to the organisation, the PMO can struggle to provide meaningful information to the top team and or influence positive change in the business. In essence the PMO can find itself operating in a project management and project management theory comfort zone, but in doing so is failing to maximise its true value by not driving the safe delivery of change into the business.

As a regulator, Ofgem needs to direct its resources and activities to provide the best outcomes for consumers. We need to be agile, prioritising and responding to new requirements quickly, while remaining focused on delivering our core business activities in the most effective way. Through publishing our Forward Work Programme we outline our strategic outputs, the initiatives we think will make the greatest difference to consumers in the coming financial year and associated deliverables and KPIs. Our PMO has responsibility for authorship of the Forward Work Programme, and this held the key to our new approach - we needed to stop looking at individual projects and focus on the organisation as a whole.

Our new team has the Forward Work Programme at its heart. Our portfolio function is at the centre of the team, complemented by a BAU focused operational performance team and a delivery and assurance focused project management practice. Collectively we feel responsible for the safe and effective delivery of our organisational commitments and the team structure enables us to keep each other true by balancing attention on business change and operations.

There is a lot of groundwork to be done, mapping our business processes, creating meaningful performance measures and building a skilled and vibrant PPM community. But with a fresh look on the organisational world we are in a strong position to achieve real, lasting success.

If we focus on the business, we will see changes at every level. We will provide the tools and information the project managers need to deliver Ofgem projects in an Ofgem context. Our project managers will focus on why we are embedding these changes into the organisation, and will recognise the vital contribution of colleagues in the business who will turn those changes into operations. We must also consider our role from the perspective of our Board, the CEO and senior leaders, anticipating their needs and providing meaningful and relevant insights that will allow them to take the organisation forward.

Changing our approach will take time, but we have started with a few simple things. To focus conversations, everyone in the team has their own bound copy of the FWP and uses it to add context when engaging with the business. We have a "P word challenge", to reduce our reliance on project management terminology and we are consciously looking for ways to communicate that will best resonate with our colleagues in the business.


I'm feeling very positive about the changes we are making and the impact our team will have on the organisation in the year ahead. Above all, I'm looking forward to seeing the impact on the team itself, after all, they are our future leaders and one day may rely on the insight provided by their own PMO.

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Julie Black is Associate Director at Project Management Group, and kindly provided this article in July 2015.

Julie Black, Ofgem