Infrastructure and PMO

A few years ago, when the APM were about to refresh their Body of Knowledge (6th Edition), the editors asked the Special Interest Group on PMO (now part of the APM) to assist with the re-writing of the sections dealing with PMO.  It ended badly, with the contribution from practitioners mostly ignored.  This was not an isolated incident: in 2010, a senior APM manager felt the need to start a thread in the APM blog titled: "Why the APM doesn’t hate PMOs"

What is the disagreement between PMO partitioners and the PM hierarchy about?  In a nutshell, traditional PMs see the PMO as part of the infrastructre of project management, alongside tools.  In effect, they see the PMO as an admin function, and the Body of Knowledge does not accord PMO any status as a discipline in its own right.

In contrast, one of the main themes of the P3O Handbook and associated training (aligned to the Cabinet Office's PRINCE2, MSP, and M_o_R), is that admin has nothing to do with PMO and should be kept off any PMO charter and list of services.

Not much common ground there.  However, appearances are deceptive.  We are all good friends, really. But there is the little matter of 'admin' that won't go away.  In a limited sense what the APM's Body of Knowledge maintains is true: 

"Routine administration is required on all projects, programmes and portfolios. On small projects this may be performed by the project manager, but on medium to large projects and all programmes and portfolios, a P3 manager needs support in handling day-to-day administration."

What is very confused in the APM's approach is the fragmentation of Change Governance that is evident in the Body of Knowledge, and the lack of understanding of the project environment and the project manager's role within it.  On the other hand, the insistence of P3O that admin has no place in PMO denies the value and the criticality of professional organisation and administration to good governance.  The P3O view goes too far.

The most valuable approach includes various types of admin in the list of services of a PMO. However, the reason why certain 'admin' services are included and not others needs to be very clear. It needs to be evident that the services chosen add value by being within the PMO, whereas others should be left in the general organisational environment where these services can be used by projects and operational teams alike.  Where to draw the line is part of the assessment of the project environment in each particular organisation, and the skill of senior PMO Leads.

The fact is that PMO, in the shape that adds value to an organisation, is not an admin function.  The debate about admin in projects generates a lot of heat and little light.  The debate should be focused on how to implement optimal Change Governance and which teams are best placed to manage each element of it.  The role of the PMO would fall naturally out of that discussion and it would help to eliminate many other superfluous functions and roles that have grown up in organisations to compensate for the lack of clarity about the project environment.


Lain Burgos-LoveceComment