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Any.Talk Podcast Episode 13 - PMOs

There are many benefits to having a Project Management Organisation (PMO) for a company including standardisation of procedures, handling HR & administrative duties, as well as giving project managers and the executive team more time. The PMO can also be a sounding board where people can feel more comfortable discussing their issues with middle management.

Are you looking to implement a PMO for your organisation? Get in contact with Anywise today and find out how we can implement a PMO for your business that isn't a 'one size fits all' approach.

Listen to the full podcast episode below, or stream it on Apple Music, Spotify or wherever else you listen to podcasts.

Full Transcript

Any.Talk Episode #13: PMOs

Annie-Mei: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Any.Talk. I’m Annie-Mei Forster and today on the show we’re going to be talking about Project Management Organisations. We’ve got four guests on the show today from Anywise. First we have Operations Support Officer Jodie Barker. Hello, Jodie.

Jodie: Hi, Annie-Mei.

Annie-Mei: Next we have Principal Consultant, Tom Dalton. Good morning, Tom.

Tom: Morning, Annie-Mei.

Annie-Mei: And Senior Consultant, Susan Kruk. Good morning, Susan.

Susan: Hi, Annie-Mei. How are you going?

Annie-Mei: Good, thank you. And finally, we have General Manager and podcast regular Steven Kouloumendas. Hello again, Steve.

Steve: Hello, Annie-Mei. Thanks for having me back.

Annie-Mei: Alright so I might start with you Jodie. Can you briefly tell us what a Project Management Organisation is?

Jodie: Basically a PMO, which is a Project Management Organisation, it can be an internal or external group that is in charge of running the processes of a project team. So not the actual project itself. So running the best practices for managing a project. Basically it’s a function within an organisation that defines the standards for that project.

Annie-Mei: Okay great. Tom, can you briefly talk about what the different types of PMOs are?

Tom: There’s three types of PMOs. There’s the controlling PMO. I can’t remember the three types… the dictator… Can anyone help me out here? There are three types.

Susan: A supporting PMO that provides general support. A controlling one, Tom that you mentioned that helps to rein in activities and processes. And a directive, which a PMO runs or owns the project.

Tom: Thanks, Suez. The PMO that we have within our organisation is probably within the first two categories.

Annie-Mei: Okay, great. Susan, can you talk about what the functions of a PMO are?

Susan: So being new to this, it’s been a bit of an eye-opener and it’s been rather exciting actually. But we get to be involved with the project without actually running the project. So we can make sure that projects are running in a repeatable, standardised way. Make sure they are running in a repeatable manner so that we can lift up a template on how a project can run and apply it to a new project as it is established within the business.

So we project support to those project leads and teams without making the decisions for the projects. Just offer the support and information, anything they might need to help streamline their project. We are a sounding board for project leads as well or anyone within the team. Where they might not be sure what the right path is to go down or where there could be some industry improvement. So we can just provide that assistance and support where required.

Annie-Mei: Okay, thanks Susan. Steve, since everyone moved to working remotely last year, how have you been able to support and assist everyone working remotely?

Steve: The crux of this question, I think most businesses faced this move away to try to operate their businesses in a digital, remote way. Including things like video conferencing suite of tools all the way to collaborative editing software. Running an office (what would normally be a physical office) running similar functions in a remote way. Some of the things we’ve talked about on other podcasts, things like having virtual coffees and the social opportunity to engage as well.

Part of that is what the PMO is responsible for as well, which is helping the business identify and understand the types of tools that it requires in order to enable that. So when I talk about the tools, for the most part it’s the digital tools. In today’s age, that’s things like collaborative editing software where right now we’re editing a document and I can see different people in a document in different locations.

So having that ability to be present all together as if we were in one office. All the way to things like digital whiteboarding tools and solutions, which the PMO’s instituted for us and has chosen different tools. There was one tool in particular we’ve started using and the PMO has driven which is called Miro. Think of those whiteboards that you’d find in people’s offices traditionally. It’s a digital version of that.

We’ve had a number of workshops that we’ve run where people have been distributed and they’ve all had that chance to participate and communicate very easily from different locations which has been really, really powerful. The PMO has been core to identifying that need and making sure that the business has the recommended tools and making sure everyone has the right tools to do their job as well.

Annie-Mei: Okay, thanks Steve. Jodie, why does a business need a PMO?

Jodie: Thanks, Annie-Mei. Look I believe a business would benefit from having a PMO. Whether it be a large business, a small business, someone just starting out. It helps to maintain a consistent approach to managing a project. Basically helps to oversee the administration of the project.

Susan: I was just going to say with the benefits of a PMO, I think it provides a good platform for teams to feel that they’ve got somewhere to go to without always having to go to senior management or exec level. It’s an opportunity to get that support from middle management or middle group or middleman. Not to say you can’t go to exec, but you’ve got a team set up that is designed to help you with anything that comes up.

So it’s a good sounding board. It’s a good opportunity for people to speak up. Some people go to the boss or go to exec, feel like they’re taking their time away from other things. Whereas, I have found people seem to be quite open to talk more freely with our PMO team and it’s quite refreshing that people don’t really hold back.

Tom: So from my perspective as a project manager and running a few projects within the company, I call on the PMO all the time. Even doing the project charter, I ask for their assistance. They organise the monthly meetings and reporting, they perform HR functions so the onboarding and offboarding of personnel from the projects, and also when we are selecting candidates. From a project perspective, I’ll go through the process of selecting the candidate, but once we’re happy with the candidate I’ll pass that onto the PMO to do all the administrative functions to get that candidate within the company and onto the project.

Susan: With the PMO, we might have a team that asks for particular support. The PMO can also realise what could be a standardised approach for everybody. So a team might come and ask for some help. The PMO assists and then as a PMO team, can see an efficiency there with what they’ve just assisted with and then apply it to the rest of the business with ease. We can just implement it, work together and roll it out across the rest of the business. So where we’re realising the efficiencies for everybody.

Steve: One of the things from my perspective as General Manager of Anywise and establishing our PMO. It’s been operational for six to nine months right now actually. We’re already seeing the benefits to our business and certainly across all elements of the business as well. Part of those benefits have been, as an executive group is time poor. Everyone is time poor trying to stay across different elements of the business and the institution of the PMO gives executives back time.

Why and how it does that, it does that by everything that was discussed before. It provides reliability, reliability in reporting, a way for the PMO to provide that coordination between projects and collaboration. You negate some of those risks you would traditionally see where projects would operate in silos and not realise they have a common element between two or three different large projects where they can help each other.

The PMO helps to synchronise all that and realise those synergies between projects, whilst also providing reliability and a trusted framework for the executive in understanding reporting in a reliable way, understanding that projects have been given that opportunity to bounce ideas off someone, be that sounding board. So giving your projects and your project managers the best chance of success.

That can only happen when you give them the right resources, the right tools. And in this case, the right framework being the PMO that can help facilitate anything from conversation about the strategy of a project, workshopping some of the risks or issues within a project, down to providing the resources, providing solutions to any resourcing gaps that a project may see.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to PMOS, but the PMO needs to be about what the business is trying to get out of it. And that’s a key way to look at it and to understand the benefits that the organisation, and not just the executive part of the organisation but different pockets of the organisation, are trying to achieve. Whether it’s delivering projects on time, support in resourcing because the project is overwhelmed. Or whether it’s providing that reliable reporting for the executives, providing full support to everyone and having those outcomes to realise all those benefits.

Annie-Mei: Okay, thanks Steve. So you just touched on what you’ve got out of the PMO from an executive level, would anyone else like to talk about what they’ve got out of working in a PMO?

Susan: I’ve actually found that being a relatively new full-timer within the business, jumping into the PMO has meant I’m able to get a better understanding of each of the teams, each of the projects, what they’re working on and understanding the business a bit better with what everyone is involved in. For me, personally it’s also helped build relationships with people.

You know you have your experience and your roles, but to look at these other teams and what they’re involved in. Whether it be digital, above the line or below the line type roles and projects, understanding what their challenges are, the types of stumbling blocks they’re coming across and it’s just opened my eyes up a little bit more to other areas of the business. It’s been really good.

Jodie: I’d agree there, Suez. I feel the same way. I have a better understanding, I believe, of the projects themselves. I’ve been part of the company on a part-time basis for a little bit longer but I wasn’t necessarily brought into the projects. I was doing admin for various other things and invoicing (that type of thing). But now I find it very beneficial knowing the ins and outs of what’s going on, as well as building relationships working remotely (and going through Covid last year, which everyone did), but you don’t always get to see each other face-to-face. It’s just helped me. I feel I’ve benefited from it.

Tom: And from my perspective it’s just given me more time. So I can concentrate on the project deliverables and the project itself. Worry less about all the administrative burden that’s behind it.

Annie-Mei: Okay, thanks everyone. How do you establish, or how does a business establish its own PMO?

Steve: Thank you, Annie-Mei. So establish your own PMO. I think what’s core to this question is always having a vision in mind of what you want the PMO to achieve. When Anywise established our own internal PMO, there were a couple of clear goals that we wanted to achieve. One of those was having a reliable means to check in with projects and make sure our project leads, project managers and project teams have what they require in order to do their jobs.

Have they got the right resources in order to deliver the project successfully? Do they have an understanding of some of the risks and issues? How do we establish a process that does that in a reliable way where we check in with the projects? Establish a monthly rhythm and heartbeat. And that can be monthly or whatever rhythm we decide that to be. Revisit some rather simple questions and have a chat.

So the first part of it was establishing and getting the right team members. So Susan and Jodie who are both on this call have established a PMO Office as a way to be that representation. We certainly communicated within the business the establishment of a PMO and defined its function. What is a PMO trying to achieve? Part of that started with a monthly check-in.

Then it evolved. We had a broad idea of what we wanted to achieve. We weren’t going to be rigid with the process of how we do it, but more going to start the conversation where we had a few questions and the PMO we’re having with projects started with – “How is your project going? Tell me a bit about your project. Tell me where the risks are. Tell me about issues you’re facing”.

And then the one question that kept on asking is – How can the business help? How can the PMO help?

And keeping on prompting that question. It sparks so many different trains of thought from projects and from others. I think one of the first projects the PMO had this chat to, I recall someone walking away saying the PMO was like a psychologist. Like a business psychologist. And we were able to teeth out various issues to help them navigate and see the issues themselves in a very casual and relaxed manner.

Not necessarily this formal organisation that some people may see a PMO to be. But more so understanding, consultative and helping guide the project to provide answers.

Annie-Mei: Okay, thanks Steve. We might move onto the challenges. So Jodie, would you like to talk about what the challenges are that are faced by a PMO?

Jodie: Yeah sure. The PMO may be perceived as an overhead basically by an organisation. Possibly unnecessary work for that particular company. The PMO needs to demonstrate meaningful value straight out of the gate.

Another challenge is to implement the changes gradually so as not to overwhelm people or the team. Not everyone can adapt to change very well and don’t like being told or made to do something that they’re not accepting of straightaway. So you’ve got to make sure the team’s comfortable and that they have the chance to settle into the changes, which ultimately will benefit them and benefit the project. But you’ve got to win people over.

Steve: One of the things businesses may struggle with, in particular private businesses that may not have a need to establish a PMO. So your traditional PMOs were all about control. You often see them in either government organisations or businesses that are delivering to government organisations because their core function has been the project controls part. They are providing reporting to a standard, providing a reliability of spend and control of projects for the government organisations.

So I think one of those challenges is seeing and understanding a PMO doesn’t have to be a ‘one size fits all’ approach. It can be tailored to each business. So what Anywise gets out of the PMO may not be suitable for a different business. But there are some core elements that a PMO can provide to just about any business. In particular any business that runs longer and larger projects.

A PMO will always generate more value for those or even large organisations that are struggling to coordinate across projects and find themselves in positions where executives are sometimes chasing their tail. They’re having to ask for additional support. These are where things can go wrong. It’s almost in that initial set up and then having a clear vision can generally help with that. Giving the PMO in its own right, a charter.

One of the things our PMO started to mandate for all our projects is having a project charter. A couple page document defining what each project is about and doing that for itself as well. Having a PMO charter to define what the PMO is bringing to the business, why it’s doing it and having key representatives that are all onboard with that idea and embracing that idea and letting the process tease it out. Giving the PMO time often generates the benefits.

Annie-Mei: Okay thanks Steve. Can you talk about Anywise's service offering now that we’ve developed our own PMO and how it can be used for other businesses?

Steve: Yeah sure, Annie-Mei. Thank you.

So Anywise, in developing our own PMO we’ve not only realised the benefits of a PMO but also the methodologies and having highly experienced personnel that have not only established PMOs for other organisations and done so for our organisation now. What better way to offer other businesses in need to offer this to our existing clients and to others that may want a PMO. Some may not realise that they need a PMO yet.

Our PMO offering is now available. It’s on our website as a new offering. We want to help your business establish its PMO. We can do that by helping you through that process, helping you define and clarify your own goals of what you’re trying to achieve and establishing that PMO for you. And that doesn’t necessarily mean us providing the PMO, but we can resource the PMO and have it up and functioning within four to eight weeks for larger businesses. A lot less for smaller businesses.

Our PMOs are not ‘one size fits all’. We’ve tailored this offering for smaller businesses to run a very light and modular PMO for them, all the way to large multinationals that are delivering large government contracts and be able to scale a PMO for them. Mobile the team and then train staff and establish a PMO for others.

So to anyone listening, get in touch if you’re thinking about a PMO or if you’ve had issues that you’ve just thought – ‘why can’t I get reliable answers for this’ – and you want to save time.

Annie-Mei: Alright, so thank you to Susan, Tom, Jodie and Steve for talking today about Project Management Organisations.

Susan: Thanks for having us, Annie-Mei

Jodie: Thanks, Annie-Mei.

Tom: Thank you.

Steve: Thank you, Annie-Mei. It was a pleasure.


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