28 February 2020

Sussing out services at PMO Flashmob

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Stuart Dixon talking about service catalougues in a pub

A bit about PMO Flashmob

If you are a PMO professional working in or around London and you haven’t yet heard about PMO Flashmob, then you’re missing out.

No really, you are.

PMO Flashmob is a networking group for PMO people run by Lindsay Scott that has been around for long enough now that it has started forgetting how old it is. Some evenings are seminars where someone stands up and speaks on a topic. Others are far less formal occasions held in the function room or a corner of a pub, where people get together and discuss PMO topics in small groups. Those are my favourites, and the evening I am writing about is one of those.

PMO Services

The evening I attended was in a proper old London boozer, and was all about PMO services. How to define them, what they should be looking at, and so on.

Starting with the difference between a PMO service menu and a PMO service catalogue. Fortunately Stuart Dixon was on hand to explain that to us, waving a freshly-printed proof copy of his comprehensive (700 page!) book “PMO Service Catalogue: An insight into what PMOs do” (this is now on sale at the other end of that hyperlink).

In case you were wondering, a PMO service menu is a simple list of services that the PMO can provide (and that customers can choose from, as is presented in P3O appendix F), whereas a PMO service catalogue contains more detail that makes it more useful (e.g. inputs, outputs, training, costs, etc.)

When PM customers choose a service from a menu, they might pick something like “to update the risk register”, which sounds fairly mundane and not particularly valuable. This can open a conversation with the customer as to why they might want such a service, and exactly what they are expecting to get. It often turns out that what the customer actually wants is help with identifying risks, assessing and categorizing them, devising mitigation, and monitoring to make sure the mitigation is working. What the customer really wants is for a PMO professional to act as a “strap-on brain”, which is far more valuable than merely updating the risk register. In my experience, sometimes they are also looking for a “strap-on conscience”, which in some ways is far more worrying. But I  guess at least it means they are aware that that may be lacking in the project and that there is a need to buy in services from a PMO professional to give them that conscience.

After Stuart’s intro, the assembled throng (what is the collective noun for a pub full of PMO professionals? Please let me know in the comments!) split into groups and had a go at writing some of their own service descriptions, which were then shared with everyone and which are now here.


Amongst the points that emerged, the following ones caught my eye/ear:

  • A proposed KPI for project manager effectiveness: the number of escalations (which I took to mean any kind of escalation to a higher authority) arising from a particular PM. This one struck me as a “goldilocks” KPITo me, too many escalations means the PM is not actually taking responsibility for controlling anything but referring everything upwards for adjudication. Safe, verging on weakNot enough escalations means the PM has taken corporate strategy into their own hands and is not referring to senior figures in the organisation for direction. Risky, verging on arrogantJust the right amount of escalations and the PM is dealing with some matters themselves, only escalating the exceptional ones for direction. Nice. How to define “just the right amount”? Will have to think about that – a question for another night!
  • A proposed measure for PMO effectiveness: When push comes to shove, project managers don’t run away from the PMO (for fear of process and retribution); they run towards it (in hope of succour and support).
  • PMOs can offer a “firefighting” or “emergency rescue” service. Some might say the fact that a PMO needs to offer such a service means that The Process has broken down. But real firefighters don’t actually spend much of their time fighting fires. They spend much more of their time educating people in fire safety and fire prevention, so that the actual fire fighting service is needed less and less over time. One of the skills proposed to be a good PMO fire fighter was the ability to be pragmatic and get things done, which sometimes requires “brass neck”. Which got me wondering – how does one measure the brassiness of one’s neck? Hmm…

  • One group talked about the provision of data analytics and dashboards. They highlighted that data needs to be not only clear and visible (in the form of nicely formatted charts), but also intellectually accessible and understandable. This means that the insights gained from the data need to be clearly articulated in a way that has meaning for the target audience.

Plenty to think about as ever, and lots of lovely people. If you are a PMO professional working in or around London , you really do owe it to yourself to come along to one of these evenings.

And as for PMO services, if you need some, why not start by taking a look at ours? 😉