A major problem that every Portfolio, Programme, or Project Office (PMO) has is demonstrating added value that justifies its existence. This note explores the role that professional qualifications can have in addressing this issue.
A first step is demonstrating credibility. How can a PMO offer services, especially advice and support for common practice, if its staff are not credible. Having staff with recognised qualifications is a good start. Usually professional qualifications suggests a PRINCE2, MSP, or APMP certificate. However, the assessment for these merely demonstrates someone has learnt the language from a textbook and has no practical experience (despite the ‘practitioner’ label applied to the certificate!). At C4CM we have designed an assessment method that requires the candidate to provide evidence of using skills and knowledge in their workplace. Thus a C4CM qualification demonstrates competence. That competence gives the holder credibility! So a first step for a PMO is to get its staff tooled up with appropriate qualifications to show their expertise. That gives them the right to intervene.
Making a difference
The next issue for a PMO is to show that it is having an impact on the way projects and programmes are delivered across the organisation. Typically a PMO comes about as the organisation moves to a standardised methodology for projects and programmes. So how can a PMO demonstrate the standardised approach is being achieved? The answer is again a qualification. An organisation who has adopted C4CM qualifications has an approach as follows:
They mandated that a minimum competence for all managers leading a project would be the C4CM project management award. Every project had to be led by a competent manager (i.e. they had the award) for a project to be funded. Training for the basic competence followed, delivered by in-house trainers from the PMO to reduce costs (the trainers were accredited by C4CM to maintain quality). As a result of the training candidates completed the C4CM assessment workbook to capture the evidence that they have applied skills and knowledge to their own project. Most managers past the assessment, many with excellent evidence. A few failed and were coached to a second attempt. Failures are important because they demonstrate there is a competence level. But that is not an excuse for poor performance and is an opportunity for performance improvement.
With managers trained to a competence level the PMO can demonstrate an impact quite quickly. This applies to programme management and change management just as much. The PMO can count the number of awards given, they can demonstrate a competence level (they have the documented evidence in the assessments), and they can show the use of the common methodology (again they have the evidence). Of course the PMO also needs to show an impact on benefits such as better value delivered through projects, more project success than before, etc. However, the qualifications provide an early measurable performance indicating that benefits are going to be achieved. They also help provide the evidence that the organisation is improving its capability (see our posting about Change Capability).