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Setting up a PMO: The Grand Design?

Written by Stuart Easton

pmo house falling down.pngHalf of new PMOs are shut down within 3 years1. Scary… and it reminds me a bit of a TV program we have in the UK.

Grand Designs follows a member of the public who has taken on a massive project: building a new home. The homes are usually rather grand (hence the title) or unusual (one guy built a house out of straw, another built a cave-house).

Most of the “victims” have chosen to act as project manager themselves. Why do they make that decision? Well, they believe it will save money and, really, how hard can it be? Yet this one decision – to take on the project management themselves - is often the root cause of many of massive cost over-runs, delays and sleepless nights.

Setting up a PMO is a little bit like building a house, only worse. So, what’s to be done?

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How many “points” does your PMO score?

Written by Stuart Easton

get points for finishing projects not starting them

On a recent webinar with Johanna Rothman (author of loads of books on project management, program management, portfolio management  and, I suspect, other things beginning with “P” that need managing!), she made the point that it’s not important how many projects you start. What’s important is how many you finish and that they deliver business value.

If you only score points for finished projects, let’s figure out how to get more points on the board!

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The holiday gift every PMO wants: unlimited upside!

Written by Stuart Easton

gift of unlimited upside.pngBeing a PMO leader is an honour and a responsibility. But it’s also one of those roles where there’s not often a lot of up-side. When things go well… well, that’s what people expect and nobody notices. When they go badly…

Enough said.

So, this Holiday season, we’re teaming up with Mike Hannan of Fortezza Consulting to bring you, the esteemed PMO leader, a Holiday gift. The gift to end all gifts?

The gift of unlimited upside!

Mike is one of those people who is not only immensely wise and talented, but he is also generous. In this webinar, he shares some of the core capabilities that, time-and-again, he has used to unlock unlimited upside for the PMOs he works with.

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5 tools that are changing the PMO landscape

Written by Stuart Easton

Kaboom - PMO head explodes.png

You. Me. Anyone with a management job-title. We all have the same role – to manage change.

We are here to improve things. But innovation in the PMO can be difficult and there’s one huge barrier that stops many in their tracks. I think this barrier is captured best in this quote:

The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.
- John Maynard Keynes

This blog will highlight a few innovative “tools” that are changing the PMO world.

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Cheese, latex gloves and continuous planning. The PMO’s dream come true?

Written by Stuart Easton

prioritization .png

People of a certain age, like me, will eventually be invited to visit the doctor for a health check-up, an invitation which usually strikes fear into the intended victim. Or is that just me?

Oddly, its 5 years since my last confrontation with the latex gloves with no other invitations on the horizon, which seems odd. A health exam gives a snapshot at a point in time, but things change… cheese gets eaten, runs get missed, you go up a clothes size. Or is that just me again?

This got me wondering about events vs processes in the areas of project, program and portfolio management.

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Really quick wins for PMOs

Written by Stuart Easton

do not disturb.png

According to Geneca, 75% of execs believe their project is doomed from the start. This got me wondering…

  • How can we become more effective today, right now?
  • Where can you find a quick win, something that will stop you wasting resources? 
  • Where can we have more impact with less effort?

I have compiled a set of five tricks to get you started… I’m sure you will come up with more.

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3 Tips to Help PM Deliver More Business Value

Written by Stuart Easton

"Project managers like their methodologies, but that won't help if they' re doing the wrong project. But all PMs seem to care about is delivering the project on time. Delivering business value is someone else's problem."

I was at London's Project Challenge Expo the other week, and this quote was taken from one of the presenters in a quiet off-stage moment. If true, I find this comment very, very depressing. I have a picture in my head of a group of mindless zombies marching slowly, inexorably, relentlessly on with no real goal in sight other than getting the project out on time.

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Are you a homeopathic PMO?

Written by Stuart Easton


Many people believe in homeopathy. It’s been used for thousands of years and is deeply rooted in certain parts of society. However, the unequivocal research by modern science practitioners proves that homeopathy doesn’t work –it’s just a placebo.

In much the same way there are methods for prioritizing projects that have been used for decades. At some point they were probably even deemed to be best practice, but like homeopathy they don't really work very well.

In this blog we will try to work out which methods are homeopathy and which are real science.

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Measuring your way to failure?

Written by Steve Beaumont


There is a lot of debate about how to measure the performance of a PMO and why so many are undervalued. Too often the remit of the PMO is unclear, or they are just looked upon as an admin function... There is often no mention of business value being delivered from the project, or of its strategic alignment.

Is a project successful because it have been completed on time and on budget? No, that just shows good estimating.

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Olympic Gold for the PMO? Nope...

Written by Stuart Easton


Picture the scene. The starting gun fires and Usain Bolt explodes off the line. Bolt pulls away from the rest of the pack. It's business as usual in Brazil.

But wait!

Bolt slows and the rest of the Pack is gaining on him. Usain Bolt is left for dead. What's going on?

Well, this wasn't the 100 metre sprint. The race was a 10,000m race.

Mad, right? Why would you enter Usain Bolt in the 10k?

But not so mad as it might seem if your typical project portfolio is anything to go by.

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Beauty parades and the PMO

Written by Stuart Easton


Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This is a major problem for the PMO.

In just a couple of months, organisations around the world will be knee-deep in the planning process. When it comes to picking a portfolio of projects, the selection process often resembles a beauty pageant.

It will be no surprise anyone when I suggest that project-selection-by-beauty-pageant is close to professional negligence.

And as the PMO you are in the firing line.

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PMOs, Pick-up-sticks and Gartner!

Written by Stuart Easton


Playing Pick-up-sticks in
the PMO

I recently sat through a presentation by Gartner Managing VP and Gartner Fellow Emeritus Audrey Apfel on the topic, “The Secrets of Prioritizing IT Demand”. As you can imagine, this is something in which I have more than a passing interest.

Audrey’s dynamite. She’s straight-to-the-point, blunt and knowledgeable.

And she made this one point that got my little brain working overtime; when evaluating a project for inclusion in your portfolio, you need to decide whether it is as good as, or better, than other opportunities.

Sounds simple.

But isn’t.

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HS2. A PMO's worst nightmare?

Written by Stuart Easton


What if you’re handed down a project with a budget of 50 billion pounds? What if many experts expect this project to overrun by at least 20 billion pounds?

To make it worse, many stakeholders simply can't understand what value the project will add. The feasibility study for the project is over 50,000 pages long...

Sounds like fun?

Pet projects. Vanity projects. Projects that just seem to have momentum and a life of their own.

These projects can really disrupt the balance of a project portfolio and can destroy the reputation of The Professionals involved at all levels. Despite this, every organisation has them and nobody does them like central government...

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BREXIT. A lesson to all leaders

Written by Stuart Easton


When Britain voted to leave the European Union, it was a clear sign of failure. I don’t mean failure of “the European Experiment” (as the EU is often called by British Euro-sceptics).

I mean a failure of leadership.

So if you’re a leader, read on and reflect.

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A Pat on the Back for the PMO?

Written by Stuart Easton

Back in 1998, the French computer manufacturer and systems integrator, BULL unearthed an ugly truth. A shocking truth.

Around 75% of IT projects were failing.

Since then, project methodologies, the emergence of PPM software and the professionalization of both project management and portfolio management have all played their part in reducing the failure rate to around 36%. At Gartner’s PPM Summit in London, Donna Fitzgerald, Gartner Research Vice President, gave the industry a giant pat-on-the-back.

But her message didn’t end there, I’m afraid. This 36% percent failure rate has been essentially static for several years now. Her conclusion?

Traditional PPM / project implementation improvements have gone as far as they can and we, as an industry, must look elsewhere for performance improvements... and number one on Gartner’s list is project prioritization.

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