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There can be only one

Written by Stuart Easton

sketch1505317221824.pngWhen you go to the doctor, you expect that she will use evidence and best practice when treating you. A doctor has a certain duty of care towards her patients.

It would be terrifying if doctors around the world just started making stuff up. I mean you’d run a mile from a doctor who said, “Got a flu? I reckon a few purple pills should do the job. I mean, they worked fine for Mrs Jones’ sciatica the other week!”

But that’s exactly what organizations (and PPM vendors) around the world do when running project prioritization. They make it up. They just put their thinking caps on and slap together a spreadsheet (or, even more scary, vendors slap together a module for their PPM tool).

Yet executives and managers have a duty of care every bit as binding as that of a doctor. They have a duty to use the organization’s resources efficiently in support of key organizational goals, but “making it up” has been standard practice for years.

Luckily, we now have real evidence-based research to tell us how things SHOULD be done.

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PMOs have super-powers!

Written by Stuart Easton

PMO Super Heros.pngEvery PMO has the potential to be a superhero. Seriously.

Anyone who can deliver a sustained competitive advantage is a superhero (in company terms, anyway). It may be the “golden touch” on product (Steve Jobs) or the ability to spot a value-investment opportunity (Warren Buffet).

The superpower that every PMO has is the power to deliver a far more efficient and effective use of capital.

Hmmm – doesn’t sound as cool as X-ray vision or the power to create force-fields… but you know those aren’t real, right?

Apart from my Mum, who definitely had X-ray vision while I was growing up.

A more efficient and effective use of capital, however, is about as important for a company (or government agency, NGO, etc.) as it gets.

So, put your underpants on the outside and prepare to change the world!

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Project turn-around

Written by Stuart Easton

Turn around failing projects.pngWhen your car breaks, most of us call the mechanic.

Well, I recently spoke with Amanda Oakenfull of Deloitte in Australia. She’s known in Australian project management circles as The Mechanic and with good reason. She has an enviable track record in turning around projects, programs and portfolios. Amanda has a reputation for being able to fix almost anything and I wanted to know what her secret is.

We’ve released a podcast with an edited version of that discussion; it’s around 17 minutes long and is filled with real nuggets of wisdom, some of which may surprise you.

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PMO’s Most Important Meeting of the Year (Hint: it affects your appraisal meeting)

Written by Stuart Easton

rock star.png

There’s one meeting (actually, it’s often a series of meetings) that is absolutely the most important meeting of the year for the PMO: the project prioritization meeting.

Why do I think this is the most important meeting?

    • This meeting defines the success or failure of your projects for the next year.
    • This meeting sets out how exactly how your organization will meet its strategic goals
    • This meeting has a massive impact on your career

“Whoa there! Did you just say something about my career?”

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PMOs: Number 1 Complaint

Written by Stuart Easton

egg and spoon race.png


The Biggest Problem for PMOs

As part of my work, I speak with many PMO leaders and the most common complaint I hear is, “We have too many projects!”

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Projects failing? Why? Why? WHY?!

Written by Stuart Easton

why projects fail.pngMost people assume that if you want to reduce project failure rates the place to look is in project implementation. Of course improving implementation, upskilling project managers and putting in place project methodologies all help.

Many people are surprised, however, to hear so many experts saying that weak Project prioritisation is the root cause of much project failure. In fact, Amanda Oakenfull of Deloitte reckons the prioritization and planning process is the root cause of all project failure.

Let's dig into that a little to see why.

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The True Face of Your Portfolio

Written by Stuart Easton

smiling potato.jpg


Let’s have a little fun, shall we?

Tell me, what did you see when you looked at the photo of a potato?

If you saw a face (look again if you missed it), then you just experienced facial pareidolia. Don’t worry; it’s normal to see faces in inanimate objects, though some people experience it more easily than others.

But what’s a funny potato got to do with project portfolios?

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Time to focus on the Project ‘Prioritization’ Challenge?

Written by Steve Beaumont

clock's ticking.jpgI was asked to present at the recent Project Challenge event at Olympia in London, and the organizer wanted me to talk about something a little different from the topics of project management; the PMO; and methodologies that a lot of presentations were focused on. 

I’ve been working in the project & portfolio management (PPM) space for almost 17 years now, and I have seen a lot of businesses who are trying to improve their maturity over these years. I've met a number of people who think PPM is about software, but it is very much more than that...

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Under Arrest: Project Prioritization

Written by Stuart Easton

Project Line up

Many executives are comfortable with their current project prioritization process, one based on a “beauty parade” or a “police line-up” of projects.

Well, I recently came across some research that shows that even the traditional police line-ups can be improved. And guess what; they do it using the same approach that leading PMOs use to prioritize projects. That approach is called the analytic hierarchy process (AHP).

 So, if your prioritization process still involves a “line up” - presenting a list of projects (or pitches) to executives and letting them choose – it’s time to move on.

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PMOs don't actually do anything!

Written by Stuart Easton

sketch1493041672126.pngLet’s be honest. PMOs don’t really do very much, do they?

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You should never, ever run out of project resources

Written by Stuart Easton



John McGrath, speaking  at the Pharma PPM Toolbox in London, said that there is simply no excuse for not having enough resources on a project.

Now I know many of you will be disturbed by this statement, but I think he's more-or-less correct.

It's like when a bridge collapses. Bridges don't just collapse, you see (not that I'm a bridge expert, but work with me here.) There is always a reason for the collapse; you designed it wrong, you used the wrong material, you allowed too many trucks on at once, etc.

It’s the same way with projects. There's always a reason when you run out of resources and it's almost always avoidable. Let's look at some of those reasons and work out what can be done about them.

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Is it risky being PMO leader?

Written by Stuart Easton

Risk sharing PMO

There’s an old joke about CIO standing for “Career Is Over”. This joke was doubtless crafted in the forge of poisoned-projects, blown budgets and detonating deadlines.

Just like in the TV show, the Apprentice, project failure can end the CIO’s tenure (there certainly are cases where that’s happened). Imagine what it will do to a PMO leader... Perhaps the PMO might, one day, become a joke of its own...  an acronym for someone likely to be Pre-Maturely Ousted, perhaps?

So, in an environment where 72% of PMOs are being called into question, it seems appropriate to ask, "What can be done to reduce the risk?"

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How many PMOs does it take to reinvent the wheel?

Written by Stuart Easton

don't reinvent the wheel

As a teenager, I was addicted to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Douglas Adams’ masterpiece was filled with wry observations about human nature and one scene in particular has been coming back to me recently. In it, the Golgafrinchams are trying to invent the wheel. They make a total hash of it, but the only thing they worry about is what colour it should be. Classic!

Nobody has really reinvented the wheel for a few thousand years now, so why, oh why, do so many PMOs try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to prioritizing projects?

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The “62% challenge” for PMOs

Written by Stuart Easton

borrow your watch.jpg


Nearly two thirds (62%) of PMOs identify resourcing or prioritization as their top challenge.

But these are topics that are not massively difficult to address. In fact our consulting partners deal with these topics time and again with their customers.

And yet one of those partners, Greg Gomel, during a recent podcast on this exact topic  mentioned  that he often feels like the stereotypical consultant borrowing his customers watch and then telling them the time when he talks about this stuff. Why?

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Project managers are a waste of space.  So are PMOs.

Written by Stuart Easton

eliminate conductor.pngHow often have you heard the cry, “If we just did without a project manager we could save a load of money!”

Of course it's nonsense. For any project worthy of the name,  a professional project manager will reduce the risk and overall cost of implementation. No "serious" professional would really strip out all the PMs.

Yet “Why are we spending all this money on a PMO?“ is a common cry, one that poses a real threat both to the PMO and the success of the portfolio. Only half of PMOs survive the first few years (APM). In fact, according to ESI research, 72% of PMOs are called into question by the executive team.

Look at it this way; without a conductor, an orchestra would produce a terrible cacophony. (Disclosure: my brother plays in one of the world's top orchestras). It's the same for a project portfolio… only the costs of a weak portfolio can be much worse than the noise of bunch of unsupervised musicians.

In short, the business case for the PMO is every bit as strong as the business case for the project manager.

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