PMO office provides structure, but remains people work

Successful organizations continue to continuously adapt to their constantly changing environment. Together with the client, Boer & Croon consultants ensure sustainable transformations. An important tool in this is the creation of a PMO office.

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Adriaan Swaak talked to his colleagues from the Transformation & Program Management solution about successfully setting up a PMO office. Mariska Seijsener, Frank van de Wolde, Elske Mertens and Mirte Koutstaal talked about their experiences and how the Boer & Croon approach distinguishes itself.


What do we understand the term PMO to mean?
Mariska: "The framework that gets you from A to B in a structured way. And that can be done using an Agile way of working, via SCRUM, Kanban or whatever kind of method you use. As long as it is structured and aligned with the organisation."

Frank agrees and uses the metaphor of a boat: "You need a different type of boat depending on the sort of trip you want to make. If you're going to sail across an inland lake, you need a slightly smaller boat than if you want to ship 5,000 containers from one side of the world to the other. Your boat must be suitable for the trip you are about to make. Prince2, for example, is a fine boat, but not always the most suitable one."


Mariska cites an example that illustrates how Boer & Croon's approach sets itself apart: "I think that the way in which you set up the PMO, so aside from the methodology that you use, should ultimately be aimed not only at thinking about how we are going to do something, but above all, at actually carrying it out as well. Which is why it is important who you put in what position within such a PMO.

Sometimes a client asks me if we can put together a program for them with an entire team from Boer & Croon. That may seem like a good idea at first, if you can set it up with your own Boer & Croon-ers. But if you then look at what a complete external PMO office means for the client, then that amounts to scarcely anything. Because the chances of it latching on once it is handed back to the organisation are fairly slight. I always opt to place people in key positions in such a PMO who come from the customer's senior management, supported as much as possible by external people. And not the other way round."


Which building blocks do you regard as indispensable for setting up a PMO?
Mirte, what are the first steps that you take?

"First of all, I want to get clarity on the matter in question and gain a good picture of the organisational structure; who has a vested interest in the PMO and for what reason? Then I quickly work towards coming up with concepts for the planning, the reporting structure, a clear governance structure, budgets, quality monitoring and risk management. Other than that, it depends on the request, the scope of the program and the size of the team."


"You often help a client a great deal by putting the right structure in place," is something that Frank also believes. An essential question to bear in mind is whether the change is also actively felt in the organisation. That's something that I question the client on critically. Is there ownership? You can set up a PMO, but a lack of broad support cannot be remedied with structure. If I have the feeling that not all parties are on board, then I will build on that."


What problems are you solving by setting up a PMO office?
"PMO is often seen a bit condescendingly as a matter of keeping lists," is how Elske sums up the most common misconception. "But it is precisely down to this supporting role that you can really steer things within a program. Without a PMO, you don't have an overview and this affects the progress and commitment within the organisation. With a PMO, you can address that and put the structure in place to take it further. You can flag obstacles and resolve them in time."


What is it that determines the success of a PMO?
"A good and clear scope," Mirte says resolutely. "So that you know what you are getting into. A clear planning, the right people on board, commitment and a sense of responsibility on the part of the organisation."

Mariska nods in agreement and adds, "Use your PMO from a strategic perspective as well. You are the eyes and ears of the organisation; you know what is going on in the various departments and what the critical factors are. Consequently, the feedback to the program management and ultimately to the board is of vital importance for achieving the envisaged results. I think that as soon as you can put the PMO into practice that way, you'll be able to get the most out of it."


In other words, the PMO is not purely a provider of structure, but rather the linchpin for everything that happens in the organisation, the driving force behind any action that needs to be taken. PMO is never the goal, but the means.

"Look, we are strong in terms of analytics," Mariska states, "but we also understand how organisations are structured and why people want or don’t want to do something or can do it. We can also open up that discussion with the people within the organisation."

"What I think we do really well is that we don't get bogged down in a fixed structure," Frank adds. "We are very pragmatic and look at what is needed at this point in time for the project, or for the set goals that need to be achieved. We are fluent in Prince 2, but we do not necessarily apply this if it is not strictly necessary. Some consultants are far more rigid. They say 'okay, this is our trick and we're going to use this trick in this context.''

PMO: never the goal, but the means

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