What is your PMO’s #1 Project this Year?


I returned from the UK on Friday 13 March and self isolated until my negative COVID-19 test results came through on Wednesday 18 March. We closed the Project Portfolio Offices offices on that day, moved all staff to work remotely and officially stopped all face to face engagements on Friday 20 March. It’s thus been over two weeks that I’ve been working from home, which has given me the opportunity to eventually share some thoughts on our February 2020 PMO Forum event.

The PMO Forum is a group that (typically) meets on a quarterly basis in both Johannesburg and Cape Town to allow the heads of project management offices from all member companies to share knowledge, understand and explore similar challenges and generally spend time outside of the office, with like-minded individuals.

While large organisations tend to have a number of project offices they typically don’t work together or even get together, so the PMO Forum provides these opportunities, and guess what… Irrespective of your name (PMO, Programme Office, Agile Delivery Office, Strategic Delivery Office), your size or industry, most PMOs suffer from the same challenges.

Running PMOs is tough, and with what’s happening in the world with COVID-19 it’s never been tougher. With the current COVID-19 State of Disaster and 21 Day Lock-Down in South Africa, some PMOs may come under scrutiny in terms of the value they provide. When times are tough, organisations generally look to the support functions first as a way to reduce costs, and while IT, Finance and HR generally remain as-is, PMOs often find themselves in the firing line. This challenges us again, to ensure that our PMOs are adding value and are seen as the best way to drive strategic change for the organisation. We need to be confident, that now, more than ever, our C-Suite will depend on our PMO to drive the changes required.

In the past years the PMO Forum has spent a lot of time looking at some of the key disruptions happening within our space, ranging from becoming more agile, transforming the PMO to drive strategic change and debating the state of PMOs in South Africa , but this month’s topic focused on People, and sitting listening to Omphile Sehurutshe, FNB Botswana energetic and charismatic PMO Manager share his knowledge and wisdom, it struck me, that once again just how tough the job of a PMO Manager is.

We focus on ensuring we are the trusted partner to our CEO to drive their strategy forward. We are re-defining our way of work and processes to embrace a faster changing demand. We’re implementing the necessary reporting to ensure we can actually tell the story of how all the work we’re doing is contributing to the right things. We’re focusing more and more on proper portfolio management, ensuring we select the right projects….and yet with all these balls in the air, Omphile argued that our number 1 focus probably should be, and IS, our people, starting with ourselves.

Based on the work the forum did in 2018, which I believe is still very valid today, the key drivers of an effective PMO are DependabilityIntegrity and Reliability. CEOs are asking themselves; do I know my PMO can deliver, can I trust the reporting they provide me on where we are and are they focusing on the right things? And what Omphile explored is that to deliver on all of these, you, the PMO Manager, need to be inspiring the right energy levels within your PMO. Focusing on generating productive energy, which is simply where positive energy meets high intensity to get the most out of your team.

Omphile challenged us to list the top 5 skills or quality of a PMO manager, and while skills such as planning, strategic thinking, benefit management, financial management and organisational skills topped the list (as he expected I suspect) he asked why are we not focused more on conflict management, high EQ, empathy and listening, the sweet stuff (as he calls it). And the answer was simple, the sweet stuff is the hard stuff.

He unpacked how to drive productive energy into your PMO yet his core message, was simple, Project 001 is yourself.

“The most important, most complex, most demanding project we will ever have to work on is ourselves.”

While we all seem so focused on keeping up with the speed at which the world is moving, being constantly connected to our devices and streams, so as not to miss anything, always being online, always being connected, what we as PMO Managers need most is to STOP and to make time to be intentional and to be present, for our project managers and colleagues but most importantly for ourselves.

Make yourself your number 1 priority project for 2020. With the enforced lock-down, there has never been a better time to plan and prepare for this! Your teams and organisations are going to need itnow more than ever.

Thanks Omphile, it’s mornings like this, that keep me coming back to the forum.

If you’re running a PMO today and would like to join, sign up here (for free) and join us (after we’ve beat COVID-19) and continue focusing on ensuring that our PMOs will weather the storms and continue to add the value our organisations demand of us.

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Author: Guy Jelley

Guy is one of the founders of PPO and is the company’s CEO. He is very passionate about the Project Management industry, and through this also very driven. Guy is a husband & father of 2, loves jazz, soccer and is a huge Spurs fan.

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