Episode 139: Setting up and Managing a PMO
PMO projects have a high-visibility, dozens of stakeholders, tight budgets and sometimes even customers that want you to fail. So it's always refreshing to be able to talk to someone who was successful in this endeavor and learn from their hands-on experience how they did it. Peter Taylor is the PMO Director at Siemens PLM Software and he has a successful PMO story to tell.
You have already met Peter previously on the program. He is the author of The Lazy Project Manager. In the discussion today we are going to take a look at his journey of setting up this PMO. From inception, to what it is like today, to where he wants to take it in the next years.
And Peter spontaneously and generously offers to give away two more copies of his book. Listen all the way to the end of the presentation to hear how to participate.
Click "Read more..." below to read the transcript.
PM Podcast Episode 139 Transcript
Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to episode number139. I am Cornelius Fichtner.
This is The Project Management Podcast™ for the 22nd of January 2010, nice to have you with us.
Setting up a project management office, PMO, is one of the toughest assignments that many project managers will ever work on. These projects have high visibility, dozens of stakeholders, tight budgets and some times even customers that want you to fail so it’s always refreshing to be able to talk to someone who was successful in this endeavor and learn from their hands on experience on how they did it.
Peter Taylor is the PMO Director at Siemens PLM Software and he has a successful PMO story to tell. You have met Peter previously on the program. He is the author of “The Lazy Project Manager”.
In the discussion today, we are going to take a look at his journey of setting up this PMO from inception to what it is like today to where he wants to take it in the next years.
One quick note before we get started, here are the winners of Michael Aucoin’s book. Scott Tunmer and Pavel Vokoun will both receive one copy of “Right Brain Project Management”. Congratulations!
And now, the interview.
Peter Taylor is a commercially astute professional who has achieved notable success in project management, program management and the professional development of project managers. He currently works as the head of a PMO at Siemens PLM Software, a global supplier of product lifecycle management solutions. He is an accomplished communicator and leader always adapting a proactive and business-focused approach and he is the author of “The Lazy Project Manager,” as well as a professional speaker.
Enjoy the interview.
Female voice: The Project Management Podcast’s feature Interview. Today with Peter Taylor, PMO Director at Siemens PLM Software.
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello Peter and welcome back to The Project Management Podcast™!
Peter Taylor: Hello and it’s great to be back, thank you!
Cornelius Fichtner: Great to have you back. You wrote a whitepaper which is titled “The PMO - A Three Year Journey” and in the very first sentence, you talked about ROI, return on investment. Where does the ROI and your PMO meet?
Peter Taylor: The ROI I think meets the PMO in two areas. So the PMO that I head up as one of the PMOs within PLM software, it’s all about supporting our project managers as they engage in external projects on customers’ sides. So the PMO itself has to represent some sort of ROI to the organization like Siemens. They invested in the developments and continued investments in the growth of this PMO. So we had to demonstrate return on investment for that.
But secondly, by supporting the project managers and effectively being a supportive overhead if you like to the projects are going on within the customers’ sides. We’re trying to drive through a higher quality and try to guarantee the return on investment our customers were expecting from us when they invested in the software, the services and the project management from Siemens PLM software so the touch points for ROI and the PMO are those two areas. One, with the customer projects and one, with the actual PMO itself.
Cornelius Fichtner: I see, that makes sense, that makes sense. I didn’t the second level there. I would have assumed, yes, ROI, Siemens needs to see an ROI for making the investment in the PMO but of course you want to take that to the next level so that when your customers use whatever methodologies and processes the PMO provides that their projects will be more successful and therefore provide a bigger ROI to them.
Peter Taylor: Absolutely.
Cornelius Fichtner: Yeah!
Peter Taylor: If anything, yeah, the second level is the internal one. The first level is actually the customer one because we want the customers to be happy and we want the customers to come back and buy more. Fundamentally, we are a software business and therefore it’s very, very important that they see value in the investment that they put in place.
Cornelius Fichtner: Right. What I always do before we start these interviews here is I go out on Twitter and I tweet about the interview that’s coming up. I have a few questions that came in from Twitter, pretty much live here and the first one I have from you is from Steve Romero. His Twitter ID is itgEvangelist. He is a, let’s see, passionate advocacy for helping enterprises realize the power and promise of IT governance and his question is a simple one. Did you define any specific business objectives for your PMO and if so, who defined these business objectives?
Peter Taylor: Okay. Yes, even with the simple questions, it’s quite a complex answer, probably. So the sequence we went through was the head of the VP of services within the organization was in Africa. He has seen PMOs work in the past so the battle was won there or the beginning, he is the guy that brought be on board.
But obviously, what we had to do is we had to engage in each of the countries, I represent EMEA. Therefore, each of the countries had a view in this because they carried a proportion of the overhead invested in the PMO. And therefore, we presented to them this sort of strategy first of all of what the PMO is about and what you wanted to try and achieve and then we surveyed them and asked them, what are there top issues that they faced in the projects at the moment and based on that, which ones could the PMO assist in and what are the priorities for the PMO to focus on?
So I think if something doesn’t come through, the whole of this interview, the whole thing was a very slowly evolving, ever changing engagements, considerations, inputs type process that we’ve gone through and I think that has paid dividends where we are today. So yes, business objectives were set and they were set by discussions and reviews with a whole group of people, a whole group of stakeholders if you like.
Cornelius Fichtner: And I can tell you, if you talk to Mark Perry who is the host of the PMO Podcast who’s focus really is on PMOs mostly, he’s going to love you because he says if your PMO is not constituent-based, so if you’re not going out there and if you’re not talking to the people who will be using your PMO and find out what is it that you want and then you take their input and turn their needs into the goals and the business objectives of your PMO, you’re doing the wrong thing. He says your PMO is either constituent-based or it will fail. Those are the two type of PMOs that exist, period.
Peter Taylor: They’re very wise word, very wise words.
Cornelius Fichtner: Yeah! And what is the overall role of your PMO? Oh wait, there’s one thing that I wanted to quickly say. You used the term EMEA. For those people who don’t know what that is, Europe, Middle East and Africa, right?
Peter Taylor: Yes, that’s right.
Cornelius Fichtner: Yes? Okay. So back to my question. What is the role of your PMO that you finally defined based on all these interviews?
Peter Taylor: Yes, did we define it or not? Again, has it evolved? There a number of models for PMOs and typically, you talk about a supportive PMO or it’s helping out the project managers with expertise, templates, best practices, et cetera. There’s a controlling PMO, where it’s more of a desire to gain more power if you like in the projects and the activities and processes and procedures, and there’s a very directive one which is actually to absolute takeover of projects. Often in those situations with that model, you’ll find the project managers are actually embedded inside the PMO.
The PMO that I lead, it’s a very small group of people. It’s three people apart from myself oversee, covering the whole of the region that we’ve gone and some 200 plus projects, it is very challenging to me. So it has to be a very light touch that we put in place.
But I’d say the way we have developed the PMO, it is a blend of all those things so our primary focus is to support the project managers out there about 115 project managers, 200 projects as I said. So it’s supporting them as best we can with expertise, templates and guidance.
We will where we see some sort of need of a more of a controlling approach in some areas particularly where we see fixed price projects for example and in some cases where project has gone very wrong and these are very rare or the project is taking place in a strategically awkward location for us where we don’t have an office or something like that or we have a weak partner perhaps, then we will actually take ownership of the projects themselves. So it’s a blend of all those things, supportive, controlling and directive.
Cornelius Fichtner: Let’s open up your whitepaper because in the whitepaper, I’ve seen something that will be very interesting for the listeners and that’s the five P’s that you have in there.
And for those of you listening who are wondering, well, where is the whitepaper, it should automatically have downloaded because we included this in the podcast feed. If it hasn’t downloaded, please go to The PM Podcast webpage and look for this particular episode here and you will find the download link of the PDF document of Peter’s whitepaper.
And this is on page 3, there is this blue graphic. “EMEA PMO - The Five P’s” and I’d like you Peter to tell us a little bit about these five P’s here if we can go through each of them and tell us what your focus is, what it is that you’re doing for each of these five P’s. So the first one is “people”. What exactly do you do in the area of people in your PMO?