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Episode 139 Premium: PMO Lessons Learned

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Episode 139 Premium: PMO Lessons LearnedIn this Premium episode of The PM Podcast we welcome back Peter Taylor, PMP who is the author of The Lazy Project Manager

We Talk about his lessons learned in setting up a Project Management Office (PMO). You may recall that he is the PMO Manager for the Siemens PLM Software PMO and in this episode he tells us what he has learned in the 3 years since the PMO's inception.

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.

Podcast Introduction

Cornelius Fichtner: This is The Project Management Podcast. We bring project management to beginners and experts. Find us on the web at‑ or send your emails to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to this Premium Episode #139. I am Cornelius Fichtner.

This is The Project Management Podcast™ for the 29th of January 2010, nice to have you with us.

This Premium Episode once again is recorded especially for you, the premium subscribers of the Podcast. Thank you very much.

Before we get started, I wanted to let you know that I will be going on a ten-day vacation to Switzerland. Yeah, I’m actually flying from warm and sunny California to cold and wintery Switzerland. Hello, there you go. I’ll be there from February 5th to the 20th, 2010 and during that time there are probably not going to be too many new episodes coming your way.

Now, it’s time for some lessons learned in particular, we want to hear from Peter Taylor about the insights that he gained in the three years of setting up the PMO at Siemens as well as running it obviously. We start out with his #1 lessons learned and then we’ll also talk about what he would do differently and what he would do exactly the same in setting up a PMO.

Here we go.

Podcast Interview

Female voice: The Project Management Podcast’s feature Interview.

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello Peter and welcome back on the program again.

Peter Taylor: Thank you!

Cornelius Fichtner: Well, we want to continue to discuss the whitepaper that you wrote, The PMO – A Three Year Journey, your experience of setting up the PMO for Siemens for their PLM Software Division and we want to specifically talk about lessons learned from this three-year journey. So, primary question of mine of course, what’s your #1 lessons learned? What’s the #1 thing that you have learned from this PMO implementation?

Peter Taylor: I’ll begin to answer that by saying my #1 and my #2 things are…

Cornelius Fichtner: You’re allowed to do that.

Peter Taylor: Okay, I’m clear. Good. I think flexibility is the #1. The PMO has never been setting stone of what it’s trying to achieve. We knew strategically that we wanted to improve the health of the projects. We wanted to improve the enjoyments and the professionalism of the project managers and we wanted to support the whole thing regarding to the customer’s return on investments.

But that said, how are we going about it, what we need to do was a very, very flexible and I think and certainly in the last year, for example, it has been a tough, tough year as everybody knows. That flexibility has allowed us to move very quickly, very rapidly to adapt to slightly different approaches in the work that we’re doing.

I think the second thing which I didn’t anticipate right at the beginning, I spoke in the previous interview about the five P’s of which one of those was promotion, and originally, I put that on the backburner. I focus on people and I focus on process but for a number of reasons, we got into promotion of what a PMO was all about actually quite early on; and that really has paid dividends I feel in where we reach the point in the middle of this year when the PMO along with every part of the organization was challenged on what job are they doing, is it an important job, do we need that many people in that the questions were as tough as that and the PMO exited that unscathed and I believe a lot of that was down to the fact we promoted well, we marketed well what the PMO was about and the fact we were flexible group who supported the business.

Cornelius Fichtner: Yeah. Let’s jump a little bit more into this because I think it’s important to understand how you managed to be flexible and how you promoted if you don’t mind. Could you tell us a little bit how flexibility reflects in the way that your PMO works or is set up?

Peter Taylor: Sure.

Cornelius Fichtner: Is it just that you get somebody says we have a new priority one and then you changed course, or how exactly did you become flexible?

Peter Taylor: Well, I think we were always flexible. When we first started, that’s how I approached it. I was keying to get the PMO off the ground and therefore I listened and talked when people started asking me questions, I got involved. I didn’t always answer the questions. I didn’t always know the answer but I try to get involved in helping out and staying that often I think a friendly face of the PMO.

The way we continue to be closer to business is that the PMO attends regular business meetings, understanding what’s going on in each of the countries, seeing what the issues are, rules that connected to the executive, at the high levels, we understand what the business challenges are.

We’re in the loop I guess is the right answer. We’re in the loop of what’s going on and therefore, we can adapt and offer often some more tactical connections to the business as opposed to the longer-running strategical things.

Cornelius Fichtner: And how did you promote your PMO? Did you have a newsletter that went out or was it just a one-on-one promotion where you met with the constituents and your C-level executives continuously? How did you do it?

Peter Taylor: Well actually, being with them, I think I was complete fl**zy, I just threw myself at everybody. And again in the early days, we bask in reflective glory even though we might have an extremely light involvement in some of their successes, but we shouted about it and that’s where we did as well.

How we really did it, moving on from that, yes, we have a regular newsletter which is called “My PMO” which goes not just to the projects managers. It goes to a whole group of people within the business which talks about what’s going on, provides best practice, value adds, case studies and things like that. I regularly present updates to some big people around the business then again I use that opportunity not just to provide statistics and information and plans. I also talk about a.k.a. “successes” I see with the PMO. And you know, we also sort out references from people. If people had a good experience then we ask them if they’d allow us to comment and quote and share their experience.

Cornelius Fichtner: I have a little bit of feedback from one of the PMOs that I used to work in. That was for Coop Swtizerland, large supermarket chain in Switzerland and the manager of the PMO there, he had a very nice way. What he did is he had one or two slides that he kept updating with successes and statistics and just good information about how the PMO is supporting the business and helping the business out there to stay competitive and stay in the edge.

And he updated this, he printed them in color and he gave them to every one on the team so when you went out and you had a meeting with somebody, it was pretty much understood that during this meeting at some point, you would take out those two slides and you would quickly speak to them and say “Hey, here look. Let me just show you what the current facts are of the PMO and how we’re helping everybody and that way, the whole team was always on the same message and everybody was from within the team promoting the PMO to the outside and making sure that people understood what it is that we were doing at that time. So that’s another little trick that people might employ.

Question: Did you actively go out and obtain feedback from your customers?

Peter Taylor: No, if you mean customers as in people that sit outside the business. If we’re talking about the stakeholders…

Cornelius Fichtner: The stakeholders, yes.

Peter Taylor: The stakeholders, fine… then the customers which were the project managers, the project service management, yes we did. We went out and asked them. The project managers are surveyed. They are surveyed every year and that has given us some great insight and some great entertainment as well on their views. They can be right, grumpy bunch of project managers sometimes but they are lovely as well.

We also surveyed the service managements about their views on the PMO as well in a much lighter way. Our main focus is on the project managers. If we see that they are happy and content to moving forward and we can track, we track the health of our projects against all the usual metrics of margin, schedule and so forth resources and we keep a track of that year on year.

So again, this is a regular thing that we get our project managers and anybody else to bring out in a relevant meeting is ‘here’s a simple graph that shows the improvements overtime, over the last three years’ and we have a similar on the project managers’ top issues so they write them might as well because we can see in that case, things move. They would, as I said before, always find the things to complain about. But we’ve always had different things each year. I feel we’re making progress in the area as well.

Cornelius Fichtner: Nobody on the spot here. Do you happen to know, you mentioned the entertainment factor, do you have one at the top of your head that you just put out of your hat and say ‘Oh, this was a funny one that we got back from a project manager?’

Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. Please subscribe to our Premium Podcast to receive a PDF transcript.

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