Straight Talk on Project Management

Beyond P30

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Beyond P3O: P12O – portfolio, programme, and projects – plus!

Guest blog by Nicol Cutts- Head of Projects

Over a decade since its introduction, Project offices are increasingly now looking to P3O.

Portfolio, Programme and Projects Offices (P3O) are trending again in my social media circles, there’s been a post pandemic boost in interest in and use of the model among clients and, most happily of all, this renaissance of P30 has not led to a resurgence of the dad jokes about the gold droid from Star Wars. Progress indeed for some of my colleagues – you know who you are!

Working with clients recently who have adopted a P30 approach to project management, it became clear that certain areas of opportunity were not being fully exploited, they were missing out on benefits because a lack of focus in some aspects of their execution.

Notably “process” was an element where a small tweak could have garnered measurable gains. I wondered if P3O should be P4O – Portfolio, Programme, Projects, and Process!

Then, there were clients coming to Stoneseed with a need that perfectly fitted our speciality – people. Perhaps ‘human resources’ was deserving of its own special place in the model? P5O – Portfolio, Programme, Projects, Process and People!

Surely, all areas for improvement and focus in execution of the P3O standard can’t begin with a P?!

Hold my coffee and read on!

P12O incoming!

Whilst it’s important to acknowledge that the Ps we’ll consider here are covered by the P3O model, my experience, working with clients who have adopted the P30 model, leans heavily into the argument that each of these Ps would benefit from greater individual focus and attention – to yield maximum gain.

Firstly, useful reminder … what is P3O?

Simply put, in a paragraph, P3O facilitates a decision-enabling and delivery-support model for an organisation’s business change initiatives. A single permanent office, but with no ‘one size fits all’ model, approach will be dependent on many criteria including: the business needs; organisation/ P3O Sponsor vision and goals; the organisation’s P3RM (portfolio, programme, project and risk management) maturity; breadth and depth of resources;  volume of programmes and projects; culture (team, wider organisational, sector, etc; the business structure (organisation of divisions and departments; geographical location of staff; and so on and so on …

The complexity of the P3O model can vary hugely from one organisation to the next, the size of operation can vary too, from a total structure delivering functions and services across an enterprise via multiple offices to a single individual acting as a multitasking P3O officer in a smaller business setting.

It is this complexity and lack of ‘one size fits all’ model that I think allows the extra Ps we’ll discuss to go a bit mushy (Mushy Ps!? Really? Don’t go there – Ed).

The concept of P3O is designed to bring such a structure to project delivery that it’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security that adopting the Portfolio, Programme and Projects Office approach insures you against dropping the ball in one or more of these project areas.

Beyond P3O: P12O – portfolio, programme, and projects plus!

1 – People

The right people are key to your project success. The best time to realise that you have a gap in a crucial delivery skill is before you start (at the planning stage – see my third P) and the second-best time is RIGHT NOW. There’s no shame in acknowledging that your team is lacking an essential set of skills, the shame comes in letting your project trundle on without them! Stoneseed’s Project Management as a Service (PMaaS) has the right people at the right time “on tap” – for as long as you need them.

2 – Process

Pretty self-explanatory, we all get that a deep knowledge of project management processes is vital to project management and delivery. Tailoring the processes to suit different projects, leveraging the right process at the right time, and adapting those processes for a specific project are equally important. Let’s be vigilant that we’re listening to our ‘right process spidey senses.’

3 – Planning

Especially after the post-covid restart when projects were more reactive, pre-pandemic levels of discipline in terms of planning may have been sacrificed for expediency. Not in every project team of course, but I am still seeing project problems ‘down-stream’ that can be attributed to a misstep in planning.  I was at a barbecue recently and before a single sausage went onto the grill the host emerged with a hamper full of everything he would need, BBQ tongs, oversized slotted ‘turner’, huge fork, bread rolls, knives, ketchup, mustard, a little foil package of onions in butter, etc. Once he started cooking, he wouldn’t have to leave the barbecue! I thought “that’s what planning looks like”.  

4 – Product

‘Product’ is the actual deliverables of your project. Not necessarily a physical product, although there often is a tangible entity, the product is literally whatever the goal of the project is. The creation of a system to be used by a new business department, a new stock and invoicing set-up, an automated production line … it’s important that whatever the ‘end product’ is, it is front and centre in all our project management thinking. I mean, you know this – I’m preaching to the choir again. Where projects do still stumble though is not having the right resources to deliver the product as the project evolves towards delivery. Keep in mind what your end product must look like and continually assess your means to deliver it – if you identify a gap give me a call. (See my first P)  

5 – Performance

Wouldn’t it be great if you could plan and set up your IT Project, push start and, like clockwork, it would proceed to an amazing and successful conclusion. Actually, no, it would be boring and wouldn’t test you at all. Better than this, projects veer, external influences knock them off course, humans are humans and make mistakes, markets and business environments change. Are we all still taking a helicopter view of our ‘in-play’ projects like we used to do? I filled up with petrol recently and a Dad was checking the tyres and the oil on his car at the pump next to mine. The roof-rack was full of suitcases. We got talking and he told me he and his family had stayed over locally en-route from Scotland to a holiday in Norfolk … he cheerfully smiled and carried on with what he called his “mid-trip checks”. Do we pop the bonnet of our projects mid journey?

6 – Patience

I can hear Gary Barlow singing this one. Patience is so important. I have a PM friend whose trademark coping skill is taking a deep breath, cracking a smile, and mouthing, “Love and light, Sarah, love and light.” I saw a poster on a PM’s wall that said something like ‘You don’t have to be paranoid to think your project is out to get you’. Stakeholders can be flaky, new team members can take time to bed in, sometimes a project feels like wading through set jelly in flip-flops … whatever your project throws at you – be patient. A zen-like approach beats a panicked response every day of the week – and you can buy in calm with PMaaS resources!

7 – Proficiency

Don’t be afraid to immerse yourself in the project you’re working on right now – get properly stuck in!! Soak it all up!!! A colleague once really impressed me when she threw her all into a pretty niche software migration project, the likes of which she would probably never be asked to manage again. She was like a sponge mopping up every last drop of stakeholder feedback, project life-cycle data and information about the sector and market. When asked why she did this, when her proficiency and process knowledge would have more than sufficed, she simply replied, “Why wouldn’t you?”. She got more out of the delivery of that project by using her time on it to test and expand herself and although she’d never had to deliver a project like it since she has applied the lessons and new skills that she learned time and again    

8 – Passion

Daily question – Are you passionate about your project? Your team? Your end-users? The product?

Project Management is a process driven profession, but I hope I never lose my passion for every last minute spent delivering every single project. Check yourself for passion daily!

9 – PMaaS!

OK – last one. And it’s a cheeky reminder that whatever you need to deliver your IT Project, you will find it in Stoneseed’s universe of Project Management as a Service talents and resources – you just need the right guide to help you. Contact our team on 01623 723910.

Stoneseed employs a team of Project Management and Technical Professionals, delivering services through a flexible, on-demand resourcing model, from strategy to service delivery – all underpinned by Stoneseed’s PMO, methodology and toolset.

All Stoneseed’s PMaaS services including Project Managers, Business Analysts, Technical Advisory and PMO experts are available onsite or remote. We were experts in remote access Project Management before it became an operational necessity so you can trust us to deliver rapid response resources, totally aligned with your need, on a cost effective, full-time, or part-time basis, as and when you need it,

So, there you have it, adding all the ‘P’s together … that’s P12O! Admittedly not as catchy as P3O, but cover all these and I wouldn’t bet against you delivering your IT Project to an extraordinary new levels – and best of all … we’d never have to hear a C3PO dad-joke again!


Find out about Stoneseed’s PMO Services