Interview with Americo Pinto, founder of PMO Global Alliance, conducted by Szymon Pawłowski

Six years ago you founded PMO Global Alliance – the first global community focused exclusively on project management offices. What were the reasons to undertake such serious activity in such a specialized subject and how you describe your objectives those days at the start?

PMO Global Alliance was founded in 2015 and will complete five years in December 2020. The internationalization of the com­munity started in 2017. In only three years, a lot has happened, and we reached more than 10,000 members in over 100 countries, which is an outstanding achievement for us.

I have been studying, researching, and working with PMOs for the past twelve years. This has led me to develop a great passion for PMOs, which have unique characteristics and challenges, becoming a highly complex organizational phenomenon. On the other hand, compared to other topics related to project management, there is still a lot to be researched and developed about PMOs.

So what encouraged me to found PMO Global Alliance was to realize that the hun­dreds of professionals and leaders in PMOs that I have had the opportunity to meet worldwide have common needs, demands, and challenges. And that the collective ex­perience and the aggregated knowledge of these professionals, if well used and available to the global community, can accelerate the evolution of PMOs, generating benefits for many professionals and their organizations.

After these six years since PMO Global Alliance has been established, how do you find its activities and development? Are there any things you are especially proud of?

The last three years, in particular, have been very intense. Today, PMO Global Alli­ance has several international projects con­solidated, such as the PMO VALUE RING® methodology, developed collaboratively by our community members. The PMO-CP® (PMO Certified Practitioner) and PMO-CC® (PMO Certified Consultant) certifications have spread worldwide and have become rel­evant credentials for any PMO professional. The PMO Global Awards®, the largest and most prestigious award for PMOs globally, brings together hundreds of organizations and professionals who share their experience and knowledge, proudly representing their countries in a truly global celebration. And many other projects that start every year, always under the leadership of our members.

But without any doubt, what makes me really proud is knowing that all of this happened without investing a single cent in advertising. All this growth was organic, strongly supported by word-of-mouth mar­keting, which reinforces our community’s seriousness, integrity, professionalism, and passion. To be trusted by so many people in so many different places is a privilege and a great responsibility.

Since about 2000, there has been discus­sion across the project management com­munity all over the world about PMOs and many experts had an opinion that it does not make sense to prepare a PMO frame­work or methodology, because “one size does not fit all”. Even PMI did not establish a standard for project management of­fices although it has standards for project, program, portfolio and risk management. What are your thoughts about such an at­titude?

I fully agree with this point of view. I see no sense in a standard for PMOs and that is precisely what makes PMOs such a complex phenomenon. We know that there is a best practice, an ideal way to manage projects, programs, or portfolios. However, there is no ideal PMO or even a single path that every­one should follow.

If there is a secret to the success of a PMO, it is certainly related to its ability to be unique, adapted to the needs and expec­tations of its stakeholders and organization. A successful PMO model in one organization can be a complete failure in the second one. It happens because PMOs need to shape ex­isting needs and not the other way around.

The PMO VALUE RING® methodology, cre­ated by seasoned members of our commu­nity, reflects this mindset, providing a step-by-step that allows assessing the PMO’s alignment with its stakeholders and the or­ganization’s real needs. This is the only way to generate a real perception of value and make the PMO thrive.

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You also led a 6-year research project that resulted in PMO VALUE RING® methodology creation. Could you tell us more about this project, its beginnings, its course and main challenges?

The first steps that led to creating the PMO VALUE RING® methodology were tak­en long before the PMO Global Alliance’s founding, still in 2010, when a PMO-specific maturity assessment model was presented for the first time at the PMI Research Con­ference in Washington D.C.

Since then, other small pieces of research have started to be developed by groups of PMO leaders under my leadership and, in 2015, all these initiatives were finally con­solidated into a unique methodology, named PMO VALUE RING®, whose main character­istic is a strong focus on what really matters to those who are leading PMOs and not just discussing theories, away from the real day-to-day battlefield.

This methodology’s main objective is to al­low the PMO to generate a perception of val­ue for its stakeholders. After all, at the end of the day, the recognition of the value of the PMO will make it continue to be supported by the executive level and the organization. Since it was launched, the methodology has been presented and discussed in dozens of global conferences, tested in hundreds of PMOs, and today has more than 20,000 us­ers in more than 80 countries.

How does PMO VALUE RING® methodol­ogy differ from other PMO frameworks or implementation approaches?

The PMO VALUE RING® methodology is complementary and connects with other important frameworks, such as Axelos’ P3O® and several agile approaches. Through annu­al cycles, the methodology allows us to cre­ate PMOs from scratch or evaluate existing PMOs, ensuring that they are fully aligned with its stakeholders’ expectations and needs, which is essential to generate value perception.

The methodology covers all the aspects necessary for successfully setting up a PMO, providing detailed processes, specific perfor­mance indicators for each function, a compe­tence model for the PMO, a maturity assess­ment model that allows planning its evolution, a method to calculate the PMO’s financial return and, finally, a strategic dashboard to monitor the PMO’s performance and how it is generating value for the organization.

All these steps benefit from a web tool that automates the annual evaluation cy­cle and provides recommendations from an international database, with thousands of PMO leaders’ collective experience.

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One of the pillars of PMO VALUE RING® is the mindset standing behind the meth­odology. Could you describe the key con­cepts of this mindset?

The most important pillar of the PMO VALUE RING® methodology is the concept of perceived value and the understanding that the PMO is a service provider, which has customers (stakeholders) with specific expectations and needs. From this mind­set, instead of looking for the best type of PMO for your organization, you must focus on identifying the expected results and how you should configure your PMO so that it can deliver the benefits expectations of your stakeholders, generating perception of value about the PMO.

There is no lack of glamorous types of PMOs in the literature: the Agile PMO; the Strategic PMO, the Value Management Of­fice; the Center of Excellence; the Consult­ing PMO, among many others. Believe that you need to choose one of them, blindly implement all of its recommended functions, and watch your PMO fail.

The best type of PMO is the one that meets the specific needs of your organiza­tion and its stakeholders, no matter what its name is. Perhaps the solution you need is a mix of several types of PMOs or something that doesn’t fit any of the proposed types. As long as it delivers the results that will gener­ate value perception, it will be the ideal type of PMO for your business.

Now I would like to ask about a collec­tive intelligence you used to create PMO VALUE RING®. Many people through­out the world devote their free time and voluntarily engage in its constant devel­opment and advancement of the PMO pro­fession. How did you achieve it?

Our community today exceeds 10,000 members and many of them are seasoned PMO professionals with a genuine interest in contributing to the evolution of their profes­sion and the global PMO community.

Encouraging this fantastic group to co-create practical and useful solutions is one of the main objectives of the PMO Glob­al Alliance. Through collaborative work, we can generate significant benefits for every­one. These amazing professionals are proud to contribute to the advancement of the PMO profession, and a sense of belonging keeps them together and motivates every­one to support each other as a single team.

Let us assume that I am now your prospec­tive client and I am thinking of establish­ing PMO in my organization. How would you convince me to use PMO VALUE RING® methodology?

Are you struggling to make the value of your PMO recognized by your stakehold­ers? Are you gradually losing sponsorship from top management? Is the organization questioning the need to have or maintain the PMO? As much as the PMO does a techni­cally perfect job, hardly anyone appreciates what is being done?

If you answer yes to at least one of these questions, it is time to rethink your PMO. The experience shows that in a very short time, it may be shut down due to its inability to generate perceived value.

The PMO VALUE RING® methodology will support this redesign, realigning the PMO to the the expectations of its stakeholders based on the collective experience of hundreds of PMO leaders who have successfully overcome similar challenges.

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Along with the PMO VALUE RING® meth­odology, the PMO Certified Practitioner (PMO-CP) examination and certification system has been set-up. How many PMO-CPs are now in the world? Do you plan to take some further steps to develop this certification system? Maybe some more advanced level or levels?

Today there are more than 4,000 PMO-CP® (PMO Certified Practitioner) credential hold­ers in the world, in more than 70 countries. The certification process has significantly evolved over the past three years and offers a 100% online experience, which includes the preparation for the exam with the PMO Global Alliance learning platform, the proc­tored exam that maintains the integrity of the process, and an accreditation system for digital certificates that ensures their authenticity. All of this, with affordable fees given the valuable technical content and the growing prestige and relevance of the credential in the global PMO community.

The PMO Global Alliance certification program also includes the PMO-CC® (PMO Certified Consultant) credential, which targets professionals who work as external or internal consultants. They need to demonstrate consistent experience in PMOs and consulting practices, and theoretical knowledge and practical experience in the PMO VALUE RING® methodology. The PMO-CC® certification process remains open only for a few months of the year, and there is a maximum number of certified professionals for each region or country. In January 2021, the certification cycle will reopen, and candidates will submit their applications by the end of the first quarter.

Coming back to PMOs – many of them struggle to deliver value to their organiza­tions, and many of them fail and thus are terminated. What are the main steps we should undertake to avoid this and really deliver value?

If you want to keep your PMO delivering perceived value, the first step is to identify your customers (stakeholders) and their ex­pectations of benefits and results. Then, fo­cus your efforts on setting up a PMO with a catalog of services/functions that maxi­mizes the chances of delivering the identified expectations. Structure each service with a process suited to your organization’s cul­ture and maturity. Define responsibilities and establish appropriate performance indicators, goals and service levels. Create a team with the necessary skills to deliver your PMO’s functions and develop your team. Identify your current PMO maturity and your matu­rity goal at the end of an annual assessment cycle. Manage the gaps with consistent ac­tion plans.

And, finally, remember that, at any time, if significant changes occur, it may be time to reevaluate and rethink your PMO, as new expectations may demand a different PMO.

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What is the future of PMOs in the world of progressing automation and constant de­velopment of artificial intelligence?

PMOs will still be useful for a long time, and there is no evidence that organizations will no longer need them in the years to come. On the other hand, with the maturation of organizations, it is expected that the PMOs will change, not only about their functions but also in the way they perform their work.

According to the most recent research, technology will be increasingly present in the PMOs, making them more productive, reliable, and focused on spending resources in relevant activities, which have a high po­tential to generate value perception. On the other hand, this is a gradual evolution, as it depends not only on the PMO’s wish but also on the organization’s ability to absorb new processes and technologies.

COVID-19 is changing the world, business, organizations and management. What are your predictions about the impact of the pandemic on project management, PM community and especially on PMOs?

The world is always changing. Organiza­tions are always changing. And PMOs also need to change and adapt to these new scenarios. In general, major changes occur gradually. The COVID-19 pandemic brought a new factor: a massive change on a global scale in a short time, which does not allow a gradual adaptation to the new reality.

It increases the risk for the PMO, which needs to be flexible enough to adapt to the new normal quickly. Otherwise, it may not survive for long.

PMOs that can understand their new role in the face of the new needs and expecta­tions will thrive. Those who believe that previous success is sufficient to ensure their future may be surprised by a rapid loss of executive sponsorship and the consequent decline of the PMO.

Some will say that the lack of sponsorship was the cause of their failure, when, in fact, the lack of sponsorship was just the most explicit evidence and consequence of their inability to generate perceived value.