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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One of the main authorities in the PMO topic in the Americas, having more than 20 years of experience as an International Speaker, Consultant, Researcher, Executive and Author. He is Chair at PMO Global Alliance, a worldwide community of PMO professionals, Professor at many universities in Americas and Europe, and a regular columnist at the PM World Magazine. Americo Pinto received the PMI Distinguished Contribution Award in 2011, in Dallas, TX, for his contribution to the development of Project Management practices. He led the 6-year research project that created the PMO VALUE RING, today, the most used methodology in the world to create, evaluate and monitor PMOs focused on value generation. The PMO Global Awards, the largest awards in the world for PMOs, was created by Americo Pinto and counts with the participation of more than 500 professionals and companies from more them 100 countries. All this significant set of experiences enables Americo Pinto to know deeply hundreds of project management and PMO success stories, which inspire the valuable insights that he shares in his speeches and workshops around the world.
Redaktor naczelny Strefy PMI. Kierownik projektów, konsultant, trener i mentor w obszarze zarządzania projektami z wieloletnim doświadczeniem we wdrażaniu rozwiązań z zakresu zarządzania projektami, portfelami, PMO i ryzykiem. Uzyskiwanie kolejnych certyfikatów (PMP, PSM II, PSPO I, PMO-CP, PRINCE2, MoR, MoP, MSP, P3O, PRINCE2 Agile, AgilePM, TSPM, Change Management etc.) traktuje jako motywację do nieustannego poszerzania wiedzy. Pasjonat zarządzania projektami, ciągłego doskonalenia i dzielenia się wiedzą, od wielu lat zaangażowany w prace PMI Poland Chapter. Dwukrotnie członek Rady Programowej Międzynarodowego Kongresu PMI Poland Chapter, członek zespołu weryfikującego polskie tłumaczenie szóstej edycji PMBOK® Guide. Prywatnie – miłośnik górskich i leśnych wędrówek, żeglowania, książek, czarnej kawy i czerwonego wina.