Before you commit to an external project, programme or portfolio management office (PMO) partnership, you need to dig, and dig deep. Ask the right questions—and listen carefully.
The perfect PMO partner will help you take stock and calculate good risk vs bad risk—explaining their approach and business model. They’ll be able to answer questions around how to optimize your investment in PMO services, which functions to outsource, which roles to retain, and measure success along the way. They’ll also be customer-centric, and flexible enough to offer you exactly the type of PMO service you need.
Overall, a great PMO will be able to provide the missing piece, or pieces, you need for success—whether that’s skills, engagement, visibility, processes, standards, definitions, tools, communications, analytics, metrics, change management or the whole caboodle!
Make sure you bring the right PMO partner on-board by asking them the following five important questions.
1. Tell me about your business?
This seems like a no-brainer, but what’s important is not to settle for mediocrity. You don’t want an external PMO service that’s only interested in doing what’s expected. They need to bring something different to the table—something you don’t already have.
They should be able to:
- Give you an example of their success—goals they’ve achieved and any outcomes that are better than their competitors
- Tell you about satisfied customers
- Explain their own vision, mission, values and how they will fit in with your business culture
- Explain how big their team is and the expertise they will bring
- Explain what makes them unique and how committed they are to helping you achieve your PMO goals
- Show they’re authentic, flexible and in it for the long term
- Demonstrate what they stand for in the community
2. What do you know about our business?
If they’ve not taken the time to learn about your business in advance, it’s a bad sign. A good PMO partner should already know your vision, mission and values. They should also be able to give you some initial insight into what they can or have offered other businesses in your industry.
Have they mentioned any of the below?
- We’ve read your business values, vision, and mission statement…
- We’ve visited your website…
- We’d be interested in reading your business strategy…
3. What’s your business model?
A business model isn’t just a dry PowerPoint presentation full of charts and graphs. Ultimately, it’s a story that explains how a particular business actually works. And it should answer some basic questions such as: Who is the customer? What do they value? It should also answer another fundamental question—how one can deliver value to a customer at a reasonable cost.
So basically, a successful PMO services’ business model should provide insight into their business, and how their services are a better alternative than others—perhaps offering more value or providing new insights and methodologies.
4. What’s your approach when dealing with an existing internal PMO… to minimize uncertainty?
Change is always a challenge and having an external PMO appear on the scene may create some anxiety and uncertainty. A good PMO partner will understand this fact, and already have measures in place to ensure a smooth transition. They should be able to explain how they’ll not only integrate seamlessly, but how they’ll help your internal people develop and learn. After all, they should be experts in their field.
Listen out for these key responses:
- Learning about each individual team member is important to us—who they are as people, their role, skills, experience, the challenges they face, what they’re most passionate about, and what they’d like to see happen with the PMO in the future. With this knowledge we’ll not only build a unique PMO with the motivation and desire to achieve outstanding results, we’ll also be in the best position to provide the right kind of support for each member of the team.
- When we partner with a new client, we create a team formation plan and explain clearly how we bring external and internal people together—creating one team.
- We know how important it is to connect and build solid relationships within a team. From the very beginning we organize opportunities for the new mixed team to get to know one another.
- Every team member has a vast amount of experience and something unique to offer. Understanding this is key when building strong relationships within the team, and across the business. We’re excited to learn more about each individual team member, and perhaps even unlock some hidden talents!
- Bringing in an external PMO may initially create uncertainty within a team. We always put measures in place to ensure a smooth transition, which includes a route to raise concerns with an internal PMO sponsor.
- It’s important to work together as one team. But… each individual team member has his/her own challenges and goals. We want every person on the team to remain passionate about what they do. This means making sure they understand the role they play, why it’s important, the difference they make, and the positive impact they have on the business—and recognising, and rewarding, their contributions along the way.
5. Do you have any questions?
A good PMO service will want to ensure they too are entering into a positive, long-term and trusting relationship. They should be asking questions around your…
- Experience working with external teams in a co-creational environment
- Past and current challenges when delivering change
- Mentoring programmes
- Project portfolio, it’s diversity and volume
- PMO positioning within the business
- Data-driven decision making
- Continuous improvement programmes
- C-suite engagement
- Measurable benefits
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