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Congratulations to our delegates

The following delegates have achieved a significant award, namely the Centre for Change Management qualifications
Well done from all of us at Aspire Europe
They have all achieved National Qualification Level 4 (foundation degree equivalent) awards, as follows
Michael Ashiotis – Benefits Management
Lucy Holder – Benefits Management
Andrew Symonds – Benefits Management
Dean Fitzpatrick – Benefits Management
Simon Cooper – Benefits Management
Matthew Rodgers – Benefits Management
Henry Adisah – Planning Principles

Everything you wanted to know about Portfolio, Programme and Project Offices (P3O®) in less than one thousand words!

by Sue Vowler, Lead Author P3O®
What is P3O®?
Portfolio, Programme and Project Offices (P3O®) is the latest guidance to be published about portfolio, programme and project management.  It covers the set up and running of support offices for all levels of change within an organisation. It offers advice to organisations on current Best Management Practice thinking on what previously has been referred to as PSO (Programme or Project Support Office) or PMO (Programme or Project Management Office).
P3O is owned and was sponsored by the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) in the UK, who also own PRINCE2, MSP, M_o_R and ITIL.  It was published by TSO in October 2008 and like all other OGC publications, P3O is published as a practitioners manual, a pocketbook and an introduction to the subject entitled ‘Think P3O’.
The P3O guidance is not a method, it is a body of knowledge to be dipped into.  Whereas PRINCE2 and Managing Successful Programmes ( MSP) tell practitioners how to set up and run an individual project or programme, P3O offers guidance for setting up a successful environment for the running of multiple  programmes and projects within an organisation, ensuring change is balanced with business as usual.
Although P3O is inextricably linked with the full OGC library of methods, it is equally applicable in organisations where other industry standards are used, such as the PMI or APM BoKs.
P3O bridges the gap between the strategy and policy makers and the delivery arm of the organization.  It covers both the question of “what are the right programmes and projects to help us achieve our business strategy” and the question of “how do we balance change with operational delivery and ensure that change is delivered consistently and well”.
What does the P3O guidance offer?

  • An introduction to P3O – Discussing why, when and how to use P3O models including the difference between portfolios, programmes and project environments and their different requirements
  • Value – What value P3Os can bring to the organization including a business case, funding models and performance measures
  • Example models – An overview of the different P3O models that organisations may implement
  • Lifecycle of P3O including the set up, sustainability and continuous improvement
  • Practical application of P3O – functions, services, tools and techniques

How are P3O services delivered?
The P3O model will consist of multiple offices which work together to provide support to the governance backbone of the organisation.  Decisions about change initiatives are taken at the appropriate level and information is provided once as a single source of truth and escalated / amalgamated through the different management layers to a single point at the head of an organisation. There is no “one size fits all” in the development of a P3O model and scalability is a key focus to make the P3O guidance relevant to all kinds of organisations.

Figure 1 – Large Organisation P3O model – Crown Copyright OGC
A portfolio office will provide the decision support engine behind successful portfolio management. It will be responsible for advising senior management on the composition of the portfolio, its progress against plans and any problems with conflicting priorities, risks and issues. Its key function is to ask ‘Are we doing the right things and are we getting business benefit from our investments?’
A hub Portfolio or Programme Office is usually found in a large organisation and is focussed on a division, department or geographical location, providing local support.
A Centre of Excellence ensures that change is delivered consistently and well, through standard processes and trained competent staff. This function develops standards, ensures consistency of methods and processes and provides knowledge management, assurance and training across the full portfolio of change.  This may be a team or function within the corporate portfolio office or may be set up as a separate office.
Temporary programme or project offices are set up to support a new initiative and may be a team for a large programme or a single person supporting a programme or project manager.  They only exist for the life of the delivery of the programme or project and they may be staffed from a central flexible resource pool or use locally sourced people who follow standards set by the Centre of Excellence.
What services or functions does P3O deliver?
There are 3 key functional areas we can identify to explain the focus of an individual team or unit within a P3O model. Individuals may specialise in one or more of the functional areas:
Strategic planning or portfolio support – focus on supporting management decision making, includes portfolio analysis and prioritisation, management dashboards and provision of oversight, scrutiny and challenge role.
Tactical or delivery support – focus on the practical hands on support to the delivery of change, sometimes through a central flexible pool of delivery support staff.
Capability support – focus on the development of standard methods and processes, encouraging consistent working practices and ensuring they are deployed appropriately (tailored) and well.

Figure 2 – High level functions / services table (this is supported in P3O by a services / functions appendix detailing activities applicable to their use within a strategic portfolio office, how a centre of excellence can help or how a temporary programme or project office can implement them) – Crown Copyright OGC.
Roles within P3O
There are 2 sets of outline role descriptions in P3O. The first set covers management or generic roles and the second set is focussed on key functions.  All role descriptions are intended to be used as a “pick and mix” set to create customised job descriptions.  Management and Generic role descriptions include Head of P3O or Programme / Project Office; Portfolio Analyst, Specialist and Programme/Project Officer.  Functional roles cover all the functions outlined in figure 2.
Training and Certification
Several accredited training organisations (ATOs) offer a selection of courses, ranging from overviews to examination events. There are two certificates available: Foundation and Practitioner.
P3O® is a registered Trade Mark of the Office Government Commerce.
The swirl logoTM is a Trade Mark of the Office of Government Commerce.
For Further Information

Sue Vowler
Project Angels
Download article as pdf

Why haven’t we seen improvements in programme and project management?

Managing Director of Aspire Europe Ltd and OGC Lead Author for MSP and P3M3™ Rod Sowden, asks the question,
‘Why, after so much training, are organisations not getting better at programme and project management?’

Organisations have spent a fortune on training up their project and programme managers in the last 10 years.
Extensive work has been done to improve the tools that they use and the quality of the processes. So why do some organisations seem to be naturally good at project management whist others are not?
The work in the UK using the P3M3™.maturity model has shown that there are common factors holding organisations back as they try to progress, it is these areas that need to be addressed.
The last 15 years has seen a vast increase in the number of individuals holding professional qualifications. One framework alone, PRINCE2® now has well over a 400,000 practitioners worldwide, and I am sure many other internationally recognised approaches can claim equally impressive figures, so it wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest that there are over 500,000 individuals with project management qualifications.
In the UK Public Sector, Programme and Project Management training is one of the top 5 categories of training expenditure.
It would therefore be reasonable to assume that with so many qualified project managers around we should be ready to drive up performance and quality of project management throughout all industries. However, reports by bodies such as the National Audit Office suggest that this is not the case.
Aspire Europe’s work with our partners Outperform in the UK, to compare and analyse results of the maturity assessments undertaken using P3M3™[1], is supporting the conclusion that the investment training is not producing great value, some of the common characteristics we are finding within a broad range of organisations include the following:

  1. Considerable investment has been made in qualification based training courses to establish benchmark for individuals working in project management.
  2. Few organisations that we have viewed recognise project management as a career. It is seen as a skill set individuals in projects should possess, consequently, there is little evidence of a career path or development path for individuals.
  3. Once the qualification has been achieved, there is little evidence of skills development.

It is important to say, that the reviews that have been undertaken are in large multi functional organisations with a wide range of services and cultures. These are not, for example, specialist organisations such as construction or IT companies.
It would be helpful to reference P3M3™.maturity levels at this point. Within the P3M3™.model, skills and competency are a “Generic attribute”, this means that it applies to all levels of maturity and within all the perspectives that are reviewed as part of an assessment and therefore has a heavy weighting on the results.
The most common one is Level 2, which is characterised by hot spots of good and bad practice, some good teams some not so good, some good individuals some not so good.
It is also characterised by individuals having a general layer of knowledge but no specific skills and performance development.
If we consider the number of individuals that have now attended qualification courses, surely we should be seeing a higher level of maturity, because most people have been trained and are qualified?  However, our findings using P3M3™ suggest that training isn’t necessarily leading to consistently good and mature delivery.
Aspire Europe Ltd is not only an Accredited Consultancy Organisation, is it also an Accredited Training Organisation. We have been aware for some time that people who attended standard courses were interested in learning about programme and project management but they were more interested in gaining the qualification. With pass rates of 90% we did our best to provide this service. Three years ago, we started to question what impact the training was having on organisations other than boosting individual CVs.
The early evidence from the maturity assessments in 2008 showed that the knowledge gained in training courses was not being applied or translated into skills and organisational performance. People were learning project management NOT training to be project managers and the same applies to programme managers.
We therefore worked with an examination board called the Centre for Change Management[2] to develop vocational qualifications. These required less classroom time and the completion of a project to prove that the knowledge could be applied, very much in line with the competencies required from the maturity model.
We found a very willing audience for the courses, but then noticed that the individuals on the events were not completing the assignments to gain the qualifications. Further investigation with the delegates led to a number of reasons for the failure to complete the project:

  1. Lack of individual motivation or skills to complete the assessment, they found it too difficult.
  2. Individuals becoming isolated and losing motivation, training delivered to teams was generating higher levels of return
  3. Lack of support and encouragement from line managers to complete the assignment

If you then look at the popular qualifications, these are completed DURING the classroom training events, which do not require the individuals to provide personal commitment without the support (and pressure) of their trainer and other delegates.  They also do not require the provision of evidence that the knowledge can be applied in the real world
This is not the case for professional qualifications in other sectors (law, HR, marketing) where there is often a need to have evidence of workplace competence to achieve the professional status. This is a major challenge for programme and project management industry.
Our conclusions to date are that organisations have relied far too much on generic courses. Individuals are attending with objectives that struggle to go beyond gaining a qualification and there is no evidence of organisations taking any ownership of exploiting the new found knowledge of their staff.  This leads us to question how serious the organisations and the individuals are about improving programme and project management performance.
That’s the gloomy story, but there are plenty of examples of innovation and ambition out there that we will talk about in the next article.

[1] Portfolio, Programme, Project Management Maturity Model, more information can be found at our website www.aspireeurope.com
[2] Centre for Change Management can be found at www.c4cm.co.uk