What is P3O?

P3O is a comprehensive guide to designing and implementing a support structure for an organisation’s portfolio of projects whether run as individual projects or as programmes of projects. Support structures range from the simplest form of support delivered by a part-time support officer to a highly sophisticated, geographically dispersed structure across a global enterprise.

It covers the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) concept of Centres of Excellence that set Portfolio, Programme and Project standards as well as the support offices that deliver front-line support to any or all of the Portfolio, Programme and Project levels.

P3O was developed by the OGC with the aim of aiding the development of best practice support across both the public and private sectors.

Why P3O?

P3O claims that the right level of support enables businesses and organisations to both:-

  • DO the right projects and programmes (Validation)
  • DO the projects and programmes right (Verification)

Business Change Strategy

Portfolio level support is about helping an organisation to develop a portfolio of Programmes and Projects that support a Business Change Strategy. The P3O support office does the donkey work to sort out the portfolio of projects that have the maximum potential for delivering beneficial change. Many organisations have unsustainable levels of change thrust upon them with no mechanism for setting priorities that will ensure the best return on the invested resources.

Business Change Design

Centres of Excellence and Programme level offices help set standards and embed appropriate methodologies to help Programme and Project staff, particularly those involved at board level, to apply appropriate levels of governance. With a right understanding of the tailorable nature of methodologies like MSPTM and PRINCE2TM Programmes and Projects can be initiated to minimise the risks of the Change Portfolio being blown off course through lack of or over bureaucratic control in the early stages of programmes and projects. If the basic MSPTM and PRINCE2TM Principle ‘We are a learning organisation’ is applied, the P3Office will be the repository of this knowledge and can ensure that each Programme and Project Team member is not caught out by lessons that others have learned before them.

Business Change Delivery

There is a tendency for Programmes and Projects to start well but as they pan out commitment sometimes wanes and more and more of the governance responsibility falls on the shoulders of the Project Managers. P3O understands the corporate demands on senior staff asked to play Programme and Project Board roles and can help them balance programme/project demands against corporate demands.

With the right P3O structure, many of the assurance responsibilities of the board members can be shouldered by the P3O staff freeing the Board members to the point that their involvement is spent focusing on key decisions.

Business Change Value

Responsibility for getting beneficial value from the transformational change implemented by programmes falls to the Business Change Manager and operational line managers. Experience shows that Benefits are often assumed rather than measured since the operational line managers have pressing day jobs to perform.

The P3O staff can take over the independent task of measuring the realised benefits giving operational line managers the data to help focus their effort on the changes that are proving worthwhile for the business

The right P3O structure will help the business answer these difficult questions:-

  • Are we making the right investments and running the best value projects?
  • How much money will we spend collectively and for what return?
  • What programmes and projects are delivering the best value?
  • Are we making the best use of our resources?
  • If change is forced upon us where can we get funding out of our existing portfolio?
  • Are our decisions made on current and sufficient facts?

Implementing P3O: P3O uses the MSPTM programme management method to design and set up an appropriate P3O structure for an organisation. It understands that the most likely implementation approach is one of evolution rather than Big Bang.

To this end P3O advocates the development of a P3O Blueprint that will map the evolution of a P3O structure over several tranches of activity, learning lessons as the P3O structure takes on increasing responsibilities.

Expending resources on developing and implementing a PSO has to deliver corporate benefit. P3O provides guidance on constructing a Business Case that will see the delivery of tangible benefits from deploying a P3O structure that will be sufficient to sustain a P3O on either a temporary or permanent basis.

The APM Group has implemented a Foundation level P3O qualification that is exam-based, similar to all other OGC Best Practice Foundation qualifications. Courses are generally focussed on helping staff that have an understanding of programme and project managers develop their skills in supporting the governance of change.