PMO solutions

Insights on Digital Transformation and PMO

The Digital Transformation session's principal objective was to highlight five areas which are not commonly discussed, let alone challenged when embarking on a Digital Transformation journey. 

One of the key objectives of Project Management Office (PMO) is to provide PMO solutions and services that help businesses grow and meet their strategical objectives. In this evolving digital world, PMOs need to be future-ready, identifying the big picture and able to propose the best solutions.

Your PMO might already be involved in technological transformations or support the business in moving forward with digital solutions. In any situation, however, there are some vital elements one needs to be aware of regarding PMOs role in facilitating the change in a business.

In February PMO Sydney Meet up session, organised by PMO Sydney Meet up organising team and sponsored by EPM PartnersRalf Finchett Jnr presented the five main challenges commonly encountered in the digital transformation journey, suggesting the following actions:


What is Digital


And what is the difference between User Experience or new Service Design?

Today the meaning of 'digital' is more than taking a paper-based transaction and placing them online. As a PMO advisor, it is necessary to define digitalisation in the business and propose a value-add solution to the business to improve efficiency and effectiveness'. This is an essential component of PMO encountering Digital Transformation.

Defining the Transformation has to come from the very top, does the Executive Leadership truly understand what transformation means to their organisation and their customers? Has a team been empowered to ensure the customer is at the centre of the new user experience?

Does the organisation's leadership understand the various channels of support (Omni channel) and the ways the organisation needs to evolve to give the most appropriate support for digital transactions?


Delivery Approach

More than just Agile!

Agile is predominantly a team-based approach for iterative design and development of usable products (use cases). Agile works best when operating within a defined outcome. Using a Delivery Approach such as the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) or Government Digital Services (GDS-UK) helps to set expectations of what outcome will be derived from the sprints in an Agile approach.

Discovery, Alpha, Beta, Live is such an approach whereby the sprints can fit within the lifecycle phases.

Not everything should be delivered with an Agile approach. Sometimes making an informed decision upfront can save pain later down the line. Asking yourself such questions up front:

-    How complex is the legacy platform?

-    Is the desired outcome fixed or flexible with its design?

-    Is the environment complex? What are the dependencies? Are there too many to handle?

-    Can the outputs/products be iterated or thrown away to be restarted?

Not everything suits an Agile Delivery method, and not all organisations are Spotify, Facebook or Uber. These 'poster' examples of Agile tend to have one or two channels, one product, and new(ish) systems. Many organisations have multiple channels, aging legacy systems, highly legislative environments, and complex use cases. Be an Agile realist, not an Agile evangelist.

One of the primary roles of the PMO is to create an interactive environment, define the reason for the change and the methods of delivery. It suggests agile or waterfall and accommodates in a way that best suits the corporate environment, which in turn allows a sufficient creation of the production line. 

'Understand the different pace of change and delivery across policy / legal areas, new user interfaces and integrations/change into legacy systems. Try and break these dependencies to ensure efficient delivery.


Decision Making

To efficiently implement the change, PMO needs to provide analytical data and due diligence to decision makers. The data presented here will be a reliable and referable guide to the business, particularly for enterprise companies who have large amounts of historical data.

The next step is to prioritise this data through volumetrics and value-metrics. to enable the decision making regarding the prioritisation, sequencing and development of the user journeys or transactions.

The PMO can also be best placed to ensure that decisions, especially design decisions are made on data and information. Design can be subjective but capturing the right metrics to prove if the new digital experience is superior to other designs can be critical in driving the model which brings the most value.

PMO must be transparent to show the reliability metrics for early decision-making steps. In digital transformation, the reactive firefighting approach is not the right approach!

One of the digital transformation challenges is how to present the transactions which can deliver the highest value or ROI from day one, especially for non-IT industries. The problems here surround showing the value and advising on the journey. This is not a straightforward discussion!


Skills and Knowledge

Technology and skills move quickly. PMO as the centre of excellence and the business enabler must continuously be looking to the future and identify skills required. With the current trend of AI (artificial intelligence), Block Chain, Voice Activation, the skills necessary for delivering digital often fall behind the current requirement.

Improving your PMO's competencies to be agile learners and integrated mentors will help to support the Digital Transformation.

Digitalisation is a mind shift for some people and change management helps to up-skill and implement these new skills.



Procurement is almost the forgotten piece of digital transformation puzzle, especially at the beginning of the journey, yet the right procurement approach can help Digital Transformation success, and the wrong path could bring the whole transformation to a close. The integrated PMO Solution engages commercial and procurements from the outset, looking to avoid fixed price contracts when the early design and iterative development require flexibility with suppliers, partners, contractors and vendors.

The value add PMO in digital transformation understands that 'Change is a Constant' and helps planning with Value and Outcomes, but most importantly, helps create a new environment which creates new products, propose the right and suitable solutions and support business to deliver the services both effectively and also efficiently.

How philosophy can help you be an effective manager

Our workplace culture, employee skillset and PMO practices are changing in ways we have not witnessed since the early 19th century. To be a future-ready manager, we need to learn the necessary management skills to adapt to these changes.

An assessment has been made on three famous philosophers’ approach to leading and the subsequent PMO solutions that are required in a workplace to achieve business goals.  Drawing on these philosophies can guides managers to reach their leadership aspirations.


Homer- Management by performance

is the Greek philosopher who believed in Heroism and a society bound by roles.  Based on this Homeric philosophy, you are defined by your actions in order to assert your ‘Hero’ status.


For a hero manager, the only way to establish his status is through his performance as a hero in combat on the battlefield. Hero Managers are constantly in fear of disgrace and they fear the judgement of their community

 PMO within the Homeric management style

In a Homeric organisation, obtaining PMO solutions and its scope of influence within this hierarchy is often limited. PMO services and efficient office management is a double edge sword in this management style.  

Are you a heroic leader?

1-      Do you like to swoop-in and save the day?

2-      Do you see yourself as the leader who can solve any problem or challenge?

3-      Do you believe on top-down reporting line hierarchy? 

4-      Do you believe that “If you want it done right, do it by yourself”?

5-      Do you believe that you can do everything better that anyone else?

 If you answered ‘yes’, your management philosophy is Homeric. To position yourself favourably for future success you may need to alter your management approach to focus on two-way communication, meet and respond to questions and engage with challenges / conflicts, viewing these as opportunities to learn from.


Plato - Management by education and reasoning

believed a leader is a human instructor who needs to omit the conflict between its segments to create an ideal state. This is called the FORM theory, which is the ability to see the good, be better and seek the truth.

 PMO within Plato’s philosophy of FORM style

A vital task as a PMO manager is to educate and assist people to achieve their strategic objectives. . Training and mentoring should be one of the PMO strengths in your organisation and PMO solutions should be delivered with adequate training and performance measurements.

 Are you a Plato-based leader?

1-   Do you believe in peak performance?

2-   Do you consider the knowledge as a virtue?

3-   Do you believe in education so that it may be a better way to discover the truth?

4-   Do you see yourself as committed true role model?

5-   Do you believe in reasoning?

 If you answered ‘yes’, your PMO leadership approach is emerging in Plato’s Idealist theory. To be successful in this position, you must obtain the charismatic ability to influence people, be a good listener, be patient and have passion to educate people while designing PMO Solutions and Services.


Hume - Management by experience

Hume is one of the philosophers who believed in Empiricism, claiming that learning is acquired by observation and result of our perception. Hume also argued that our understanding of whether an action is right or wrong should be based on the response that it receives.

 PMO within Hume philosophy management style

An organisation with Hume philosophy management supports PMO in developing solutions and services by engaging different SMEs across the business. To be successful with this type of management philosophy PMO needs to be a role model of facilitation, requirements management and stakeholder management skills and competency.

 Am I a leader with Hume philosophy?

1-      Do you consider truth based on observation?

2-      Do you sympathise with people and their circumstances?

3-      Do you consider probabilities?

4-      Are you open to others' experiences?

5-      Do you trust people's thoughts and impressions?

6-      Do you involve people in making decisions?

 If you answered ‘yes’ to these questions, as a leader you will need to set clear goals and objectives, monitor the time it takes more for group decisions to be made, evaluate solutions and can clarify peoples roles. This philosophy provides an effective way to generate new ideas, but without proper management, it can also lead to improper solutions.  


PMO’s main role is leading a team and people to achieve business objectives so all these three different philosophies can shape a PMOs vision. To help PMO establish an effective relationship with people, facilitate the right decisions and strengthen team’s ability to deal with dilemmas, a variety of management philosophies need to be factored. There is not a one path solution for all PMO office practices. To take the right approach we need to:

·       Discuss out of the box solutions

·       Remain loyal and stand by business commitments - Be a fighter

·       Have the ability to influence people when necessary

·       Educate and encourage people to learn and seek for truth by reason – Plato

·       There is no justification that the future will be like the past

·       Avoid judgement based on habit and past experiences

·       Be open to other people ideas with an appropriate management style

·       Trust and delegate our team to promote team accountability

·       Believe in your organisation values

 These cannot be achieved unless we as leaders educate and evaluate ourselves constantly and be a leader that people follow because of who we are and what we represent.

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How to set up a PgMO from below zero:

Setting up a PgMO is a challenge and finding out the start point is bigger challenge! develop and maintain PgMO success.

It was our great pleasure speaking in Sydney PMO meet up , session sponsoring by EPM-Partners, and sharing our experience in setting up a program management office for a below zero environment.

Below zero situations:

Below zero, means your hands, head and body are cold and frozen. You want to stick to your heater and love to have a hot drink or soup. You don’t like to move and there is not much sun.

Why is our case study in a below zero environment? Our case study was below zero as there was no clear visibility, no accountability and decision making was ad-hoc. In this situation project managers were fire fighters and the client was frustrated; nobody wanted to communicate. The main problem was making change was almost impossible. It seemed no one wanted to listen or follow any process, even those processes which the senior management team support.

We got the chance of setting up a Program management office for a below zero environment. We observed some opportunities and challenges in the first one or two weeks. For example, the organisation is a young organisation which makes it both challenge and opportunity.

Our journey:

 Our 12 month journey can be broken in different phases:

1.     First interview

2.     First months

3.     New team member

4.     Mid journey crises

5.     New troops

6.     Today!

Where to start:

The right start point and focus area, are the main key success in setting up the PgMO, especially for a frozen environment. It costs time and money to set up the structure and solutions that are not addressing the business main pain points and objectives. Our journey started from our first interview with program management team with a question of why do you need a PgMO and why PgMO? Simple answer, we want a PgMO to make our life easier, this is the sign of painful areas. Second answer: we think PgMO can connect different part of the business together, this shows the management feel the cold and believe PgMO can warm it up and create connections between different parts of the business.

The first months:

In theory, the first months should be all about understanding the As-is situation. We added two steps before step one as steps -1 and 0 as:

Step -1: knowing ourselves, we did a SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Threat and Opportunity) analysis on ourselves and the high level understanding of the business. We set our target to deliver our service based on our strength.   

Step 0: picture your team within the environment. The culture, team’s needs and required resources. One of the main things in below zero situations is to manage your pace with the environment temperature. Don’t rush in your process. You need to tune your pace with your customer’s pace at the beginning. When you get the buy in and the trust you can speed it up.

Then the step 1 is to analyse the as-is situation and finding out the main pain points, business requirements and stakeholders.

To do so, we used the Solution Blueprint which helps to start the journey in a structure and proposing solution. You can download our solution blueprint, available until 10th August 2017.

The must dos:

·       Simple, sound and achievable solutions

·       PgMO vision

·       PgMO short-term and long term objectives

·       Solution roadmap

·       PgMO values

·       Expected benefits list

·       And the baseline

To implement the integrated solution, it’s important to use the right framework which is simple and versatile.  The benefits of using the PgMO framework are:

1-     A good reference in communicating with different stakeholders

2-     It covers all aspects of the business

3-     It is adaptable and can support different needs of the business

In first months of our journey we used our PgMO framework to set up the foundations and structure.

New resource:

A new, young, active and savvy PgMO expert is gold. Our new resource joined our team with expertise which complement the function. Getting the right resource, who can add more to your strength and mitigate your weakness is vital. Our new resource helped us to increase the temperature and helped us to engage our sponsors and stakeholders.

Mid Journey crises:

Christmas mood, changes in structure and big change in client’s requirements structure were our mid journey crises.

Our lesson learnt:

·       Consistency is the key: Although changes happened and we needed to review our strategy, we learnt how to be consistent in our structure and framework.

·       “we” is stronger than “I”: PgMO should lead the team and make them believe their capabilities. There should be no individual credit.

·       You are the role model of your solution

·       Let them make mistakes: If there is no mistake there is no success

·       Show the ugly face: PgMO should be honest on supporting decision makers. If your sponsors don’t have visibility on the right picture, they won’t be engaged.

Our win cards:

·       Assessment: we had a very good self-assessment strategy in place which helped us manage new changes and our strategy aligned with the business requirements.

·       Education and training

·       Being transparent

·       Art, colour and fun: we use art, colour and fun in any of processes. We believe people should enjoy working with us first.

·       We didn’t give up

New troops:

Due to the changes, the new roles introduced to the business in managing projects as “Portfolio manager”. They are responsible and accountable for managing projects in different portfolios. Through this change, PgMO plays the enabler role rather than deliverer. Our main role changed to supporting and leading the Portfolio Managers to manage their projects aligned with program benefits and outcomes.

Our lesson learnt:

·       Let the framework manage your scope

·       Being transparent on your objectives

·       Just motivate - motivating portfolio managers and strong support from PgMO made them to be our best friends along the journey.

·       Don’t assume anything. No assumption in any case. PgMO should be clear and open to keep the trust and engagement.

·       Develop, Teach, Repeat, Refresh (DTRR). If you develop any process, you run the training, do not forget to keep repeating and refreshing it.

Our win cards:

·       Good team work! Especially PgMO and portfolio managers

·       Clear, to the point communication, PMO framework makes it much easier


Now a days we are looking forward to implementing an enterprise project management tool. We completed the proof of concept phase and planning for our next challenge of production phase. We selected project online and work very closely with EPM-Partners implementing an efficient system benefiting business.

As outcomes of the first 12 months, we received great feedbacks of client and our stakeholders. We see the project management maturity improved from the time we started. We get our words from different tellers which shows us we have improved. 


Setting up a program management office is a challenge especially when you need to start everything from below zero. To succeed our recommendations are:

1.     First steps -1, 0, 1 are important

2.     Define your values and be a role model of your standards

3.     Complexity is your enemy

4.     Requirement management, business analysis and Agile techniques are the win cards

5.     Everything with makeup is prettier

6.     What was DTRR ? (Develop, Teach, repeat, refresh)

The Sydney PMO meetup was a great opportunity for us to share our experience through this journey. Thanks EPM-Partner sponsoring this session.