What is P3O?

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What is p3o project program portfolio management

In business, achieving strategic growth isn’t easy. It involves managing projects and programs as part of a portfolio, with aspects like stakeholder decisions, risks, and expenditure all contributing towards progress (or a lack thereof). 

With this level of complexity, it should come as no surprise that the most successful businesses take steps to ensure they have a reliable support and facilitation framework for delivering change. This is where P3O, also known as ‘Portfolio, Programme, and Projects Offices’, comes in. 

P3O is a decision-enabling model designed to guide decision-making bodies to help them achieve change efficiently, reliably, and in a way that maximizes ROIs. These ‘bodies’, better known as ‘P3O offices’, are all unique as they reflect the goals, market, capabilities, and structure of the organization that employs them. As part of this, a P3O office will also work to support ‘business as usual’ and reduce any disruption caused by strategic change.

So, what exactly is P3O, and how does it work? In this article, we explore everything about the P3O framework.

How does P3O work?

P3O works by providing actionable insight, practices, and advice on how to create, manage, and maintain support structures. These help to guide decision-makers and support portfolio, program, and project management efforts. 

P3O offers:

  • Description of the constituents, techniques, and functions of a portfolio office
  • Insight into different P3O models
  • Advice on utilizing and optimizing the guidance of a P3O office
  • Practices on making a positive impact in portfolio, program, and project environments

For example, P3O offers definitions of projects, programs, and portfolios:

  • Project – A temporary organization designed to deliver business products in accordance with the approved business case.
  • Program – A temporary and flexible organization designed to coordinate, direct, and oversee the implementation of activities and projects. This will deliver outcomes and benefits aligned with the organization’s strategic objectives.
  • Portfolio – The sum total of the organization’s investment in change and the pursuit of strategic objectives.

Broadly speaking, whatever is required to manage and make decisions relating to these areas will be centralized in a P3O office. This gives decision-makers a panoramic view of the portfolio, as well as its progress, risks, conflicts, benefits, and so on.

A crucial point to remember about how P3O works is that practitioners will not make decisions but facilitate them. It ensures decision-makers have access to the information they need, such as by producing portfolio documents. Offices will also provide progress updates to help stakeholders take corrective action when necessary.

Another aspect of how P3O works is that it is designed to cause as little disruption as possible. It can accommodate any existing processes in areas like Finance and HR, as well as the use of management frameworks. For example, it works extremely well with options like Managing Successful Programmes (MSP), PRINCE2, and Management of Risk (M_o_R). 

This goes back to what we said previously; every P3O office is unique and constructed to suit the organization in question. They may have unique names, such as ‘Portfolio Office’ or ‘Centre of Excellence’. They can also vary in size, with smaller companies coping with a single P3O practitioner and larger businesses potentially having several connected offices. All of this helps to make P3O an extremely versatile approach that can be utilized virtually anywhere.

Regardless of the shape it takes, a P3O office will equip organizations to answer the questions:

  • Are the projects and programs within a portfolio operating at full capacity?
  • Is a project necessary in terms of business value?
  • Is a project financially viable?
  • Are the projects delivering consistent quality?
  • Are projects being managed with a standardized approach?

So, a P3O office ‘works’ like a centralized support and facilitation hub offering all the information and support an organization needs to facilitate change. The framework itself offers advice on how to create, develop, and maintain such a decision-making structure, making P3O practitioners highly valuable for organizations.

How can P3O certification help my business?

A P3O office can offer a number of advantages to a business.

  • Governance – Part of a P3O practitioner’s responsibilities involve helping stakeholders understand how and whether or not certain projects, programs, and decisions are appropriate in relation to the organization’s wide strategy. This ongoing analysis also makes it easier to escalate potential issues so that corrective action can be taken quickly.
  • Value – As the P3O office monitors the progress of projects and programs, it will also analyze the benefits and value being generated. This context is important to avoid wasting resources and maximize the ROIs of strategic change. It can also help P3O practitioners recognize potential opportunities for improvements that align with strategic value.
  • Support – P3O practitioners are not necessarily managers. However, they will ensure program and project managers have the support they need to carry out tasks and reach targets. They will also analyze progress to consider elements like cost-effectiveness, skill requirements, and so on. This makes it far easier for managers to achieve their goals.
  • Skills – P3O is a generic framework that can be applied to any organization. This makes studying P3O highly valuable, as practitioners familiar with their business will have little trouble in applying it and integrating existing elements into the new portfolio office. This can also present a career path for project and program managers, which can increase their investment in a company and make them less likely to look for new opportunities elsewhere.
  • Data analysis – P3O practitioners are interested in examining, interpreting, and communicating data to help senior management make decisions and take action. This analytical approach is crucial for achieving long-term strategic growth, as opposed to simply optimizing the results of individual projects. 
  • Informing decision-makers – While P3O practitioners will not make decisions, they will provide the information and perspective required for stakeholders to do so. Practitioners will ensure the information is of adequate quality, following best practices to capture, process, store, archive, and present the necessary facts. 
  • Clarity – Part of the function of a P3O office is clarifying the roles and responsibilities required to facilitate projects, programs, and so on. This clarity can also empower employees and teams by helping them understand how they contribute to the organization’s strategy. The P3O framework itself even outlines 21 Management, Generic, and Functional roles within a P3O office.

Studying P3O with Good e-Learning

Good e-Learning is an award-winning online training provider offering fully accredited courses in portfolio, program, and project management, as well as other key topics in business and IT. Our in-house team of training specialists works with subject matter experts to deliver courses that offer unique insight into how to not only pass exams but also apply training in real-world organizations.

Every Good e-Learning course comes with a variety of assets to help candidates along. These include instructor-led videos, gamified quizzes, downloadable resources, and more. Our world-class support team can answer any questions on syllabus content, and every candidate is entitled to a FREE voucher for every course certification exam.

The Good e-Learning team also specializes in corporate training programs. Our award-winning LMS, the Learning Ecosystem, can accommodate any number of students as well as unique company branding. It also offers dynamic reporting to keep managers updated and enable our support team to offer help to struggling candidates. We can also scale and update your training program over time, ensuring you have everything you need to achieve your training goals.

Want to find out more? Contact a member of the Good e-Learning team or try a free trial of our P3O Foundation course today!

Related course:

P3O® Foundation

Learn the benefits of P3O and how to support effective P3O offices with this P3O Foundation course from Good e-Learning!

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