An Innovative Path to PMO Maturity for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
For more than a century, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) has worked tirelessly to honour the men and women of the Commonwealth who died in the First and Second World Wars. This important not for profit work, funded by six Member Governments, involves the maintenance of war graves and memorials at more than 23,000 locations, in more than 150 countries and territories. Project delivery is complex, spanning numerous geographic, socio-political, economic, and cultural landscapes. The work of the organisation’s PMO relies – as much not for profit work does – on the ability to apply strategic and operational innovation to deliver maximum project value with the available resources.
As the PMO Lead for CWGC, Scott Paget was tasked with setting up the Commission’s first PMO with a global, organisation-wide remit. To do so, Scott leveraged his own extensive PMO experience, Microsoft Office 365’s capabilities, and training and support from Wellingtone. Spanning the headings of strategy, capability and delivery, the focus was on establishing standardised frameworks, project management skillsets, effective governance, robust project controls, and portfolio-wide visibility. During the journey, Wellingtone’s PMO expertise has provided an important source of knowledge transfer and working validation, as Scott explains.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Products and Services
- APM Accredited PMO Practitioner Training
- PMO Consultancy
- Microsoft Office 365 Consultancy
Not For Profit
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission PMO: Key Achievements
- From initial set up to NextGen PMO in two years.
- A PMO Framework designed to drive visibility, standardisation, control, and value.
- Innovative use of Office 365 to support the PMO project life cycle.
- PMO familiarisation training for 85 project staff across Head Office and 5 Area Hubs
- Currently managing some 50 projects worldwide, part of 141 projects rolled out so far.
- Projects currently underway: include projects in Eritrea, Iraq, Iran and the Bahamas.
From a Standing Start to a Next-Gen PMO in Just Two Years
Scott joined CWGC in July 2018. “I was brought in to build a standard project management framework, covering diverse business functions across a truly global organisation,” he says. “I already knew how to set up a PMO but, as time went on, I was also keen to seek external validation of my approach and keep my thinking fresh.”
During 2018, the priority was to understand the organisation’s capabilities, design the PMO framework, seek stakeholder buy-in and launch the PMO. 2019 represented a year of Kaizen (or continuous improvement), focused on driving value throughout the project life cycle. At the end of 2019, a full PMO audit was conducted, resulting in a Substantial Assurance rating. By November 2020, a second stage implementation was underway, with the creation of a PMO NextGen group to assess the current status and plan the forward journey.
To support this process, Scott attended Wellingtone’s two-day APM accredited PMO Practitioner course. There, he met Emma Arnaz-Pemberton, Director of Consultancy Services at Wellingtone. “During the course, Emma provided a framework which helped me to consider what we had achieved so far, and map out the road ahead,” he says. “In particular, she helped me to define targeted areas of improvement across our service catalogue, focused on three main headings of strategy, capability and delivery. That was very helpful because there is a lot of complexity in our work, which is currently delivering a portfolio of some 50 projects worldwide – just some of the 141 projects rolled out so far. From the PMO’s point of view, targeting our activities under those three main headings equips everyone to understand the meaning of what we’re doing and the value of our proposals.”
In my experience, you can only improve things by talking to other people to get different opinions and perspectives. That’s exactly what our ongoing work with Emma and the Wellingtone team has achieved.
Harnessing Office 365 to Drive Visibility, Accountability and Continuous Improvement
Wellingtone offers a free consultation service for PMO Practitioner course delegates called Dr PMO, which Scott used to check-in and discuss his ideas and activities as the Next Gen stage rolled out. “I worked with Scott on a monthly basis during that time,” Emma says. “It was great to continue the relationship with this fantastic organisation and to be a sounding board for Scott as he planned and implemented the strategy to drive PMO maturity. In particular, he developed an innovative approach to leveraging the Microsoft Office 365 suite. Using the standard 365 tools, he has created a fit for purpose tool that centralises PMO and project processes, data, communication, controls, reporting and even financials. It’s really impressive to see what has been achieved with the available resources and a lot of creative thinking! I’m delighted that our PMO Practitioner Course and Dr PMO have played a part in that.”
In particular, Emma’s expertise has supported the PMO’s work on building a skills matrix with formal professional development pathways, driving peer to peer review, and standardising project management skills. For Scott, these activities underpin the quality of project delivery – even across a diverse spread of territories and working cultures. “Crucially, standardising the framework enables movement of resources,” he explains. “We can deploy project teams to different areas, and they are equipped to deliver projects using the same framework every time. I also think what we’ve done in terms of using Office 365 is exceptional.
Most recently, as well as SharePoint, Excel and Teams, we have leveraged Dynamics to manage financials and created a PMO reporting dashboard using Power BI. We have also extended Wellingtone Academy training to our project staff in the UK, Belgium, Cyprus, and France. The result is that we are now operating in a culture where people are beginning to understand the role of tools like GANTT charts and risk matrices, the importance of a project life cycle, the role of change control procedures and so on. That is helping with visibility, control and communication right now – but it also provides the building blocks to make any future transition to a more formal PPM tool much smoother.”
Looking ahead, Scott is working with Emma and Wellingtone to transfer knowledge and inspiration to others in the PMO sector. He has delivered special webinars with Emma and is due to speak at this year’s Future PMO event. He also hopes to continue the relationship with further professional development options for his teams. “As well as Wellingtone’s APM accredited training, we’re looking at leveraging the Agile for PPM Professionals Course that they are launching, plus training options for project sponsors. I know a lot about project management, and I have a lot of experience running PMOs. I think what we have achieved so far in the context of this organisation is staggering. But I’m always eager to move things forward. In my experience, you can only improve things by talking to other people to get different opinions and perspectives. That’s exactly what our ongoing work with Emma and the Wellingtone team has achieved.”