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Portfolio, Programme, Project Offices – P3O®

By Simon Buehring on 13 Feb 2020


p3o portfolio programme project offices

Making the right investments in projects and programmes to enable changes to succeed in ways which meet strategic objectives is a crucial objective for modern businesses.

To help the decision making required to enable this to happen, organisations are increasingly turning to portfolio, programme and project management offices.

What are P3Os?

A P3O is the decision-making and support business structure for all business change within an organisation.

The structure may consist of single or multiple, permanent or temporary offices providing a mixture of centralised and localised services. These offices integrate with the wider corporate business functions and operate within corporate governance rules.

P3O guidance

The P3O guidance[1] provides an approach for designing, implementing and operating these offices. P3O is based upon best practices, and the authors consulted widely with experts in portfolio, programme and project offices when writing the guidance.

P3O is part of the same suite of global best practice publications by AXELOS. Managing Successful Programmes (MSP®) and PRINCE2® are two of the best known.

The take up of MSP and PRINCE2 globally by organisations has led to the development of centres of excellence and both programme and project offices.

The development of portfolio offices has happened more recently and P3O was developed to provide joined-up thinking for organisations to use when designing their portfolio, programme and project office(s) solution.

Why have a P3O?

All organisations have a portfolio of change initiatives which are in the form of projects and/or programmes. However, often these change initiatives are not be managed as a coherent whole. If managed in an inconsistent or unstructured way, the success of these change initiatives will be substantially reduced.

An effective P3O therefore ensures that an integrated set of outcomes and benefits are managed to enable optimal investment and strategic goals are achieved.

A P3O can significantly increase an organisation’s chances of realising its expected benefits, achieving its strategy and delivering projects and programmes in a cost-effective manner.

Effective P3Os

An effective P3O exhibits several characteristics.

  • It provides the ‘big picture’ understanding of the business change portfolio;
  • It provides decision-making support so that the right programmes and projects are funded;
  • It assists with consistent delivery of programmes and projects by providing standards and processes;
  • It provides independent oversight and scrutiny to ensure things are done right the first time;
  • It provides assurance, coaching and mentoring to portfolio, programme and project office personnel;
  • It provides management dashboards so the right information is used when taking management decisions;
  • It provides optimal issue and risk management;
  • It provides transparency in decision-making;
  • It enhances the value for money of programmes and projects;
  • It executes change more effectively and improves programme and project management delivery capability.

What value does a P3O bring?

A P3O can bring far greater benefits to an organisation than by implementing improved programme or project office solutions on their own.

A P3O should help deliver services which ensure that temporary structures such as projects and programmes can co-exist with and enhance the organisation’s permanent business as usual structures.

A P3O however cannot be successful without a compelling business case. Senior managers must know what they will get for their money if they invest in an integrated P3O and the expected benefits it will bring.

Whilst developing a business case for a proposed P3O, thought must be given to the quantifying the value it will bring and how it will work across the boundaries within the organisation.

Implementing a P3O

A new P3O requires a vision, an operating model and a transition plan. All the impacted senior managers will need to ‘buy in’ to the vision for it to be successful. A new P3O therefore is best implemented as a business change programme.

Implementation of the new P3O will require establishing a ‘P3O culture’, improvement in the skills of programme and project managers and revisions to business processes to enable the joined-up delivery of the strategy.

The delivery of the P3O will result in an improvement to the programme and project management (PPM) maturity of the organisation. The more PPM maturity of the organisation, the more it can ensure that the right projects and programmes are being funded to meet its strategy.

Individuals and consultants involved in leading such a P3O change initiative will find PPM maturity tools such as the Portfolio, Programme and Project Management Maturity Model (P3M3®) indispensable.


[1] AXELOS (2013). P3O® Portfolio, Programme and Project Offices. 2nd ed. Norwich: TSO. 224.

PRINCE2®, P3O®, P3M3®, MSP® and ITIL® are registered trademarks of AXELOS Limited, used under permission of AXELOS Limited. All rights reserved.

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