A Candid Conversation with Mark Price Perry: Founder, BOT International

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Mark Price Perry is a well-known and outspoken personality in the PMO community. 1981 saw the beginnings of his several PMO experiences during his 17 years association with IBM. In 1999, Mark founded BOT International, a boutique consulting firm that helps organizations with PMO setup and management.

Mark is the author of three famous publications: Business Driven PMO Setup (2009), Business Driven Project Portfolio Management (2011), and Business Driven PMO Success Stories (2013), all published by J. Ross Publishing.

Mark is also the host of The PMO Podcast where he has conducted 272 podcasts to date. He has published numerous PMO articles and guides and has also conducted several PMO seminars and workshops in over 50 countries.

Without further ado, let me begin the much-awaited interview that you have been waiting for.
TaskQue: Tell us how did you begin your career and what was the source of motivation behind entering into PMO arena?

Mark Price Perry: Well, I started my career in 1981 at IBM as an Account Marketing Representative in the Data Processing Division where we sold, installed, and serviced mainframe computer systems, tape and disk storage systems, communications systems and controllers, cathode ray terminals known as CRTs, and a wide variety of industry applications and devices. This was prior to the time of the personal computer and of course much prior to the internet.

In 1982, by pure happenstance I was assigned to work in a marketing PMO that existed in a large branch office. The purpose of this PMO was to ensure that the branch office exceeded its overall annual revenue goal. Over the course of the year, we performed over 75 marketing projects of all kinds, many fairly simple and some very complex.

We not only exceeded our revenue goal by 8%, but we finished the year as the #1 IBM branch office out of more than 250 branches earning our Branch Manager a trip to Hawaii to attend the IBM “Golden Circle” recognition event. The marketing PMO was credited as a key reason for the business success of the branch office. That was the first of several PMO experiences and motivating forces that led me to believe in the business value of a PMO and years later to actually enter the PMO field.

TaskQue: Coming to your stay with IBM, you were there for nearly 20 years. What are the best memories of IBM that you still cherish? Also mention few people who guided you early in your career and saw you rise to the position you’re at now?

Mark Price Perry: In a word, management. I was blessed to have one fantastic manager after another and the executives that led the business inspired us to uphold IBM’s basic beliefs which were respect for the individual, superlative customer service, and the pursuit of excellence. I had a number of mentors, especially early in my career, but the mentor that helped me the most was an old senior marketing representative who impressed upon me the importance of upholding IBM’s basic beliefs in everything that we do. His advice was to live and work by the credo, results will follow.

TaskQue:Tell us in detail about the services of your company BOT International? What are the benefits of using “Processes on Demand” repository of BOT?

Mark Price Perry: Well, a few years ago the product side of our company, our PMO content offering called Processes On Demand, was acquired by The Tramore Group, a Canadian firm that specializes in consulting and complex program management. They are developing new Processes On Demand content and functionality that will make it even easier for organizations to quickly setup, tailor, and manage their PMO content.

TaskQue: You have implemented processes in more than 200 PMOs. What hurdles did you face while implementing these processes? What kind of different approaches you’ve witnessed while implementing these processes from people in specific regions of the world?

Mark Price Perry: That is a great question. Back when we were selling and implementing Processes On Demand and helping organizations to set up a PMO, we were process neutral. By that I mean our focus was on providing an easy to use and maintain framework of PMO content assets such as processes, guidance, templates, learning resources, executive dashboards, and helpful tips, techniques, and subject matter expert knowledge. Perhaps our biggest hurdle was explaining the concept of PMO content assets and that you can actually purchase a ready to set up and use framework of PMO content rather than developing one from scratch. I would say the biggest difference in people’s approach to setting up processes for project management are those that only set upon one approach for managing a project verses those that set up a set of approaches for managing projects and project-related work. There is nothing wrong with only having one approach if that approach meets the needs of the business, but my experience has been that the project-related needs of the business require not just one approach but a set of approaches best suited for the project work at hand.

TaskQue: In an interview with Samir Penkar, you stated that “PMO is not to develop a methodology”. Can you please elaborate what exactly are the responsibilities of a PMO and who is actually responsible for developing the methodologies?

Mark Price Perry: Another great question. The context of my comment to Samir was that the “purpose” of the PMO is not to develop a methodology. Rather, the purpose of the PMO is to best address the project-related needs of the constituents of the PMO. The constituents of the PMO determine the purpose of the PMO by way of a unanimously agreed to PMO mandate, PMO goals and objectives, and assessed value of fulfilling the PMO mandate. Once these “ends to be achieved” are established, the PMO then develops the PMO business plan which serves as the “means to the ends”. Such things as PMO responsibilities, people/process/tools, and training would no doubt be components of a PMO business plan. But again, the components of the PMO business plan are not the purpose of the PMO, they are the means to the purpose.

TaskQue: What do you think are the prerequisites of establishing a PMO? Would you like to share a few experiences about a PMO which has converted into a successful business driven story?

Mark Price Perry: The prerequisites to establishing a PMO is to be driven by needs of the business, not PMO models, or industry buzz and hype. I can’t tell you how many PMOs rush into a people, process, tools-oriented PMO charter. With no real PMO mandate, the PMO Charter becomes the purpose of the PMO and after the PMO honeymoon period is over, whether six months or a full year, the PMO has failed to make a significant difference in the business. Or worse, the PMO frustrates everyone with overly bureaucratic processes that must be followed and templates that must be filled out. Some PMOs self-correct. Other PMOs are shut down. A better approach would be to first establish the purpose of the PMO and then determine the means to achieve that purpose.

TaskQue: How can a PMO stay productive despite heavy workload? Which makistakes of his can hinder or ruin project’s progress?

Mark Price Perry: Good question. Such business problems as productivity and heavy workload, and many others, are not PMO problems at all; rather they are problems of the constituent leadership team served by the PMO. How the leadership wants to respond is their decision, not the PMOs. Regarding which blunders of the PMO can ruin the project, I would say that not knowing the business context of the project and the stakeholder priorities for the project are the quickest and most common ways to ruin the project.

TaskQue: You have been working in PM community for over two decades? Name one individual whom you consider as your source of inspiration and what do you like the most about that individual?

Mark Price Perry: I know it must sound corny, but my biggest inspiration is my wife. She has totally unrealistic expectations of what I am capable of and those expectations only increase with time. And no matter what idea I have for how to accomplish something, she always has a different and better idea. Always.

TaskQue: Being a speaker at various conferences and events, what do you think are the areas which companies still need to work on in terms of project management? Please share any memorable experience of attending a project management event.

Mark Price Perry: Without a doubt, far too many companies have a fundamentally wrong conception of the purpose of project management. Such companies are stuck in the incorrect thinking that the purpose of project management is to deliver the project on time and on budget. Wrong. This thinking leads to many problems and missed opportunities. The purpose of project management is the “practical” application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements. Hence, project management is an activity that needs to be applied based upon the business context of the project and the stakeholder biases and priorities for the project. In our PMO workshop we have a project management example that compares and contrasts the differences in how project management should be applied in two different projects, one project a time-to-market project and the other a project that is subject to severe penalties if completed later than initially planned. Without going into all of the details, the different business contexts of the two project examples clearly show that project management is not a one-size-fits-all activity. Different project situations may very well require different approaches and techniques.

TaskQue: Workstation ergonomics contributes a lot to productivity and motivation of an employee. People have different styles to maintain their workstations? How do you maintain your workstation?

Mark Price Perry: You are right about that. I have a Windows laptop that is connected to a 27 inch monitor. I do a lot of work using both screens. It is very productive. When I am traveling and only have my laptop to use, I really feel much less productive.

TaskQue: You’re an avid fan of sports events and musical concerts. Do you prefer attending these vents with with your family and friends? I’ve also heard that you’re very enthusiastic about playing musical instruments. How do you maintain work-life balance?

Mark Price Perry: Such good questions. I have found that there is no such thing, for me, as a Work Life Balance. I know other people can separate work from life and achieve a balance between the two, but I have never been able to. Work and life, they are always on. Hence, I only pursue work that I enjoy. In that sense, work doesn’t seem like work at all, rather a joy. Of course, some joys are greater than others. I do enjoy playing golf with my wife who is a very good player and I like play piano especially at Christmas time when we sing carols with the grandchildren.

TaskQue: TaskQue is an online project management system which enables you to efficiently manage tasks, projects and work spaces in order to meet deadlines. If you have used TaskQue, what are your reviews about it?

Mark Price Perry: I have not used TaskQue, but I am very supportive of project management tools and systems in general. Project management is an inherently collaborative activity that is very easy to make a mess of. Performing project management by hand or with the wrong tools is one of the easiest ways to miscalculate, miscommunication, and make mistakes. Tools can help

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