Tanner James Blog

The new APS P3M Community of Practice and Centre of Excellence

John Howarth

In my last couple of blogs I wrote about SES officers (one simple thing they get wrong with programmes and projects and what happens when they speak freely about programme management or project management).

While SES officers are critical to effective programme management or project management, the engine room is the community of APS practitioners who have a passion for making these disciplines cornerstones of high quality policy implementation.

I was therefore delighted to see the Departments of Finance and Prime Minister and Cabinet have launched a renewed P3M Community of Practice and Virtual P3M Centre of Excellence to support APS collaboration in building P3M capability.

P3M Community of Practice

The P3M Community of Practice (CoP) is an APS wide network of P3M practitioners who come together to share, learn and promote good portfolio, programme and project management practices.  The vision of the enhanced CoP is to build a collaborative knowledge sharing network of P3M practitioners to strengthen APS delivery capability and promote greater recognition by the APS.

Membership is voluntary and open to permanent or non-ongoing APS staff.

Virtual P3M Centre of Excellence

The concept of a virtual P3M CoE is to provide free exchange of APS focussed P3M advice; where professionals can connect and learn from each other, solutions can be developed to common challenges and P3M capability can be built across the APS.

What will the P3M CoP and CoE achieve?

In my opinion a great deal.  Much good work has already been done by the P3M CoP, and if you haven’t already been involved, I commend it to you.  It’s a great way to learn from the experience of other public servants facing similar challenges to the ones you face.

As trainers and consultants we spend a fair bit of time “connecting” people in different parts of the APS to one another.  That’s fine, and it’s a role we’re very happy to perform, but it’s even better to see the APS establishing mechanisms by which the collective wisdom of APS P3M practitioners can be harnessed for the good of all.

Note to SES officers – make sure you give your P3M specialists time to attend and contribute to time these initiatives (I couldn’t resist signing off on that note).

Want to know more?

There are more details on both these initiatives on this Department of Finance webpage.

To find out more about the CoP, you can send a message to

If you would like to know more about programme management or project management in the APS, please call me personally on 0407 404 688 or email me at .  I would be very happy to come to meet you, answer questions and provide further information.

What do you think?

Please feel free to comment on the blog itself or via Linked In.

The 2012 PRINCE2 Manifesto - Free eBook

John Howarth

We have pulled together all the content we have shared about PRINCE2 on our blog this year. For those that are close followers of our work, you’ll notice that we have simply collated some of our blog posts and put it into a handy format.

What that means is we haven’t scrubbed and polished it so that it reads like yet another boring theoretical project management manual. Instead, this eBook pulls together our real-world advice.

The kind of hints and tips we give to people over coffee or on-site while consulting or in the classroom. Practical not pretty.

The articles are designed to answer the most common questions and challenges we see you facing as you use PRINCE2 in the real world. As such, they can be useful conversation starters for how you and your team apply PRINCE2 and how you can get the most out of it.

So feel free to share it as you see fit. If you only want to share one or two articles then head along to our blog where you can then share the individual page.

A big thanks to Dave Bryant, Dave Schrapel, Adrian Booth, Gavan Murphy and Ray Broadbent. They all contributed blogs throughout the year and I am very appreciative that they were willing to share some of their views with you.

A big thanks to myself also as I wrote most of them (modesty has never been one of my strengths).

I hope you find it useful.

Do you have a unique environment with unique challenges? Or have you always been a little unclear about an aspect of PRINCE2? Then simply let me know by leaving a comment below.

I would be happy to write a blog post addressing it for you.

What makes a good P3 Community of Practice?

John Howarth

If your organisation is targeting P3M3® level 3 maturity in portfolio, programme or project management then you need to address this question, because the P3M3 model expects that “Forums exist for sharing organisational experience to improve individual and organisational performance”.

There are many good Communities of Practice out there already, however there is a problem – many of them are run by industry bodies or external organisations such as AIPM or PMI. While very well run and respected, they do not satisfy the P3M3 requirement, because it is has an organisational focus. 

So, here are a few pointers to get you started with your internal communities (or help improve your existing ones).


Why have a Community of Practice? Don’t over-think this. The answer is simple – to share organisational experience in portfolio, programme or project management.  One thing you may wish to think a little more about though is whether you want one or multiple communities? That probably depends on who you want involved…


If your first thought is to get all the project managers together or all the people running PMOs in your organisation together can I respectfully suggest you pause and think deeper. The reason I say that is you risk ‘preaching to the converted’ and/or creating a community which isn’t inviting to others.

I am not saying that project managers and people in PMOs should not be a part of the community, but rather you should cast you net wider. Interestingly, P3M3 provides a ready-made start-point for who you should target, in the sense that if you have already undertaken an assessment you will have identified those in key portfolio, programme and project management roles.

Whether you are familiar with P3M3 or not, I do strongly recommend that you involve executives/sponsors (perhaps they have their own community?) and involve business-side people.


Most Communities of Practice manifest themselves as a forum of some kind and to my way of thinking that is the best and easiest place to start before considering online content such as intranet sites. If you are going to share experience nothing beats talking with one another.

The content of a forum/meeting will obviously vary but I think there are some golden rules:

  1. do provide time for people to chat, perhaps in a structured way such as ‘speed-dating’;
  2. do make it inviting for newcomers and sceptics;
  3. do share knowledge and experience. ‘Show and tell’ or story-telling is a great way to find out what is happening on the next floor in your building;
  4. don’t argue about who has the best approach; and
  5. don’t talk too technically – technique is fine, but it’s much more interesting (and useful) to consider how it works in the real world.

Ideally in work time but not in the heart of peoples’ working day – breakfasts or late afternoon sessions seem to work well.

Pick somewhere that is easy for people to attend. If you run it at your premises then try to find a nice room. How about you talk to the EAs in the Executive Suite - running the first P3 Community of Practice there will send a really positive message.

Hopefully there are a few ideas here to get you started. If you are already running a successful P3 Community of Practice in your organisation please share your hints and tips so others can benefit from your experience.