The Programme Management Office (PMO) is the driving force behind some of the biggest change projects affecting the future of NFU Mutual. Although there is formal training in place for the technical aspects of project management, the nature of our change projects offers the kind of learning opportunities you can only really get through direct involvement. We asked the team to tell us about the direct and indirect training and support available at NFU Mutual.

A broad approach to training
Each person in the PMO team has their own experience of the training and support provided. Senior PMO Analyst Rosie Watson-Walsh has been with NFU Mutual for 10 years so can offer a broad view on the training and support she’s received. But what has been most beneficial? Rosie explains. “The formal training has been really important, NFU Mutual is very good at making sure that people are up to speed, and have opportunities to attend relevant courses. But there’s much broader support to help us do our jobs well. That’s things like job shadowing, which we’re really keen on doing. We're always saying to people, "If you want to see what someone does, you can sit with them for a couple of days. You can go to their meetings; you can spend time with them.” This has probably been a bigger part of how we learn.”

Louise Hadley who is a Senior Project Analyst feels the same way as Rosie. “People are really willing to share their knowledge and experience, and they’re really open to shadowing. They’ve also gone out of their way to create training material.” Katie Noble, Senior PMO Analyst has also experienced the shadowing approach in some of her learning. “I’ve felt 100% developed throughout my whole career at NFU Mutual. We have systems for training but there is definitely an on-the-job nature to how we’re encouraged to develop.”

Project management development
Everyone in the PMO team is naturally supported towards project management qualifications. Rosie explains how this works. “I think our training is excellent. I've had a lot of formal and informal training since I've been here. We've sent most of our analysts on at least one kind of PMO course, whether that's P3-O or something through the Association for Project Management, I also completed my CII, the insurance certificate. This has really helped me with the actual day to day nature of some of the projects I've been working on.”

Supported by NFU Mutual Louise has completed the PRINCE2 structured project management and practitioner certification programme, in her PMO role. “I did the PRINCE2 almost six years ago now, which is the basics of project delivery. I also did a PMO qualification called a PSSO, which was more specific to the PMO role.” Katie has also completed PRINCE2 as she explains. “It’s been really useful to get the project management background, especially with being a newer PMO Analyst. I also know that I can talk about other development with my people manager, to see what’s possible. They're always happy for me to develop and actively encourage it.”

Management support is very accessible
David Askill is relatively new to NFU Mutual, joining as PMO Analyst in October 2021. He quickly found that support from more senior management was always available, as he explains. “There’s a lot of people at a higher level and with more experience than me, but if I’ve got any queries, whether that’s with a programme manager, project manager, or even the head of governance, I can always ask for half an hour of their time to get a better understanding of a project. They’re also really open to ideas for improvements or streamlining, which I find very refreshing.”

Tech-based learning platforms
With many people at NFU Mutual now working to a hybrid model, the technology the PMO team uses needs to keep in-line with this new way of working. As a business we have several cutting-edge programmes to help with this. There’s the company wide iAchieve, which as well as a place to store appraisals, is also a learning platform where you can identify and request training that you think might be relevant to your role. Louise finds this a very helpful ‘go to’ place for training and support content. “There's a whole host of free material available, so learning doesn't always have to be paid-for courses. And there's lots of different types of materials, such as webinars, training manuals and guides. It’s all there if you want it.”

Rosie explains what’s behind the Power BI system used throughout the PMO team. “Power BI is a data analysis tool that enables you to really visualise data. It’s an interactive tool, so when you dig deeper into the data and filter by work stream or status, you can see the graphs change in front of you. It’s a really useful and powerful tool for the work we do. In terms of training, it's definitely something that a lot of people are going through at the moment. It's one of the key things that we're getting everyone trained in. In this respect our tech is continually evolving to meet our needs.”

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