The reality of many Project Management Offices (PMO) today is the misalignment of what the PMO is doing and what the business expects it to be doing. That misalignment is having some serious consequences for both the PMO and the business. So, what should today’s PMO leaders be doing to avoid PMO and project portfolio management (PPM) failure?
Let’s talk about what the primary function of PPM and the PMO really is. The most important responsibility of the PMO is to provide dedicated resources to ensure that project delivery teams are in complete alignment with the organizations strategic objectives. When it comes to PPM it’s not only about doing projects right, but it’s about doing the right projects. What do those two things have in common? Alignment. When PPM and the PMO are closely aligned it creates an active and supportive environment that drives projects success, is forward looking and predictive, but also a strategic arm of the business.
There are many consequences to not implementing the proper foundation of PPM for the PMO and the business. The main consequences of a poor PPM foundation is losing control over the ability to impact the business in a positive way. Unfortunately for the PMO, poor PPM leads to much greater problems for the business overall, which Is demonstrated in the graphic below including the causes, the effects and the results of not having a properly implemented PPM foundation.
Now the above items are at the fault of the PMO, but that doesn’t mean the organization itself is off the hook in making this right. The organization is responsible for clear communication of strategy so the PMO can do their job with a clear understanding of what the organization is wanting to achieve. To resolve these issues, PMO leaders should be proactive in providing continuous and active, advice, guidance and assurance based on those principals. PMO leaders are only able to do this when they have visibility and control over people, money, deliverables and benefits and that’s where PPM comes into play! Without it, a PMO leader and the PMO is forced to be reactive and passive.
It's no surprise to anyone that change is difficult and there are internal challenges when trying to adopt a PPM foundation for a proactive PMO. Some of the biggest challenges that PMOs will need to overcome while adopting any PPM initiatives include:
- Internal politics and culture – These are by far the biggest barriers to adoption since the PMO must satisfy multiple stakeholders with differing goals. A PPM initiative will demand change within the business and with change comes resistance.
- Lack of executive sponsorship – In order to overcome this barrier you will need to become a true evangelist for PPM. You must communicate the purpose and value that PPM will bring to gain buy-in from executives. This buy-in is crucial for the longevity of the initiative.
- No agreement on a common approach – There is often resistance from program and project teams to change their existing approach and processes, but that’s probably why the PMO isn’t able to be proactive in driving results for the business.
- Shifting business/project priorities – Business managers are sometimes reluctant to see their “pet projects” impacted by a shift in business priorities. This is a perfect example of what is hindering your PMOs ability to deliver.
- Disagreement on pace of the adoption – The best way to overcome this hurdle is to minimize the impact on project initiatives or business-as-usual activities. Focus on the key areas of people, money, deliverables and benefits to be proactive and faster in delivering significant value to the business.
The good news is, these challenges can be overcome and when done right the PMO is seen as a necessary value driver of the business. So what does that look like?
These are the key characteristics of a proactive, results-driven PMO.
- Has well-defined and achievable objectives that align with the business.
- Delivers responsibly, with governance and oversight.
- Viewed as supporting the business and IT strategy.
- Utilizes and established methodologies and framework for project management.
- Able to measure and prove the realization of benefits driving business value.
- Has outward focus on business needs, not inward focus on processes.
- Practices good relationship management, from executive sponsorship to project management.
The bottom line here is that in order for the PMO to be seen as a strategic business partner it must have access to the real-time business data to drive the business forward. This is the real benefit with laying the right PPM foundation and having a tool to support that foundation. A proactive, results-driven PMO becomes the center of excellence within an organization accelerating business performance and success.