Project managers should focus on these 7 strategic goals

Project managers must look beyond requirements, budgets, and timelines to ensure they are executing high-impact, high-visibility projects with a direct line to the organization’s overall strategic goals. Here’s how to be recognized by executives and stakeholders as an indispensable strategic partner.

You may think the chief responsibility of a project manager is to deliver projects on time and on budget, but you’d be wrong. As a high-level strategic body, project management professionals first and foremost help drive, guide and execute company-identified value-added goals. Project management offices (PMOs) are more likely to be well received by company executives and stakeholders as an indispensable strategic partner once they recognize their true strategic value.

During last year’s Gartner PPM & IT Governance Summit, the research firm identified seven best practices for an effective PMO. Consider them seven essential goals that every project professional should aspire to achieve.

What was Gartner’s overarching message? “Project management office activities should improve project, portfolio, and program management practices and show value.” Here are the seven goals all project professionals should strive to attain, as well as expert advice from some CEOs.

1. ‘Acquire the right people, knowledge, skills and collaborative.’

From the hiring stage to project execution, all too often project management offices have focused time and energy on primarily technical aspects of project execution. This focus on primarily technical job-related activities can leave a gap in areas like soft leadership skills. PMO offices should hire, train and mentor project managers with the soft skills to, in turn, do the same. Project managers who have the requisite skills and abilities to direct effort towards creating buy-in, mentoring, conflict resolution, and driving changes to offer companies the best advantages. This creates a larger pool of top-notch leaders who understand the value they contribute to project and strategic goals.

2. ‘Identify and execute high-impact, high-visibility initiatives.’

Once a PMO has hired and trained strategic thinkers, it increases the likelihood of executing high-impact, high-visibility projects that align with the long-term goals of companies. If time is spent executing minor, non-value added or siloed projects, company resources are not only being squandered, potentially more desirable opportunities may be as well. The role of a PMO should not be a passive one; every project professional should have a clear understanding of the direct line from project to strategic direction.

Gerald J. Leonard, the president and CEO of Principles of Execution, says, “Customer value creation is key; all projects are initiated to create value. If a project is delivered on time and on budget but does not create value for the organization, does it really matter that it was delivered? Projects have to have a positive impact on an organization to create value.” He also cites stakeholder satisfaction and requirement fulfillment and culture improvement as important, saying, “Every project should deliver change to the business in a way that will impact the organization’s culture. Improving the organization’s culture should be a requirement for all projects that will enable the business to become more agile, streamlined and flexible. Business moves at the speed of thought and projects have to deliver at that same speed while addressing these three critical requirements.”

3. ‘Report on what the business really cares about.’

Key performance indicators (KPIs) play an important role in helping project teams identify the required and agreed-on strategic objectives and measure progress. Whether quantitative or qualitative KPIs are used, a PMO should be able to regularly report progress to project sponsors and stakeholders. They should be able to provide considerable visibility into project, program and portfolio performance with absolute confidence.

4. ‘Build a framework that shows how the PMO aligns with strategic enterprise objectives.’

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