The Project Management Office (PMO) – Where are we and how to re-focus?
From humble beginnings creating plans, tracking schedules and monitoring budgets, most PMO practitioners have seen their landscape and priorities evolve at a much more rapid pace in recent years. The talk now is all about Agile, Artificial Intelligence, and other disruptive technologies – but how can we just keep the focus on the basic foundational components without getting lost? Today I wanted to revisit some of the key components that most PMOs should not forget and are most likely responsible for, to ensure we can all be effective in a not-so-calm business environment.
Initiative alignment with strategy
Most executives now expect or demand that the PMO be a part in the planning process and ensure strategic alignment within the business. I have seen this most effectively accomplished in organizations that ask the PMO not only to be a part of but actually drive annual business planning. These organizations find it imperative that project/program managers are involved at the very beginning of the annual business planning cycle so that there is no ambiguity or ‘catch up’ needed due to project managers not being involved from the start. Therefore most often you find them working side by side with business leaders developing strategy and the underlying plans to make the strategy a reality.
A good governance process that adds value to the business is one that focuses the conversations to ensure that decisions get made, money or other resources are allocated, and priorities are established so that the whole business understands what to work on first. How many times have you seen businesses try to tackle too many initiatives with too few resources and ultimately accomplishing nothing? This is where the PMO must drive the right conversations on the right topics to steer executives to make the required decisions. Change management should also be thought of and discussed here.
In this day and age, I very seldom run across practitioners who have too many resources to execute their projects or programs. It is therefore up to the PMO to consolidate project information in a way that they (and others) can then use it to drive decision-making. What are the priorities, what resources or skills are needed, who is available? These are the questions that the PMO must answer. Finally, when it comes time to reassign or reallocate, it is up to the PMO to ensure change management processes are used to manage the change and minimize disruption to the organization effectively.
Risk identification and mitigation
No project is complete without proper risk identification and mitigation exercise. What known or unknown risks could derail a project? What experience has your organization in this area? Past performance may many times be a good predictor. The PMO ensures that this level of planning is completed and not forgotten.
Executive-level summaries of key information to drive business decisions are a must. The PMO creates consistency and repeatability in the reporting cycle by focusing on the key data/details required by your business. Unfortunately, it is not a one-size-fits-all scenario so expect customization to get what is needed.
It is a hectic world we all live in. Trying to keep up with it all can be completely exhausting. One should always level set and come back to the basics on a regular basis to ensure that you don’t lose focus of what you ultimately are charged to do. Today, for the PMO, this cannot be more evident.
“In the business world, the rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield” – Warren Buffett