As pressure mounts to deliver projects at speed, some of the more traditional PMO types are struggling. They, in some cases, fail to deliver what the business needs. This has led to increased scrutiny of PMOs. While some believe the PMO is in its demise, it appears more likely that PMOs will evolve to meet business needs instead. A study of companies in the USA shows that the PMO is very much alive and well. While 48% of companies had a PMO in 2000, as of 2014, this figure had grown to 80%. This would seem to suggest that the traditional PMO may not remain in its previous format, but it is likely to still be a PMO within the organization — just that it may look different and operate in new ways.
Drivers of Change to the PMO
One of the major drivers of change to the PMO has been digitization. While this process has been ongoing since the 1980s, it has rapidly accelerated in the past decade or so. Organizations have found that they have to become digital to adapt to the business environment. This has led to a significant change from the perspective of project management. Rather than being departmental or functional initiatives, digitization projects tend to impact various organization areas and are closely tied up with the organizational strategy. This has led to a need for the projects to be managed in line with the strategy.
With priorities continually changing, to keep up with the fast speed of change in the business environment, project management also needs to adapt quickly. The PMO has an important role to play in this regard. In short, all organizations need to be digitally enabled, with projects aligned to strategy, and the business must also have the agility to change as needed when faced with evolving business priorities.
The Role of Strategy
In the past, the PMO was all about project execution. However, one trend that can be seen in PMOs is a move towards strategic project management. Experts believe that this has come about due to the growth of project portfolios. PMOs have seen an increasing level of interdependence between project portfolios as well. PMOs can add value to help the organization manage the scarce resources available where synergies can be found between projects in a portfolio. The PMO is very well placed to pinpoint these areas and align resources accordingly.
From the perspective of strategy, the PMO is also in an excellent position to ensure that project prioritization is effective. No other organization’s function likely has this level of oversight and project understanding to achieve this effectively. This helps the organization to act efficiently in its project management endeavors.
One Size Does Not Fit All
One trend that can be seen among PMOs is that there is no one size fits all approach that you can apply to organizations. It is likely that the only for-certain similarity between PMOs in different organizations. That similarity is that the PMO is a unit in the organization that takes a central role in coordinating and overseeing the project and program management. The PMO may not even necessarily be called a PMO, but if it takes this role, then this is what it is.
Some of the differences between PMO types are concerning what the PMO does. The PMO may only provide project management support or take a much more rigorous approach to project management. The former is in a more supportive role. There are degrees of control that might be involved in the latter. Controlling PMOs might require compliance and the use of specific project management frameworks and tools. Some PMOs might be more directive and manage projects.
Other differences in PMOs can be seen according to the organizational position they operate at. For example, some organizations have a corporate-level PMO that develops standards, processes, and methodologies. Other firms have departmental PMOs that offer support at the business unit level, helping with various projects. Finally, individual PMOs provide operational support, usually to one project or program.
What Does an Evolved PMO Look Like?
Traditional PMOs offered delivery support. More recently, some PMOs have also taken on an element of strategic planning and act as a center of excellence concerning managing projects and programs effectively. Many have also worked to help the company digitize. However, the evolved PMO does all this and more. One of the elements of the evolved PMO that is new, is ensuring that project and program management are aligned to strategy. The other is delivering the agility the organization needs as priorities change for the organization.
An evolved PMO will not just offer project support, as the PMO may have in the past. Rather it may help with the coordination of resource management and analyzing the interfaces between projects. It can help address issues of strategic alignment and portfolio management. The PMO may still also offer to consult internally with other parts of the organization. However, this is likely to decline in importance compared to the growth in strategic responsibilities of the PMO.
Evolved PMOs have a lot to offer to organizations, but they will require the senior management team’s backing and support to achieve success. Given that the role and function of the PMO have changed significantly in the evolved PMO from one of support to a much more strategic role, this requires a change in mindset.
In some cases, the PMO has evolved to the point that it is offered in PMO as a service. PMO as Service companies offer specialist PMO support to organizations that find it difficult to manage the PMO effectively in-house. This is an interesting new direction for PMOs, and one that has its merits in certain scenarios.
The PMO is facing a time of unprecedented change. As pressure has increased in the external business environment, there is a corresponding pressure within the organization. This is to ensure that project management is not just effective, but strategic. An evolved PMO is likely to be well-positioned to help the organization achieve its strategic imperatives. However, it is unlikely that a one size fits all approach will work.
Until next time, you are up to date.
Originally published at https://www.projecttimes.com.