The changing face of the Project Management Office

 Project Management Office

The Project Management Office (PMO) is undergoing a transition, as pressure on delivering projects faster with fewer resources becomes challenging. When challenges of this nature occur, there are cases the PMO fail to deliver on business requirements. This lends itself to scrutiny of PMO’s, the outcome of which is likely to be the evolution so PMO’s can meet the demands of the business. Digitization has been a major driver in the evolution of the PMO. As organizations have found they have to become digital to adapt to the business environment. As this change occurs, then it also has had an impact on project management.

Rather than being departmental or functional initiatives, digitization of projects tend to have an impact on various areas of the organization and are closely tied up with the organizational strategy. This has led to a need for the projects to be managed in line with strategy. With priorities constantly changing, to keep up with the fast speed of change in the business environment, project management also needs to adapt quickly, and 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 Strategic Role

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. One way in which PMOs can add value is in helping 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 resource accordingly.

From the perspective of strategy, the PMO is also in an excellent position to ensure that project prioritization is effective. It is likely that no other function of the organization 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 trend that can certainly be seen among PMOs is that one uniformed approach does not work in all instances and cannot be applied for organizations. That similarity is that the PMO is a unit in the organization that takes a central role for coordinating and overseeing project and programme 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 with regard to what the PMO does. The PMO may only provide project management support, or it may take a much more rigorous approach to project management. The former may be seen in a more supportive role. There are degrees of control that might be involved in the latter. PMOs that might be described as controlling might require compliance and the use of certain project management frameworks and tools. Some PMOs might be more directive and actually manage projects.

Other differences in PMOs can be seen according to the organizational position they operate. For example, some organizations have a corporate level PMO which develops standards, processes and methodologies. Other firms have departmental PMOs that offer support at the business unit level, helping with a variety of projects. Finally, individual PMOs offer functional support, usually to one project or programme.

The look and feel of an evolved PMO

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 with regard to managing projects and programmes effectively. Many have also worked to help the company digitise. However, the evolved PMO does all this and more. One of the new elements of an evolved PMO is ensuring that project and programme 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 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 consulting internally to other parts of the organization, but 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 to achieve success they will require the backing and support of the senior management team. Given that the role and function of the PMO has changed significantly in the evolved PMO from one of support to a much more strategic role, this requires a change in mind set.

In some cases, the PMO has evolved to the point that it is offered in the form of PMO as a service. When the PMO is offered as a Service, it allows companies to 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 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, but it is unlikely that a uniformed approach across the board will work.

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