The Changing Face of the PMO
In November, Auxilion hosted the first PMO related consulting event, reviewing the changing face of the PMO. We examined what organisations need and the changing ways of working. There were three speakers on the day, followed by a lively panel discussion. Our “Consulting and Projects” Director, Terence O’Donnell reviewed the PMO from its origins in the 1930’s and it’s maturity up to now. The PMO is no longer concerned with only achieving project deliverables and objectives for cost and resource utilisation. It is now tasked with the management of continuous improvement and cross-departmental collaboration in order to achieve strategic business goals.
This event was hosted in Nov 2019 and featured talks by Joe Peppard, (MIT Sloan), Jackie Glynn (President MPI, Ireland Chapter) and our very own Terence O’Donnell (Auxilion).
“1 in 10 organisations fail to meet their strategic objectives due to poor implementation. ” (PMI 2018 Pulse of the Profession)
Terence also examined some of his research on the PMO function within his network and discussed how this differs widely depending on the organisation. Projects are an essential vehicle to deliver change, get things done and create value. Realistically, the PMO must position itself as a “Partner for Change” in order to continue to see its value recognised in organisations of the future.
According to Terence, the realisation of an organisation’s objectives are inextricably linked to the successful execution of projects. Yet, 20% of organisations fail to meet their strategic objectives due to poor implementation. With that in mind, it’s vital to align the work of the PMO with the organisation’s strategic initiatives.
While Terence reviewed the changing face of the PMO, Jackie Glynn focused on the challenges presented while implementing a PMO in a green field site. Jackie is President of the PMI Ireland Chapter and head of PMO for Three Ireland. As an experienced project management professional, Jackie has a multitude of experience and was the natural choice for this topic. Jackie established the PMO function within Three Ireland. Joining a team with functional directorates, operating in silos, lacking any cross functional view, Jackie had to start from the beginning and build (what was to become), a very successful PMO.
Challenges and Evolution
The challenges were multi-faceted from resources, shared visions, silos and the need for investment. Delegates were treated to a discussion that exposed the bare bones of a challenge – warts and all. Jackie articulated the challenges involved and the key milestones that were achieved along this Digital Transformation journey. This large, enterprise, is constantly evolving and presented some key challenges. It was interesting to hear how Jackie addressed these challenges.
Jackie also covered the ideals or objectives that a PMO office must adopt in addition to the services provided. These include:
- Creation of an annual roadmap, ensuring that it aligns with the organisational goals.
- Monitoring and implementing changes to this agreed roadmap, ensuring all possible repercussions are budgeted for, as much as possible.
- Agree and implement governance processes.
- Define project management methodology and roll this process out across the organisation.
- Ensure the PMO is seen as a strategic asset.
“It is through greater involvement in project justification, implementation and review that the PMO enables ‘the recipe for success’ to be understood and the lessons learned.”
There was also some great discussion surrounding the importance of credibility of the PMO. PMO leaders must be more than experts in their field. They must command respect at an executive level which can only be earned through their expertise and ability to be politically astute and aware. Clearly, there is more to the PMO than strategic tasks, delivery tasks and its role as a centre for excellence.
Our final speaker, Joe Peppard, MIT Sloan CISR, looked at the future. As a leading authority on project management, Joe started out by clearly identifying the correlation between the “3 Ps” (Portfolio, Programmes and Projects) and the benefits these bring about in an organisation (value, focus and new capabilities). There are many words beginning with “P” and some are entering the fray. Joe discussed the wave of product managers who are now invested in change and how these differ from project managers. The demise of the PMO has been very exaggerated!
There were many interesting questions posed during Joe’s lively discussion, including:
- How is project success defined?
- The determination of value to the business of the PMO is difficult to measure. But why?
The paradox of PMOs and methodologies
There was much talk of success, satisfaction and project management. Ultimately, in more successful organisations, the PMO is more significantly involved in change and benefits planning at an early stage. Just because a PMO has been successfully implemented, this does not guarantee their success.
In other words, it is through greater involvement in project justification, implementation and review that the PMO enables ‘the recipe for success’ to be understood and the lessons learned.
Joe also explained the PMO’s “Sphere of Influence” and the importance of being involved throughout the lifecycle of the investment, playing a role in both demand-side and supply-side practices. There was a very interesting matrix that Joe presented, covering the strategic, operational, supply and demand dimensions of the PMO role. It was very interesting to see these pull and push factors in a live context.
Finally, our shared services director, Eleanor Dempsey, facilitated a lively panel discussion. Members of the audience were invited to ask questions and needless to say, there were plenty of challenging and entertaining questions from the audience.