17 May, 2022
This was first published in Arabian Business.
As the Middle East emerges from the pandemic, an opportunity exists for project management offices (PMOs) to become important drivers of the region’s transformation. In our previous blogs in this series, we have shown how PMOs can add strategic value across their organisations through improved governance, better leverage of new technologies and targeted project management metrics. All these reforms depend for their success on a new breed of strategically-minded project manager – the “Project Influencer” – who is digitally-skilled, possesses natural leadership qualities, has direct access to the C-suite, and enjoys the full support of senior management.
Our Middle East Transformation and Project Management Report 2022, published in January in collaboration with the Project Management Institute (PMI), confirms and reinforces the perspectives of this blog series. At the same time, the report’s global survey of 4,069 project management professionals, including 534 Middle East respondents, highlights the gap that still exists between many PMOs in the region and world-class competitors. It is a gap that Middle East organisations must close urgently in order to compete on level terms as the region’s transformation accelerates.
Critically, PwC's research with the PMI identified an elite group of 230 organisations worldwide - “The Top 10 Percent” - with high-performing PMOs. It’s reassuring that these PMOs consistently display the attributes we have singled out in this series as essential for turning traditional PMOs into strategic value creators across the business. Top 10 Percent organisations are digitally sophisticated, deploy smart metrics, and attract talented managers who are actively practising the art of being project influencers rather than solely deliverers of projects on time and on budget.
Furthermore, these qualities appear to correlate with superior operational performance and business success. For example, C-Suite level executives in this Top 10 Percent are more than twice as likely as their Middle East counterparts to say their organisation performed much better in 2020 than the previous year across a range of metrics, including revenue growth, customer acquisition, customer satisfaction and ESG targets.
In the Middle East, PMO’s still have some way to go to reach these levels. 39% of Middle East respondents see project managers as “enablers” and only 37% regard them as “change makers”, a significantly smaller proportion than among the Top 10 Percent. Or look at some of the report’s other findings: that only 35% of surveyed Middle East organisations say they are using technology to effectively measure the impact of projects, compared with 55% for the Top 10 Percent; and that more than one-third (35%) do not engage their PMO in the development of metrics to quantify success.
Prior to the launch of our report, we ran a LinkedIn poll which gained over 700 respondents who believed that creative thinking (51%) followed by industry knowledge (20%) are the top two skills that organisations across the region will need to focus on when hiring talent to bridge the capability gap. Despite this, PMOs across the region still need to deliver against their ambitious mandates. PwC’s Transformation Management Unit (TMU) has been working with clients to modernise their PMOs rapidly to keep pace with the region’s accelerating rollout of mega and giga projects, which are attracting global competitors. Working together in the midst of such rapid change, we have seen first-hand our clients’ commitment to ensuring their PMOs achieve their full potential.
The reinvention of PMOs which we have discussed in this series is based on simple, clear principles and practices which, rigorously and comprehensively applied, will rapidly close the gap with the Top 10 Percent. In other words, this is not rocket science – but it does require sufficient will and foresight.
The most important first step is for senior management across the C-suite to support the goal of moving the PMO beyond the execution of projects to being an enabler of the organisation’s strategy. Meanwhile, the PMO must abandon the narrow project delivery mindset in favour of seeing its role as maximising value throughout the business.
PMOs need people with the potential to become project influencers in order to make this transition. In this area, Middle East organisations need to place far greater emphasis on hiring the best and the brightest talent for their PMOs and equipping them with necessary skills and tools.
From day one, these new recruits must also be made to feel that they are part of a culture of continuous learning and upskilling, like their counterparts in the Top 10 Percent. Investment in new technologies and training will be essential, both to enable this new generation of Middle East project managers to perform traditional tasks more effectively and to free them up to influence the organisation’s strategy.
Above all, Middle East organisations seeking to close the gap with the world’s top performing PMOs will need to commit to these key lessons from the Middle East Transformation and Project Management Report, which echo and amplify the findings of this blog series. The prize for businesses which learn from the Top 10 Percent is a PMO which can capture all the opportunities being generated by the region’s transformation to deliver long-term sustainable value across the organisation.
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