Is your Project Management Office on the road to success?

Research shows that a significant amount of projects experience failure. Mismanaged projects fail due to the inability to deliver a project’s scope or to remain within budget.

In light of increasing project complexity and rates of change, project management practices must address constant change, all while project managers face the challenge of guiding projects towards a moving goalpost. Project Management Offices (PMOs) are the engine driving the delivery of project undertakings, but at times even PMOs can find themselves disconnected from the ultimate ambitions and strategy they are working towards. This is not a new dilemma for PMOs, the pace of change means the outcome of a project often has to be retrofitted to a new strategy or vision which has been formulated during a project’s execution.

The modern age of project change and transformation has only been accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our exit towards the ‘new normal’ will justify the need to better understand how a successful PMO must act, and how to empower a PMO to guide and deliver projects. The ultimate goal is to achieve the organisation's strategic targets and leveraging a strategic unit such as the PMO has proven to be an effective way in doing so. 

Project Management Institute (PMI) in collaboration with PwC, have conducted research that uncovers the attributes and strategies being deployed by the leading PMOs to adapt and thrive in our new work ecosystem. The research findings are based on a global survey of 4,069 individuals who are regularly tasked with leading or facilitating the delivery of projects, programs, and portfolios. This study has identified the ‘Top 10 Percent’ performing PMOs forming part of this study. The Top 10 Percent comprises 230 PMOs that outperform their peers by attracting and retaining talent, using innovation and technology to enhance measurement, and achieving greater influence and more successful project outcomes. These leading PMOs are more aligned with organisational strategy and are considered by executive leaders to be strategic partners. In fact, the Top 10 Percent outperformed organisations overall across revenue, customer acquisition, customer satisfaction, and Environmental, Sustainability, and Governance (ESG) indicators.

So, what does a successful PMO look like? How can one support a PMO in fulfilling its potential? What are common traits that one must look out for in leading a PMO?

Starting your journey

Designing a PMO that will establish good governance

An influential PMO has a mandate to create structures and processes that are critical to help projects succeed and achieve the ultimate ambitions of the organisation. Consistent methodologies and processes are important, but an effective PMO will put in place a project team structure to ensure compliance with PMO processes and support the realisation of project outcomes and benefits. PMOs should be part of the organisational strategy from the programmes and processes that are put in place, down to departmental compliance. Organisations should challenge themselves to involve PMOs in the initiation discussions for a new project. This allows the PMO to showcase their capability in implementing a consistent methodology across ongoing projects, as well as articulating and tracking how the project supports the organisation’s ultimate ambitions. Additionally, PMOs involvement at project inception allows it to support benefits management throughout the project lifecycle, by identifying and tracking what is most important for the organisation on its journey to success.

Maintaining a steady course

Getting the right measures in place to support decision making

Mature PMOs will be thinking about how they deliver visibility and accountability for project execution; namely, thinking about the measures and KPIs that will mean the most to the organisation. C-Suite executives will be looking for the data that helps guide their decision making, data that flags risks and supports opportunity. A desire amongst PMO leaders for stronger links to the C-Suite through tracking relevant KPIs or regular touchpoints, providing the PMO with clear project objectives to check alignment across the organisation’s portfolio and make adjustments as necessary. This in turn makes the PMO more influential to decision makers who will be provided with real time visibility of their portfolio and will find their decision making ability enhanced, allowing them to make the right decision at the right time.

Reaching your destination

Having the right people, in the right place, for your PMO to be effective

The PMO cannot achieve strategic alignment alone, the different functions across an organisation need to be engaged. Getting this integration right is largely down to the influential role project managers play on the ground. High performing project managers are no longer just creatures of scope and scheduling, instead they are project influencers. They join parts of an organisation together by creating a single language throughout the business. A PMO that is connected across functions, helps to establish cross-boundary relationship building, which will be adding considerable value to each function and to the overall goals of the organisation. By putting in place good governance and measurement through the PMO, you are elevating your ultimate asset, the project manager, to support a reduction in the strategic gap.

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How can you get the right route map in place for your organisation?

When it comes to choosing the structure of your organisation’s PMO, whether it might be an Enterprise Project Management Office (ePMO), a transformation office or a hybrid model, there is no one size fits all. Whatever your PMO looks like, it should feel agile – able to feed information back up to decision makers and form a 360° process in which the organisation and the PMO can continually adapt strategies as it navigates changes. As long as you think about these steps in your journey, your PMO will be the engine in your organisation driving success.

As the world now faces significant and frequent change, adding further layers of complexity, organisations are moving towards project based working cultures. In order to deal with the complex and ever-changing working environment we must gear our organisations to not only cope, but thrive. The PMO is a strategic unit, which collaborates closely at a high level and drives projects to achieve its targets and therefore organisations towards their strategic goals. Identifying the PMO design that best suits your projects and organisation is the starting point in creating an effective and adaptive team. Establishing measures to track performance and empower the PMO to support strategic decision making at the top, at the right time is essential. In addition, it is important to have the right people and governance structure to drive the PMO's message and elevate the Project Manager. By means of a PMO, post-Covid, organisations are in a position to consider revenue, customer acquisition, customer satisfaction, and Environmental, Sustainability, and Governance (ESG) indicators as achievable targets and are in a strong position to strive for their strategic goals.

Contact us

Claudine Attard

Claudine Attard

Director, Advisory, PwC Malta

Tel: +356 2564 7026

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