Fall movie season is upon us and like your favorite new flick, your PMO might be undergoing a plot-twist as the year wraps up. As you start your budgeting and plan out goals for the year ahead, you might want to take a step back and look at your trajectory from a 1,000 ft. view and assess your strategic portfolio maturity.

In our latest webinar, Forrester analyst Margo Visitacion gave us some nuggets to think on and provided some insight into what she deems the portfolio assessment model challenging PMOs in 4 key areas. Hopefully you don’t turn your PMO into a horror movie along the way, but you might be able to create a thrilling ride as you focus on customer outcomes and prepare for the changes ahead.

During the event we polled the audience of 100 attendees to learn that pain points boil down to one key issue: Portfolio managers need a unified vision to ensure all the moving pieces of the organization are working to bring optimal strategic value. This confirmed what PMI addressed in recent Pulse of the Profession research as well, “organizations where enterprise program management offices align with senior executives deliver projects that meet their strategic intent 27% more frequently than those who do not have a strategically aligned PMO.[i]

In the maturity landscape, Forrester begins with the assessment of structure and this starts with vision. It’s like the old parable of the elephant — if your PMO lacks strategic vision, one set of projects will think they’re holding a tail, the other, an ear, and still the other, a flank or leg—without anyone knowing the beast they’re holding is an elephant! Dumbo bombed at the box office earlier this year, but you get my drift.

Plot Holes in Maturity to Drive A Truck Through

There are clear indicators about where a PMO lies on the maturity scale—and how to move up the continuum to become more of a strategic powerhouse. In this customer-obsessed culture, in nearly every industry—that often means fast turnaround on projects and programs that change the customer experience from so-so to spectacular. If your PMO is low on the maturity scale, you’re stuck being an administrative workhorse, checking off free-floating boxes on disconnected projects and meeting deliverables and deadlines but adding little quality or strategic heft to the mix.

If technology and business peers within the organization are struggling for the operational bandwidth they need to survive, no one is able to look up from the problems at hand to innovate in serving the customer. And without the PMO using solid rules of strategic governance to ensure only the right projects are on-deck, you won’t ever gain a solid, end-to-end process that encompasses KPIs based on customer-obsessed strategies.

Capturing standardized data with event-driven, end-to-end PMO software empowers everyone to be effective actors in this scenario. Here are four competencies to lock down to ensure you’re delivering not only on results per project, but on strategy:

1. Structure. When you structure your PMO, make sure that you can trace activities directly from strategic plans and corporate vision—especially as they relate to a customer-obsessed business model. According to the white paper, you’ll probably have to structure your funding differently to ensure agility and also ensure you’re using the right data to make investment decisions. The structure of your PMO must support these value streams to remain consistent, predictable, and rallied around the customer experience “flag.”

2. Measurement. Having the right set of KPIs that show how your organization “realizes value” will ensure that you understand customer demand and can act on it. Benefits include better intake processes and prioritization and aligning operational data streams around the most effective questions your company asks itself about its customers.

3. Process. Make sure your processes support changing priorities by continually optimizing them to ensure your resource management is agile and your performance shines against strategic goals.  Forrester recommends a portfolio management tool to clarify your processes and reduce manual data analysis via automated planning and delivery.

4. Governance. Once you’ve switched from functionally-led programs to product delivery, your governance model must reflect that change. New governance often includes expedited planning windows and a move away from annual funding. Business units with customer-facing projects must have the freedom to empower their projects utilizing technology investment.

How close are you to these competencies? This indicates how mature your portfolio management discipline is—and how far you are from an outcome-oriented, iterative approach to funding portfolios. The Forrester paper includes an assessment of 16 key indicators of organizational maturity to give you a roadmap to truly employ a customer-obsessed operating model in your PMO.

[i] “Actively engaged executive sponsors continue to be the top driver of whether projects meet their original goals and business intent.” Source: “Success Rates Rise,” PMI, 2017 (https://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/ learning/thought-leadership/pulse/pulse-of-the-profession-2017.pdf?sc_lang_temp=en-GB).

Back to Mastering PMO Project Management.

Rachel Hentges
PMO Influencer
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Rachel Hentges

Rachel Hentges is challenging PMO leaders to think differently about their role. Rachel is the author of key industry related surveys, reports, blogs and more that challenge the status quo of today’s PMOs.