3 Ways Your PMO Can Drive Business Transformation

Author: Rachel Hentges

Are you working too hard for too little results?

We recently worked with two experts, Christopher Eskilson from Project Management Update and Peter Taylor, author of the book, The Lazy Project Manager who agree that many PMOs are  working too hard for too little results. And, in the case of business transformation and driving strategic efforts that are felt across silos and in every function, both believe that if you narrowed your focus, you could call yourself “lazy” when in reality, you’d be logging fewer hours with breathtaking efficiency. 

We at KeyedIn agree and encourage you to, “work smarter, not harder” using project delivery habits that (really) drive business transformation. In our most recent webinar, Realign Your Vision—3 Ways the PMO Can Drive a Successful Business Transformation, Peter goes into detail. I totally recommend listening in on the whole webinar-especially because attendees (over 300 of them, all PMs or PMO leaders) ask some laser-sharp questions. But if you want a summary to tide you over until then, here are his suggestions: 

  1. Vision of Value - Because “business transformation” means different things to different people, it’s useful to start with a definition. The PMO can drive business transformation because much of it is agile, responding to digital dynamics among customers and in the marketplace. According to Peter, it has to do with “organizational change” that allows your projects and programs to align with transformational, strategic vision. The number one thing he recommends, based on running five global PMOs, is that—from the overworked PM up to the C-Suite, everyone has to know what business transformation means in their own industry and be in step with it. That’s how your “portfolio should be entirely and absolutely connected directly or indirectly to the strategic intentions of the organization.”
  2. Leverage Large Scale Collaboration - According to Peter, this means your PMO has to straddle the line between the business of business as usual and all of the innovative ideas about to turn into projects at the intake phase. There’s nowhere else besides the PMO that large scale collaboration can take place on that level. If you don’t have this deep and wide collaboration, then you might be on the chopping block. Why? Because you’d be sure to “mismanage change”—which Peter cited as the main reason CEOs (and by extension, PMO leaders) are let go. Structuring the PMO so that executive sponsors are aligned with what project managers are doing means that they’re aligned with the changes, i.e., transformations, the business is executing on the ground. And making sure you have a process for project sponsors to make them as effective as they can be. According to a survey Peter conducted, 85% of respondents said they had nothing in the way of guidelines, methodologies, or development for these crucial people. These leaders can be the ones who ensure “strategically aligned mass collaboration to address significant business challenges and opportunities.” Make sure your project management organization and the business leaders they support can “rapidly communicate, connect and come to a decision point.” Any investments you make in this outcome, Peter says, are ultimately investments in business transformation.
  3. Mastering the Skills - The way successful PMOs drive business transformation is through balancing people, processes, performance, promotion and project management information systems. Peter’s suggestions about how to do this are pretty classic, but his spin is interesting. For example, “don’t become the project police” by having an unbalanced command and control attitude about processes. Don’t be a “softy” by not ensuring your people are held up to certain governance standards, either. He also suggests we become “the right kind of firefighter”—spend your time focused on prevention as a fire inspector, and you won’t be rushing in and out of burning buildings all the time. Understanding what skills your PMO needs to balance these elements and ensuring you do regular health checks on them will be crucial to running a PMO with the power to transform your business.

Several of the attendees had probing questions that I’d like to list here, perhaps to whet your appetite for downloading the webinar. How does change management integrate effectively with a PMO? How do you get the C-level interested in the PMO the way they should be? How do you draw the line between PM tasks and PMO tasks? These questions were answered to my great benefit during the webinar.