PMO in the modern world (part three): The missing piece

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As with many complicated things, bring all the pieces together in the right order and you’ve nailed it! But… if a single piece is missing, you’re on a rocky road to failure.

By Jools Barrow-Read, Portfolio & Programme Management (PMO) Consultant, RedWizard

The disturbing reality of today’s PMOs is that most will fail within the first three years (Association of Project Management) and only 33% percent will reach their full potential. For a function that can be so vital to an organization’s success, these statistics are frightening!

In our first article, PMO in the modern world: What maturity level is your PMO? we shone the spotlight on the evolution of the PMO and concluded that many are stuck in a time loop; struggling to evolve in line with the changing needs of the business.

Last week in PMO in the modern world: The identity crisis, we discussed the PMO identity crisis and the need for the PMO to step out from the back office and build deeper relationships with their customers to get a better understanding of their needs.

This week, we’re taking our final step along the PMO evolutionary path. Now, we’re presenting our own methodology—one that stops those staggering rates of PMO failure, delivers on its promise and produces the intended value for the organization.

When an organization is struggling with ‘what’s working and what’s not?’ We help them establish the whys, whats and hows.

WHY do you need a PMO?

Perhaps you’ve limited visibility into programme or project performance, or projects are coming in late and over budget. Some may be falling off the proverbial cliff due to a lack of goal-alignment, ownership and accountability. Understanding why you need a PMO, is the first step towards ensuring you get the right fit.

The bottom line here is PMOs come in all shapes and sizes—from operational and tactical to strategic in nature, or sometimes a mix of all three!

How then, do you know what type is right for your organization? There are many factors that influence what kind of PMO is required. In this respect, the person heading up the PMO must act like an annoying toddler and ask “why” as many times as it takes to get a clear answer! It’s only by drilling deep to find the root causes, and not merely the superficial consequences, of a problem or an opportunity, that you can figure out the scope and focus of the PMO.

Here are a few key things to consider:

History—understand your organization’s history.  Where is the organization today in terms of its evolutionary journey?

Forecast—where is your organization headed?  What’s its go-to-market strategy?

Culture—study the culture of your organization and the type of people they look to hire.  People are the biggest barrier to successful change whilst also being its biggest advocators!

Internal factors—what internal factors might influence evolution?  This might be a heavily decentralized structure, disparate processes, poor communications or a negative attitude towards change.

External factors—look for external factors that may have an impact, such as industry developments, speed of change, technology changes or the competitor landscape.

Volume and complexity—review the volume and complexity of the expected changes coming the organization’s way and the nature and scope of services supporting those changes, such as existing PMOs, dedicated project managers or business stakeholders managing projects around their day jobs.

Obstacles—identify any obstacles impacting the organization which can be turned into ‘quick wins’?  This will foster engagement and interest in your PMO function and set you apart as enablers of success!

Once you uncover the ‘why’ you can deal with the ‘what’ and start formulating a framework.

WHAT framework works best?

A mature PMO has the ability to tailor its services with speed and agility, meeting the ever-changing needs of an organization. It’s well connected and invests time in building deep relationships that matter. But … these things do not happen by accident. To get the right framework in place, you need to ask the right questions.

  • What PMO services does the business need?
  • What impact will these services have?
  • What is the perfect fit within the organization?
  • What level of influence or control is required for a successful outcome?

Once you understand the ‘what’, you’re finally ready to deal with the ‘how.’ This is the part where we truly position the PMO for success.

How can you ensure all the PMO pieces come together? Introducing the RedWizard “Big Four”

The how of PMO is the part that everyone sees and how performance is assessed. Here at RedWizard, we approach PMO through the lens of four key touchpoints that we know are critical to success. We call these our Big Four.

What matters most in an organization? It’s the people. Successful businesses don’t revolve around profit or power or shiny new technology—they revolve around human needs. If you fail to place people at the centre of everything you do, you create a self-serving PMO that’s misaligned from the people it’s intended to serve. That’s a recipe for failure

The true test of a PMO is how visible it is throughout the organization. Offering value is about being there for everyone, understanding the real issues, and being present.

Communication covers a wide area and goes well beyond ensuring changes are communicated to the right people at the right time in the right way!  Whilst these things are mission-critical for a PMO, it’s also about actively listening, building trust, empathizing and truly understanding your customers. If you get communication wrong, you risk causing confusion and misunderstanding.

Data analytics can drive insight, but don’t get hung up on producing lengthy reports, and ticking boxes. Look to understand how the information you provide will be used and what your customer is looking to achieve, i.e. identify the WHY.  This will enable you to identify what information is needed, how frequently and what needs to be actively monitored and measured to support your customers.

Above all – being proactive is the key to creating impact and remaining relevant. PMOs need to become enablers, not rule-enforcers, if they are to be a trusted partner to all stakeholders.

We’re standing on the brink of the fourth industrial revolution that will fundamentally change the way we live, work and relate to one another. Now more than ever, having a nimble and outcome-based approach is essential for helping businesses transform faster, better and more economically than ever before.

Mature PMOs acknowledge the need for constant change and actively work to enable it. The biggest risk today is standing still—nimble transformation provides for rapid recalibration in the face of changing demands.

What does this mean for your business?

In our experience, most organizations have at least one PMO piece working at an optimal level. But they often struggle to identify what’s working and what’s not in other areas.  The fact is, if a PMO doesn’t bring all four pieces together—people, communication, insight and agility—they may limp along, or at worst, fail completely.

To understand where your PMO might be failing, we suggest running an internal audit. Ask your PMO a series of questions, with a focus on the big four PMO pieces, and you’ll begin to uncover any weak areas.

Or, give us a call

We’re delighted to offer all our readers a FREE 30-minute telephone consultation to figure out the PMO pieces that may be missing in your organization. We can help identify gaps and work with you to ensure your PMO operates at a high-level—delivering real value across the business.

Why bring us on board? Because PMO is tough, and you need a strong and diverse community of cross-industry experts who are passionate about transforming the PMO space. And that, we’re pleased to say, is exactly what we do. We care about building meaningful relationships with our customers. It’s through their partnership and trust that we’ve been able to extend our services, providing long-lasting transformation solutions that deliver real value and improve the bottom line.

We’re RedWizard, the missing piece, and we’re confident we can perfect your PMO.

If you’d like to book a FREE 30-minute telephone consultation just send us an email, it’s as simple as that!

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Are you ready for the revolution?