The Evolving Role of PMOs: Transforming into IMPACT Engines


The Role of the PMO has never been more critical to the success of modern organizations. Change is happening at an insane pace... and it's getting faster. To succeed organizations need the PMO to step up, to shift their focus away from how projects are managed and towards how strategy is executed.

What better person to figure this out than Laura Barnard, world leading PMO coach, who shares with us her vision for the role of the PMO, and for how to transform the function into a critical leadership role.

This enlightening webinar, featuring expert insights and eye-opening statistics, sheds light on how PMOs can transform into “IMPACT Engines” and significantly drive business value.

Click here to download the slides from this webinar

The Traditional Role of PMOs is not enough

PMOs traditionally focus on project execution, ensuring that projects are delivered on time, within scope, and within budget. While execution is vital, it only scratches the surface of what PMOs can truly offer to an organization. Statistics reveal an alarming gap in the alignment between strategy formulation and execution:

  • 61% of executives struggle to bridge the gap between strategy formulation and its implementation.
  • 95% of the typical workforce does not understand their company's strategy.
  • 40% of executives say that enterprise accountability and leadership are not aligned on strategic execution.
  • 60% of organizations don’t link their budgets to the corporate strategy.
  • 50% of project leaders aren't using strategic insights to drive prioritization (and quite a few of the rest probably just don't admit they don't...)
  • 71% of projects are not well aligned with strategic business priorities

These statistics all point to the same requirement - the need to align strategy, delivery and results.

So, time to set up a PMO, right?

But...PMOs are not working

The numbers are stark: the current role of the PMO does not align to what executives want:

  • 68% of stakeholders perceive their PMOs to be bureaucratic
  • 50% of PMO set-ups get abandoned before they even start
  • 50% of PMOS that do launch close within 3 years

Don't believe in statistics? Hit Google, and work out the cookie-cutter 'best practice' that's all over the internet. It's probably something to do with tools, processes and templates. Run that by your CEO... see if that's what they want.

Thought not.

Put another way, "Stop following the typical advice if you want to stop getting the typical results"

Portfolio Prioritization is key to the role of the PMO

Many of these delivery problems flow out of a lack of prioritization.

Think about this from a practical perspective. You have an organization which is incapable of saying no to a project, and super-capable when it comes to new ideas. The result? Your delivery team gets stacked, with individuals trying to deliver 16 projects at once.

So what actually gets delivered? Not a whole lot, as spreading people this thin gives projects a very slow delivery cycle. Who's to blame?

You guessed it - the PMO. So let's figure out how to make the role of the PMO into a huge success, rather than being a scapegoat for an organization that can't focus on what it actually needs most.

Tell us where it hurts

To diagnose the problem let's explore the symptoms. What problems do we hear from (smart folks) trying to figure out why the role of the PMO is so tough:

  • Don’t know what’s happening in organization
  • So many changes, work can’t be planned
  • Projects don’t achieve business benefits
  • Projects take too long and cost too much
  • Ownership and accountability are unclear
  • Every department has different priorities
  • Decisions take too long which delays projects
  • Resources spread so thin work is stuck
  • Project results are unpredictable
  • Every project is number one priority

The PMO has three roles, and they all involve "strategy"

The solution for turbo-charging the role of the PMO isn't a new set of templates, tools or processes. We need to recognize that the traditional role of the PMO is simply missing 2/3rds of the space where an effective PMO needs to be operating:

The PMO has three roles, and they all involve "strategy"

To fully explore this space, Laura has a ton of fantastic collateral, not least 200+ episodes of her podcast, and an amazing PMO coaching service. We'll just focus on the key takeouts here.

Strategy Definition

This is where you typically find the biggest wins when you're re-thinking the role of the PMO.

  1. Aligning with Business Objectives: PMOs need to understand and align themselves with the business objectives and strategies, serving as a bridge between strategy and execution.
  2. Guide Portfolio Prioritization: Without picking the right projects your portfolio is setting the PMO up to fail. Clear alignment on what matters most is critical.
  3. Single Task Focusing / Staggering: Stop just being busy and focus on busi-ness outcomes. Find the most important projects and deliver them first. Multi-tasking kills productivity.
  4. Define Clear Success Criteria: Not just on-time, on-scope, on-budget. Be relentless about what adds value to delivering ROI vs. the strategy.

Strategy Execution

This is where the current PMO usually does too much… think less is  more here.

  1. Streamline Process / Templates: Your goal is to deliver the strategy, maximizing return, minimizing cost. If a report or process helps then it's great. If it doesn't then stop it.
  2. Educate Stakeholders: Leaders weren't born great sponsors. Help guide then on the balance between decisive intervention and micro-management.
  3. Align People / Work to Strategy: You figured out the strategy, so now make sure that clarity becomes a laser focus for everyone else too, so those goals flow into everything.
  4. Drive Actions and Decisions: Momentum is key. If it doesn't make the boat go faster then get rid of it. Again excessive reporting and "FYI" emails are common mistakes.

Strategy Realization

To measure success, you have to measure value. Get that right and the role of the PMO become a long-term pillar for growth in your organization.

  1. Define PMO/PM Success Metrics: Find the metrics that matter. ROI is key, but you have to move beyond financial measures. What's the return on investment to the strategy?
  2. Measure Impact Not Quantity: The size of your portfolio is what you cost; your importance comes from the extent to which you are driving the strategy.
  3. PMO is the Means not the End: Focus on results, not what you do. What happens as a consequence of the PMO existing? Make sure you don’t get a reputation for being a bureaucratic function.
  4. Become the Strategy Navigator: The PMO should be the person who understands both the strategy, and what it takes to deliver the projects that make it a reality.

Changing the role of your PMO

Whether you're new to the role of the PMO, or an experienced leader looking for the next way to drive change, we can help.

At TransparentChoice we have taken a lot of this thinking... and built it into some pretty cool software. Laura has taken all her experience and general amazingness and turned it into a coaching program for PMOs.

If you'd like to work with Laura check out her website. If you'd like to work with us, check out our product demo. Even better if you'd like to work with both then check out our case study with Anette, the PMO leader who has taken our software and Laura's coaching and turned it into a new way of working for her organization.

Resources mentioned in the webinar:

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