From Investment to Business Value (PMO)
Normality has been shaken over the last couple of years. With the outbreak of the pandemic and its long-lasting presence, companies have seen some of their most deeply anchored structures and business landscapes reach their limits. Workflows had to be redefined, hit hard by the wave of remote work, while strategies were redesigned to reflect the shift in market demands. This change in paradigm gave birth to the era of “The New Normal” from which the world of Project Management was not sparred. In that context, questions quickly started to be raised over the relevance, legitimacy and benefit of its core part, the PMO.
PMOs are usually seen as the people in charge of the reporting, the owners of the risks registry or the right-hand men of the project manager. To many, PMO has become a catch-all term synonymous with simple, administrative tasks, or even useless responsibilities. As a result, PMOs constantly face the tough task of having to justify their contribution to the business and the value they generate. They are seen as a cost center, an inefficient business entity that consumes resources, rather than a catalyst to business growth that generates more value than it consumes.
Setting up a PMO is similar to investing in R&D or in a marketing department, it requires optimization, not cost minimization! It is an entity that is created to lay the foundations for an efficient project management framework and maintain its standards within the organization. For as long as this mindset is not anchored properly in the mind of people who run businesses, the potential return on a PMO investment will always be deeply underestimated. A few interesting leads are worth exploring when discussing the return of investing in a PMO.
A data perspective to authenticate business value
To justify business value, there usually isn’t a better argument than hard data. Decision makers will be looking for those numbers to show their stakeholders the business value generated from the activities. The PMO, in his role, is equipped to provide a data perspective, to translate numbers into value, earnings or savings, and this is not to be considered as a word of warning. Being involved throughout the whole project lifecycle, the PMO follows every step of the project’s unfolding. Ultimately, the PMO knows which projects transformed into successes, which ones were completed on time and within budget or, sometimes, which ones were complete failures. This is the reason why the PMO is a reliable source of information to authenticate business value in the eyes of the decision makers.
Experience is an asset !
The PMO also brings along his wealth of experience in project involvement. Over the years, the PMO develops an acute sense for identifying projects that are heading in the right direction from the ones that are nosediving. Indeed, positive project trends hold no secrets for the PMO, and this comes in particularly handy to decision makers looking to improve their business performance. Not only does the PMO provide regular reporting and dashboarding to key players. Above all, the PMO leverages decisions about projects or portfolios based on their alignment with the organization’s strategy. Topics such as resource optimization, skills adequacy or benefits are reported on by the PMO and provide a legitimate source of information to decision makers to assess the relevance of continued project investment against the current context of changing business dynamics.
PMO as a shield against business killers
Similarly, being a core member of the project team, the PMO is also best placed to ring alarm bells and avoid business killers before things go sour. A mature PMO identifies and avoids obstacles that drag businesses down such as poor resource allocation, inefficient time management or limited productivity, freeing up additional time and resources on activities that deliver real value. Such actions from the PMO prevent losses, put a stop to further drop or even allow businesses to recover. In addition, the PMO also has a role to play when it comes to managing the stakeholders. It can happen that a stakeholder acts as a « blocker » in the project community, whether that is the result of a deep disagreement with the way activities are being ran or because the stakeholder has been left exposed at some point. Whatever the reason, the PMO is there to bring people together, assess the blocking points and make sure that all stakeholders are supportive to the cause. Preventing any obstacle from hampering the smooth running of activities is also a significant return on a PMO investment.
Ultimately, the creation of value comes down to executing the right projects correctly. This is the result of a combination of two fundamentals. Project management executes the projects right, while portfolio management identifies and implements the right projects. Indeed, the key to delivering business growth, and by extent revenue, is to identify the projects that create value, make these the priority and execute them in the right manner. The common denominator to these key elements is the one that sits in its core, the PMO.
Jonathan C., Senior Consultant | Energy & Utilities