A primary cause of PMO shutdowns is that they are perceived to have not delivered sufficient business value to justify their continued existence.
The original focus for many PMOs is to provide oversight over a portfolio of projects with the objective of increasing project predictability while also improving the visibility into project status and decision making. This is a good starting point, especially in organizations where most projects are completed outside of established cost, schedule or quality constraints. However, a sustained focus on this objective is myopic – it does the organization no good if a project is completed on time or within budget if the project produces no business value.
This raises a challenge for PMOs, especially those that are within internal service lines such as an IT department. With limited formal authority to drive business value realization, how can they help their organization choose the right projects and ensure that the operational stars are all aligned so that the project’s deliverables will be effectively used?
Here are some ideas to help “raise the bar”:
1. Learn the business and “talk the talk” – PMs and PMO staff need to have a solid grounding in basic business functions including sales, marketing and accounting. This will help them identify early warning signs of poor value projects and will aid them in effectively communicating concerns to senior management.
2. Actively engage project sponsors to try to influence “good” decision making. To gain sponsors’ trust, PMs and PMO staff will need to demonstrate a solid track record of project delivery coupled with a thorough understanding of the business processes and functional areas that the sponsors oversee.
3. Invest effort in tracking the benefits of completed projects, even if this is not required as part of your organization’s governance practices. Possessing solid evidence to back up recommendations helps with establishing credibility.
4. Cultivate business change management practices and identify when these practices are not being leveraged appropriately on key projects. Understand the transition readiness plan for project deliverables even if this is being handled outside of your PMO’s jurisdiction, and don’t be afraid to constructively challenge any issues or gaps you perceive with the planning or execution of these plans.
5. If the PMO is within an internal service line, always communicate an “outside-in” view of decisions and issues. Understand how the projects your PMO oversees are part of the bigger picture. In time, this can help to overcome perceptions of a PMO’s bias or tunnel-vision.
Whether or not your organization adopts Project Portfolio Management practices, one of the ways you can increase the odds of your PMO’s sustainability is to broaden its focus beyond the triple constraint.