More organisations than ever are recognising the value of enterprise PMOs (ePMO) to help drive the achievement of business goals in increasingly complex operating environments. A high-performing ePMO helps an organisation bridge the gap between high-level strategic vision and execution, prioritise investment and resources and ensures alignment across the enterprise.
However, we often see ePMOs that are under pressure to demonstrate their value to and are at the risk of becoming reduced to a simplified reporting function or at worst, redundant. This article outlines some of the key challenges and commonly received feedback from key stakeholders about their ePMO and contrasts this with the benefits a right-sized and capable ePMO can bring to an organisation.
What challenges do we regularly see?
- Lack of understanding from Executives and the project community and of what value the ePMO provides
“The EPMO is too governance-heavy, only cares about status reporting and just generally slows us down” — Program Manager
- Perception of being too rules and compliance driven and slowing down delivery
“There is no flexibility by the ePMO with funding requests and how people can access funds – we are not a one size fits all organisation” — Project Sponsor
- Poor uptake of expensive to maintain resources and services
“Knowledge management is done poorly, the templates and resources they (ePMO) provide are out of date – I just create my own” — Project Manager
This is an unfortunate fact as well as a significant missed opportunity, as the research and our experience show, organisations can execute strategy more efficiently using an ePMO and make project delivery a point of competitive advantage.
What benefits does an ePMO provide?
According to a 2017 Project Management Institute (PMI) Report, organisations that have a strategic EPMO have 38% more projects meet original goals and business intent and 33% fewer projects considered failures.
The 2017 Pulse findings continue to show what we’ve also learned in the past: that when proven project, program, and portfolio management practices are implemented, projects are more successful.
High-performing ePMOs need to deliver the following benefits:
- Improve Enterprise-wide Visibility - Enable everyone to be on the same page and make decisions based on accurate data rather than gut feels. Improving visibility into where time and resources are being spent is the first step to ensuring they are where they need to be.
- Provide Top-down Strategic Alignment - Aligning the portfolio priorities with corporate objectives from the top down to deliver more value from your project selections. When your portfolio of projects is strategically aligned to the goals of the organization, you will drive more impact with your time, resources and value provided.
- Bottom-up Executive Driven Alignment - Your planning practices will promise value, but you also need bottom-up alignment to deliver on that promise. Your PMO needs to understand the linkages and dependencies between various projects in the portfolio.
- Delivery Value Beyond on-time, on-budget - Ensuring you are measuring toward the right KPIs through proper portfolio management will empower assessment of projects against business needs, allocating resources effectively, and executing projects to gain the most impact for the company.
- Promote the portfolio level value and optimisation - Value on the portfolio level, not necessarily on the project level, means you can easily stop low-value projects and in-flight project additions that are next on-deck but not necessarily the highest, strategic priority. With PMO governance and templates you can stop reinventing the wheel on every project and move away from manual and labor-intensive data management.
- Proving Business Value – Decisions are backed up by metrics and your metrics prove your PMO has enhanced value to fulfilling business requirements. Stakeholders see hard data proving exactly how your program management office delivers tangible and meaningful strategic power.
How can we improve ePMO effectiveness?
Our experience establishing and running PMOs has shown us that there are five main keys to success when implementing a new ePMO or re-structuring an underperforming ePMO:
- Decide on the right role & scope - There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to PMO / ePMO. Determining what type of ePMO (reporting, operational, strategic) is the first step in articulating its purpose and value.
- Be clear about what services it offers - Avoid bureaucracy but be clear that some services are non-negotiable.
- Manage end-to-end - Be clear on value early, align constantly through the entire lifecycle from strategy to initiatives, prioritisation and execution.
- Start-fast: mature with experience – Start with a ‘lite’ model of core enterprise-wide PMO services, additional services can be added over time as desired.
- Reuse, don’t reinvent - Use industry standard phases and readily available documentation, looking at external and internal sources.