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Completing the PMO jigsaw may require another pair of hands

The gap between ‘will’ and ‘skill’ is often where projects fall down. That chasm separating the two is where an intention to enact change, or carry out programme delivery fails, often causing businesses money, time, deviations from ambition and even a step out of line when it comes to compliance. Surely, the natural answer is the establishment of a project management office (PMO).

In recent years, PMOs have become a more familiar way to get these facets back on track. However, what organisations are often doing through its introduction, is giving themselves a hub for existing failures to be intensified and exacerbated. Essentially, the gap between ‘will’ and ‘skill’ becomes contained, but it doesn’t disappear. If anything, it can become more pronounced.

Going back a few phases, many of our clients at Match encounter the same problems when it comes to running projects. It’s a recognisable timeline of incepting a project at pace, having to bring in a mixed delivery model to conduct it, merging a disparate team of resources from numerous different suppliers, and then wondering why the project isn’t aligning and running smoothly. The idea of a PMO is to mitigate that challenge – to convert a fragmented network into a conjoined culture and mindset.

A PMO, in theory, serves as a space to specify, manage, audit and report on projects. But, unfortunately, that’s where a lot of organisations’ PMO strategies come to an end. It’s like initially having hundreds of jigsaw pieces, and deciding to put them in a box to make them easier to manage. Just because all the components are now in the same space, doesn’t mean the final picture has been created. The pieces are, after all, still separate.

Pressure points

This difficulty has led the idea of a PMO to be just that – a nice ‘idea’, rather than a fully functioning segment of an organisation’s infrastructure. And it’s a shame, as, when initiated properly, their benefits are vast. Being able to demystify project management processes through a holistic scope is indeed likely to ensure better value from a programme’s delivery. Similarly, having everyone and every resource pulling in the same direction under clearly established and transparent goals is more likely to reap that reward. But getting from A to B requires a lot more foresight than to just establish a PMO and hope for the best.

Companies need to shake off the ‘buzzword’ tag associated and realise that a PMO being ‘nice to have’ will soon change once senior stakeholders begin noticing costs spiralling, projects getting delayed, the scope becoming untenable, and compliance being put at risk.

To this end, there are a number of overarching pressure points that organisations need to keep closer to the forefront of their minds:

Visibility

Top-down alignment

Execution-driven alignment

Ultimate value delivery

Addressing the former, a PMO should facilitate transparent, digitally enhanced views of risk and capability, against desired outcomes. With everyone emboldened by clear, real-time facts, they’re less likely to be perturbed by future obstacles or bottlenecks, and more responsive to decisions that they know are based on accurate data, rather than gut feeling.

The two levels of alignment that follow tread a similar line to that of ‘visibility’, while focusing more on the hierarchal element of business. Top-down alignment ensures that portfolio priorities and corporate objectives from senior staff are reflected in PMO-driven strategies. This makes it easier to identify where to focus resources and time. Execution-driven alignment is more of a bottom-up look, to also feed back capabilities and competency to senior decision makers. Your PMO needs to know all of the variables that might derail or impact various projects. This, in turn, could alter the priorities being commanded.

Finally, ‘value’ can also be explored in different ways, as the notion of KPI significance evolves.

“Most project managers get caught up managing projects based on their ability to be delivered on time and on budget, but that just isn’t good enough in today’s competitive market,” explains Match’s James Fowler. “Meeting goals, becoming outcome-oriented and delivering on stakeholder expectations will surpass traditional KPIs in the long run.

“To do this, you need to ensure you are measuring towards the right KPIs through proper portfolio management.”

Don’t forget the technology

Understanding true project value goes hand in hand with optimisation once visibility is assured and all levels are bought into the process. And naturally, this will ultimately yield business value.

James continues: “Your decisions will be backed up by metrics, and those metrics prove your PMO has enhanced value to fulfilling business requirements. Stakeholders see hard data proving exactly how you have delivered tangible and meaningful strategic power.

“However, to achieve these end results, you not only need good people and processes, but also supporting technology.”

And this is where the PMO model often suffers. It’s not necessarily the fault of the organisation to not be able to fulfil such a complex process in-house, but it is their fault to proceed as if they can, when so much investment and organisation goes into it.

The whole ‘people, process, technology’ message may feel laboured at this point, but it is staggering how many organisations still try to manage all of the aforementioned pressure points without clear, digitally-derived data to work from.

And this, for many, means third party help.

Completing the jigsaw

As established in previous articles, diving headfirst into digital tools is akin to a previous dive into PMO territory. What companies really need from an outsourced provider, is consultancy. Guidance. Help.

Yes, they need to be told that a spreadsheet isn’t a viable way to guarantee visibility and instil trust in suppliers. But the solution to that isn’t to hand over a digital alternative to archaic methods. It isn’t to blindly kit out the PMO with uncontrollable tools and systems.

It is to advise on what each respective business needs to assess their capability; to understand their priorities; to weigh up those objectives against scope; to then demonstrate eventual programmes in a clear, data-driven way; and to then aid businesses in their digital transitions where required, in order to achieve all of the above.

This is what Match has been offering to clients, regardless of their background, sector, aims, or functions.

Our outsourced model helps to establish consistent methodology, tailored expertise, clear economies of scale, and – ultimately – vastly improved cost efficiencies.

PMO as a Service might seem counter-intuitive, to bring another party into a model where you’re trying to streamline input. But if you’re not able to identify the optimum roadmap, the tools to get you there, and the right performance indicators and metrics for your projects; then the jigsaw will remain incomplete whether you have a PMO or not.

By guaranteeing complete budget control, a real-time view of project milestones, scope control, enhanced reporting, and compliance; the gap between will and skill can finally be breached. The PMO jigsaw can be completed.

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