"We're lost but we're making good time" -Yogi Berra
One of the biggest challenges to a Project Management Office (PMO) is the thrust to maintain relevance and value to the organization in both IT and the rest of the business. I have worked with several organizations whose PMOs can be describe by the quote above. It is no secret that when PMOs begin to slide into logistically centered activities, they start to appear less valuable and more bureaucratic. They may have lost that their mission is to support the goals of the business. As this happens, it is no wonder others in the organization stop seeing the value of the PMO and viewing it more like an expense center that no one understands why it is there.
How does this happen?PMOs are initially established to enable more effective project execution to better meet business goals. However, over time, PMOs can become more focused on the processes they are helping to monitor and support than why those processes exist. The line seems fine but the shift and perception can be the difference of life and death to the PMO. Ultimately, PMO leaders need to ensure they understand and are aligned with the goals of the organization and are visibly showing support through their activities.
Signs your PMO is losing relevance to the organizationThe following are some areas to consider and be mindful of when running your PMO. If you answer "yes" to any of the questions below, then you will want to evaluate how much of an issue it is for your organization.
- Lack of effective sponsorship
- Are you finding your status meetings are not well attended or garner very little feedback?
- Is prioritization of PMO goals and mission somewhat unclear from your leadership team?
- Disconnected with the business
- Do you know what is going on in the business?
- Do you understand their challenges and priorities?
- Do you have a good relationship with other departments so they will talk to you about their focus and issues?
- Do they know who you are?
- Tactical goals are more important than overall objectives
- Do you find yourself spending more time checking off your to-do list and less about solutions and how to improve your world or the business?
- Do you spend more of your time with your own PMO team than getting around to your customers, both IT and the rest of the business?
How to Maintain RelevanceIf reading the above questions gave you a sense of unease or you could see some trends in your answers, you will want to review your PMO's mission and business alignment. Some areas to think about are:
- Mission control: Ensure the mission and scope that is defined for your PMO is appropriate for the current business and IT objectives. Departmental missions can and should evolve as appropriate for the size, complexity and goals of your company.
- Test the mission with your leadership and your teams and see if there is a common understanding and agreement of the mission.
- Do not be scared to change and modify your mission with your leadership as appropriate.
- Blocking and Tackling: In football, the basics of blocking and tackling are practiced over and over to make sure that each play is consistently delivered. Ensure you have the basics for project and portfolio management covered to ensure you are executing consistently and allocating time for review of the basics.
- If you have execution issues, pay attention to them as well. Whether it is poor project performance due to lack of process or organization, evaluate and fix it. If your reputation as a manager or department is suffering because you can't get your job done, relevance will also take a hit. Fix it! Grab a qualified partner to help you if need too!
- Alignment: Ensure alignment is not only with your IT leadership but with the business leadership and sponsorship
- If you don't know if you are on the same page, then you probably are not. Get out and meet with those who your projects support. You can read more on PMO and business alignment in my last blog post Ensuring PMO Success with the Right Rowers
- Strategy Understanding: Ensure there is understanding of the strategic goals in front of the business and IT and support it
- Know where you are headed from a business and an IT department. Make sure all plans and communications support that direction.
- PMO as an Enabler: Evolve your mission to be an enabler of new solutions and strategy
- Evolve your leadership and the operation of the PMO to be forward looking in addition to day-to-day. This involves having a better alignment and understanding of where the organization is going
- Skills: Elevate your skills.
- Recurrent training - Ensure that you and your team are maintaining proficiency in your objective areas, i.e. portfolio management, project management, etc.
- New skills training - Look for new trends or emerging practice areas, i.e. Agile, Lean processes, etc. and build some new capabilities. This will continue to make you a trusted expert
Maintaining relevance is about maintaining value to your organization. The PMO is intended to be an organization that is instrumental to ensure company objectives are driven efficiently and effectively. Make sure you don't find yourself lost. You can learn more about creating and running an effective PMO with our guide 7 Steps to a World-Class PMO.