It’s Back to Basics for the Modern PMO: Five Pillars

by August 29, 2017

Today begins a five-part blog series titled, “The Five Pillars of the Modern PMO,” where we identify the characteristics of a successful PMO in a modern organization.

At one time, the core responsibilities of the PMO revolved around providing investment control and guidance, ensuring projects operated within budgets and monitoring high-level execution—all within the larger context of portfolio management. But over the last decade or so, that role shifted, becoming largely associated with things like waterfall execution and the production of Gantt charts.

Today, we’ve come full circle. It’s become apparent that the trend was not in the best interests of most organizations. Waterfall execution and the management thereof is certainly key to project success. But supplanting the strategic components of the department in favor of tactical execution has proven a net negative for many organizations, even when the project was carried out flawlessly.

It’s pretty easy to understand why: Even if a project is perfectly executed, it won’t benefit the organization as anticipated if it isn’t the right project at the right time and at the right cost in the first place. And that is where the strategic PMO is restoring its focus—identifying the right initiatives at the right time, executed by the right teams, all in relation to the other projects happening concurrently.

PMOs return to strategic guidance, investment controls

Today’s PMOs are going back to creating viable, dynamic portfolios and steering the work within the organization towards those projects with the ability to deliver the most value. And by illustrating how specific projects can generate revenue and how rationalized execution can minimize resource requirements and save money, the PMO is as relevant as ever.

To succeed, the PMO must have visibility into all the work happening across the organization—to cut through the noise and help the organization implement investment controls and identify the best opportunities. When properly applied, business investment controls tie project execution and delivery information with the things the business cares about most: Operating within budgetary constraints, monitoring progress and assuring delivery.

Today’s PMOs are taking back their strategic roles while continuing to ensure timely, cost-effective delivery. And we’ve built several features to support them. For example, CA Agile Central now shares real-time information with CA Project & Portfolio Management (CA PPM) to give the business actionable insight into project status. That data is then combined with pertinent financial information within CA PPM to provide the overall transparency necessary to make strategic, data-driven decisions.

Adaptive program managers are covered as well

According to a recent CA ethnographic study, 70 percent of projects are run by subject matter experts acting in the role of PM rather than by traditional project managers. These “acting” or “adaptive” managers still need to participate, collaborate and organize people and their work. And they’re still responsible for outcomes. But they don’t want or need the extensive full-featured tool that traditional project managers often prefer.

That’s where a great degree of customization becomes crucial. Your project and portfolio management solution should accommodate adaptive project managers as easily as it does traditional managers. If not, they’ll find a different tool, which leads to investment challenges at the enterprise level, as well as non- or poorly integrated platforms and multiple databases—a quagmire you want to avoid.

So select a tool that will work for everyone, across diverse scenarios. Ensure, for example, that your project managers can use traditional methods to set up a project, but that their teams can create the adaptive interface they prefer from within the same solution. When everyone works on the same platform, you avoid many unnecessary integration headaches.

More on the characteristics of a modern PMO

The contemporary PMO is looking quite different in terms of role, scope and even job title. Today, we’re kicking off a five-part blog series titled “The Five Pillars of the Modern PMO.” In this series, we identify the qualities, attributes and skills that PMOs should hone to be successful in a modern organization. These include focusing on meaningful results, providing insightful business intelligence, enabling delivery and affecting an organizational transformation. Keep an eye out for future articles covering these issues.

To learn more about the Modern PMO, download “The Five Pillars of the Modern PMO” paper to learn more about why the project management office role is changing.