The Modern PMO Focuses on Meaningful Results

by September 5, 2017

Part two in the “The Five Pillars of the Modern PMO” blog series

Last month, I wrote that the role of the PMO had changed. Over the last decade it has evolved from providing strategic investment guidance, managing budgets and monitoring high-level execution, to a much more tactical role focused on waterfall execution and Gantt charts.

The trend, as I explained, didn’t pan out for most organizations and today, the PMO is transitioning back into a strategic role focused on portfolios over individual projects, and identifying the right initiatives at the right time, executed by the right teams.

But the PMO isn’t moving away from tactical execution entirely. It’s simply expanding its scope and shifting its main focus to business results. This, of course, makes the ability to view the business at ground level as well as from 35,000 feet essential. Only from this dual vantage point can the PMO help implement investment controls that tie project execution and delivery to budgetary constraints, governance and an outcome that brings value to the portfolio and the organization.

For this degree of visibility, PMOs must have the right tools. That’s why the integration between CA Agile Central and CA Project & Portfolio Management (CA PPM) is proving invaluable to customers. CA Agile Central allows PMOs to monitor—and to a degree orchestrate—work happening at the project level. CA Agile Central also shares real-time information with CA PPM where it’s combined with pertinent financial information to provide the intelligence necessary to make strategic, data-driven decisions.

The strategic PMO starts with results

The right tools are essential in supporting the strategic responsibilities of the PMO. But those tools are a lot more effective for the PMO that already has the right mind-set and the right approach: the PMO that starts with the desired results and works backwards, mapping out how the company will achieve them. Following are some tips for turning the PMO into a strategic powerhouse:

  • Define successful outcomes: Start by defining a specific business goal. Break it down into supporting goals at the individual, team and departmental levels. Ensure they’re clear and highly visible. Everyone should know exactly what needs to be done, how each activity will impact the overall objective, and the status of their progress at any given time.
  • Consider using both KPIs and OKRs: Key performance indicators (KPIs) are very effective at measuring the performance of a given activity, and they should be used in circumstances such as achieving milestones. But the modern PMO is focused on outcomes. That means setting a specific objective and delineating a series of steps to reach it. For this, objectives and key results (OKRs) can be more effective due to their enhanced ability to focus on, measure and achieve those outcomes.
  • Track progress: Leverage tools that provide automated, fact-based feedback to track progress. Use that feedback to streamline ongoing projects, eliminate wasteand guide teams toward continuous improvement—and to avoid train wrecks like budget overruns.
  • Provide a postmortem: At the end of the project, the right metrics and reporting will provide a true picture of the cost to value of the initiative. This should be calculated and shared with executive management to illustrate the continuing value of everyone involved.
  • Report on the benefits realized over time: At the end of the project, most PMOs simply move on to the next initiative. This is a mistake. The end of the project is probably just the beginning of its results. It’s through the continued monitoring of those results that we can understand the real, total benefit to the organization, and compare those benefits to the costs associated with the project. And the learning here can be applied to all forthcoming projects.
  • Promote sound investment strategies: Use all the information and learning gleaned above to create viable, dynamic portfolios as you steer the work within the organization toward those projects that can deliver the most value. By illustrating how specific projects can generate revenue and how rationalized execution can minimize resource requirements and save money, the PMO becomes indispensable. 

This transition by the PMO will provide significant upside to the organization, but it will also place a lot more responsibility on the office. And project managers might be wondering how they could possibly take on any more than they already have on their plates. But that’s the beauty of it. The modern PMO can accomplish all of this without growing the team significantly or requiring people to work 80 hours a week. It just comes down to combining the right tools with the right priorities and focus.

At CA, we’ve specifically redesigned CA PPM to help PMOs manage strategic portfolio plans and implement best practices and governance through a work style suited for today’s teams. CA PPM provides clear insights into demand, resources and financials to confirm that you’re on track or show you what adjustments are required. It helps to align investments with corporate goals, ensure the best possible use of resources, prioritize investments, and forecast and manage budgets. Soon, it might be able to do your taxes too.