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"There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all."

– Peter Drucker

There has been much debate about the future of the PMO within Agile (technology) delivery. Our hypothesis is that the function of the PMO needs to change from a process oriented, output-focused, bureaucratic organisation to a guiding people-before-process practice, measuring outcomes and the delivery of value to the organisation while supporting the effective use of allocated funding.

Whilst the quote from Peter Drucker says it all; we would like to look at three key areas all organisations can focus on to grow their PMO’s into an enabling function in today’s VUCA world. The three areas we are going to look at are:

  • Moving the focus from delivering outputs efficiently to delivering the right outcomes
  • Enabling the organisation to support delivering outcomes through adaptive governance
  • Shifting PMO tools to enable people to focus on value instead of enforcing process

Moving the focus from delivering outputs efficiently to delivering the right outcomes

The PMO function has traditionally been focused on delivering projects in the most efficient way through various processes and activities like approving business cases, managing and tracking funding, resource allocation, monitoring delivery risk, project status reporting etc.

The PMO relies heavily on the business owners to measure the outcome and impact created by the project.

As the PMO focus is primarily on delivery of the project/programme and not the outcome, projects, particularly technology-centred projects, have consistently failed to create the impact promised in their business case.

We propose that we change the key focus of the PMO function to delivering the right outcomes through:

  • Managing the value created for the customer instead of projects delivered to the business;
  • Building the customer journey to identify the customer interactions and the key pain points that will guide the organisation to move towards customer centricity;
  • Stable backlog of aligned work that focuses on long term goals instead of ad-hoc projects;
  • Creating mechanics to enable the business to work on the most valuable projects through effective prioritisation;
  • Assessing ways to measure sustainable outcomes;

Enabling the organisation to support delivering outcomes through adaptive governance

In an Agile environment, the rigid structure of annual funding and ad-hoc resource allocation is not going to support the agility required for an organisation to thrive.

Outdated governance by committee through programme/project reporting on time, cost, risk and scope once a month is not an effective way to deal with issues faced by teams delivering software iteratively.

PMO’s should focus on championing Adaptive Governance, recognising the complexity of today’s opportunities and advocating for flexible and collaborative approaches to solve them. Here’s some key areas that needs to evolve for adaptive governance:

  • Committing to delivering a limited number of projects based on delivery capacity and the business’ capability to support and deliver multiple projects;
  • Having dedicated value stream teams to focus on identifying and implementing products and/or services to satisfy customer needs;

Shifting PMO tools to enable people to focus on value instead of enforcing process

All too often, policy and process are put in place to manage people and to monitor their productivity, when people should own the policy to derive the right outcome.

Managers and employees spend more time accounting for the time they spend on task and activities than delivering the outcome needed to achieve the goal.

On average, information workers spend over 15 hours or two days a week on routine administrative tasks, with 20% spending three days or more.[1]

Despite the knowledge of tools and resources they could use, most PMO are still running through spreadsheets.

Far too many Project Managers and Scrum Masters are so busy collecting data, reporting on risks and issues, that they are deprived of the bandwidth to address inefficiencies in processes.

Providing the right tools will help eliminate these inefficiencies, while also freeing up Project Managers and Scrum Masters to work towards delivering outcomes.  Shifting the focus in the following areas will assist in enabling people to focus on value:

  1. Identifying and implementing tools that automates/support iterative delivery for process like funding, risk management, capacity planning, progress reporting;
  2. Having the right policies and tools, that increase visibility and promote communication;
  3. Regularly review and gather feedback on the effectiveness of PMO standards, process, structures, tools and templates

The changes mentioned are neither quick nor easy, but they are not impossible to achieve.

The organisation wanting to survive in the VUCA world needs to move away from quick and easy fixes that compounds problem for the future to focusing on the long-term benefit through evolving how we operate by constantly gathering feedback and reshaping the organisation.

The intelligence of an organisation can only develop where there is change and a need for change.

Enabling the organisation to adapt to the changing needs of the customer and market should be the primary function of PMO.

We hope you found this useful! Please share your feedback with us as we want to learn and grow our thinking on the PMO to further help organisations as they navigate the challenges of Agile and accelerated delivery requirements.

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