Why a PMO

shudder_homer_smallProject Management Office

The words make some shudder.  Of course PMOs have existed for a long timeThey grew as the discipline of project management itself matured and people recognized that project management was a distinct skill set that demanded training and experience, as well as certain natural talents.

While PMOs are often associated with larger firms which need to establish a standard methodology and approach for initiating, managing, and controlling systems-related projects, there are many reasons why a company might consider establishing a PMO.

First, a PMO does not need to be focused on systems-related projects.  The real benefit of a PMO is its ability to bring a disciplined approach to how an organization approaches projects.  Any time an organization is contemplating a series of projects to introduce transformational change, a PMO can improve the odds of success.  Those projects can be systems focused, but they could also be focused on business process redesign, new product development, geographical expansion, acquisition, or reorganization.  Each organization can decide for itself what type of projects should fall under the auspices of a PMO.

Similarly, a PMO does not need to be focused on all aspects of project management – at least in its initial implementation.  A PMO should address existing organizational problems.  If the organization struggles with prioritizing project requests and deciding which projects to fund and staff, the PMO should be focused on this issue.  If the organization struggles with keeping projects on track and resolving issues during project execution, the PMO should be focused on this issue.  Simply implementing a PMO doesn’t bring value to an organization.  Implementing a PMO so that it addresses the real-world issues that the organization is facing does bring value.

While PMOs take many shapes and flavors, they all seek to improve communication, collaboration, and consistency.  Organizations face increasingly complex environments while striving to respond to customer demands.  They often rely on a set of projects to drive the organization towards a new strategic vision of itself.  These organizations can leverage a PMO to more effectively meet these commitments.

So why consider a PMO?  If your organization is facing substantive change and needs to improve its ability to consistently and successfully deliver projects so that it can implement that change, a PMO can help.

How do you know when the gap is too big to jump?

SnakeRiverCanyonArrowEver watched a motorcycle jump?  Ever wonder how guys like Evel Knievel knew how far they could go? How fast they could make the jump?  How to tune that motorcycle so it would support repeated efforts to break and rebreak records?  Was the cycle the secret to success or was it more a matter of mind over matter, training and instinct?

Many businesses face the same challenges as they try to accelerate the pace of change, embarking on transformation initiatives that often demand that their people bridge frighteningly huge current-to-target state gaps. The price of failure is as catastrophic to a business as those motorcycle jumps are to the daredevils who attempt them.

Is technology the secret to success? Methodology? Only partly so — Objective measures of the size of the gap (a catalog of differences between the current and target states of process, technology, data, and business model) will only get you so far. Project phases can be designed to address this, and the classic stuff of project management can certainly help. I call this the hard science side of the equation.

However, for both the intrepid cyclist and the daring leader of an audacious business transformation, success is both an art and a science.  Just as a jumper has to factor in the strength of crosswinds, the nuances of posture and the internal state of mind, transformation leaders need to address the following questions, which speak to the art of success:

  • Does your organization have a framework in place to foster change (communication, collaboration tools; a training framework)
  • Is there a formal framework for facilitating alignment among stakeholders with different needs?
  • What is the state of employee engagement at your company? Who is burned out, checked out, counting down the clock to retirement? And who is revved up and raring to go?
  • Are there wounded bodies still littering the canyon from your last attempt to jump a big gap?
  • Do you have realistic expectations of the business input required to support a technology-driven transformation? Do you have a backfill strategy?
  • Have you defined success in business terms, or are you just eager to “put in a new system?”

When considering anything unprecedented or record breaking, don’t put all your faith in science—and don’t devalue the many human factors that are very much a part of the art of success.

Big Data + Small Process Thinking = Disappointing Results

Big data is in the news this week.  In a recent Forbes article describing the hidden opportunities of big data, Albert Pimentel Chief Sales and Marketing officer at Seagate quoted Mark Dean, an IBM fellow and director of the Almaden Research Center as saying, “Computation is not the hard part anymore.”  As with most big technology transformations, one of the hardest parts is always getting the process and people part right.

Big data has the potential to position businesses to outperform their competitors, as described in a recent McKinsey article that dubs big data the next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity.  As businesses race to implement big data technology, there are some serious business process transformations that need to take place to fully leverage the investment in any big data initiative.

In the Big Data-driven approach to business transformation, the most important business processes are those that relate to Customer Experience Management across all fronts:

  • Manage customer loyalty
  • Manage customer value
  • Manage customer relationships
  • Manage customer feedback

These processes cross the more  traditional high level process siloes of “Manage Sales, Manage Marketing, Manage Customer Service, ” which were usually organized along departmental lines.

What actions will be taken based on the actionable intelligence that big data provides? Initiatives across departmental siloes must be closely orchestrated or the customer experience will become chaotic and confusing. Marketing campaigns have to be coordinated with activities across all customer facing roles in the organization. Effective enterprise program management is critical to this successful coordination. Marketing has to be thought of less as a department and more as a shared business responsibility.

When trying to leverage big data, it’s important to step back and answer critical questions before moving forward on multiple fronts:

  • What strategies and processes do you use to influence customer behavior on your website, in your retail outlets, at virtual and real time events? Are they working synergistically, or are they are crossed purposes?
  • What change management principles do you apply to shift customer attitudes towards your company, your employees, your products? Are you fully leveraging the power of third party change agents, or only applying  traditional, direct influence measures?
  • Are our processes too rigid to allow us to be a world-class, big data-driven organization? Should we concentrate on defining broad strokes strategies instead?

At the end of the day, the most successful businesses will be those that harness the power of big data and big process thinking to outrun the competition. More food for thought on the intersection of big data and big process can be found at: