How to revitalise your PMO

Following on from 'How to assess your PMO', we now investigate how to revitalise your PMO and achieve the desired future state.

Where to from here?

Once a potential PMO Service Model is agreed, organisations need to determine how they are going to get there. This begins by establishing a case for change that is based on the previous rigorous assessment of the business needs relative to the existing arrangements (or status quo) and the potential scope of the proposed spend in relation to the anticipated benefits and potential business, service and environmental risks.

What’s often forgotten is that when proposing to make a change to an organisation, or part thereof, consider that the proposed vision for the future is unlikely to be the same as your stakeholders. So to minimise resistance, it’s important to take stakeholders on the change journey through active involvement and consultation. It’s therefore imperative to seek the support and commitment from the key decision maker of the main investment board for the organisation. 

How to achieve the 360 maturity assessment improvements? 

Like any proposed business change, the “change” itself does not magically appear overnight no matter how much organisations will it into action. Given the effort required to achieve the desired maturity improvement and sustained change, the preferred approach is to establish a programme as the proposed business change may last months, if not years in order to deliver the required maturity and capability improvements. 

While programmes and projects are similar in that they are unique, transient endeavours, undertaken to achieve planned inter-related objectives. Projects should be used where the focus is on a particular project, programme or portfolio management aspect, prioritised by urgency and importance. That is, work leading to a single output (i.e. low complexity of scope) is typically referred to as a project. Work that combines multiple projects with change management to deliver benefits (i.e. higher complexity of scope) is considered to be a programme. 

What should be avoided at all costs is attempting to implement the Praxis 360 maturity assessment improvement as an operational activity. The required business change will be sporadic at best, and the sustained change likely to fail. If there are funding and/or capacity considerations, then an external implementation partner maybe a consideration or even PMO-as-Service option considered. Like any proposed options, decisions to outsource those desired services, should be based on a cost-benefits analysis, to ensure a positive return on investment for this sometimes costly venture. If this approach is adopted, then its important that arrangements are made for cross-skilling and knowledge transfer between contracted resources and existing employees within the PMO. 

So like any programme or project, it requires the spending authority to demonstrate that the spending proposal is being implemented in accordance with a recognised programme and project management methodology and that there are robust arrangements in place for change management, benefits management and risk management.

Establishing a Sustainable Culture?

For an effective PMO to exist, the structure, people and processes ultimately requires everyone within the organisation to show commitment and support towards continual portfolio, programme and project management industry best practice and behaviours. It’s important to recognise that every size and type of organisation has its own distinct energy, and the type of energy it generates will have a marked impact on its ability to inspire and sustain optimum performance.

According to Dr Bernd Vogel, Associate Professor of Leadership and Organisational Behaviour at Henley Business School, there are four classifications of organisational energy. They are arranged from best to worst - productive, comfortable, resigned and corrosive.

Vogel states senior management can move their people towards a productive energy state particularly by developing and sharing the vision and purpose - for the PMO. However the key challenge in transitioning between organisational energy states is to mobilise shared engagement of those impacted by the business change and to focus either on the exciting opportunities within the PMO and/or by reinforcing the organisation’s strategic objectives or values.

How to sustain value?

PMOs naturally sit within the realm of controlling at one spectrum and supporting at the other. These offices are primarily responsible for protecting organisational investment and maintaining a sensible budget position by ensuring programmes and projects remain within agreed parameters for time, cost, quality (criteria), benefit, risk and scope. They are also responsible for supporting programme and project delivery through pragmatic advice and defined governance processes and by providing recovery services. 

One of the reasons why PMO are often disbanded or restructured is because they fail to visibly show their value proposition to the key decision maker of the main investment board, who should ultimately lead the setup or any revitalisation. Value proposition therefore describes the target consumer, the problem you solve, and why the PMO is distinctly better than alternative options.

Ideally, this is communicated through a service charter with key performance indicators e.g. the number of poorly performing programmes and projects stopped in a financial year, number of programmes and projects overspent on allocated budgets versus output or the number of programmes and projects recovered.

In summation, the assessment and revitalisation of a PMO is a continuous journey. For best portfolio, programme and project management practices, behaviours and culture to exist requires everyone from across the organisation to support such an endeavour - starting with top down (senior management), bottom up (delivery teams) and sideways (HR, Finance, Procurement) support and commitment.

The value of PMO cannot be underestimated as they are the integral link between strategic planning and policy, delivery of organisational objectives and balancing risk against affordability, desirability and achievability. Without doubt, effective programme and project management does not happen in isolation without the involvement of fully supported PMO that provides the decision enabling and support business model for all transformational change within an organisation.


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