In these turbulent times, it appears that everyone in IT is working frantically on an ever-growing number of projects and transformation initiatives, all while adjusting to a new method of working and collaborating remotely, combined with the challenges of navigating their personal ‘new normal’ too.

The Program Management Office (referred to as PMO from this point onwards): the group that establishes, maintains and ensures standards and frameworks for project management across an organization, arguably plays an even more important role in today’s ever-changing work environment. 

From a largely remote or WFH perspective, program and project management continues to evolve in an interesting number of ways. Endless Zoom and Skype meetings have generally replaced war room or boardroom meetings, whiteboard sessions are now whitespace sessions, and virtual workshops are the new norm as well. 

So, has the role of the Program Office or Program and Project Management morphed in these new circumstances, and what does that mean for the function overall? As an area of the business with a reputation for needing face-to-face contact in order to effectively mobilize teams and drive forward, this raises a lot of questions about the way we work now. Are we as productive working remotely as we were together in offices?  Are there new challenges we face in driving expected business outcomes on time and within budget?  

These questions are certainly fodder for a lively debate, but one set of well-established challenges that face a PMO continues to be prevalent in disrupting the pace and velocity of desired business outcomes:

  1. Misalignment between internal stakeholders
  2. Lack of effective governance
  3. Employing standardized best practices and processes 

I suspect that many of you are nodding as you read these age-old challenges, and can think of times when you’ve felt frustration grappling with deadlines, dealing with moving goalposts, budgetary and resource constraints, and the ever-so-helpful ‘do more with less’ mandate from senior stakeholders.  These challenges can have a domino effect of impacting non-related but essential projects, cause angst among peers, cause cost overruns, and missed go-to-market deadlines. 

Who needs a PMO?

The rationale for having a PMO is typically based on how the company operates, culturally and operationally. If a company operates in silos, with different tools and systems, the value derived by having a PMO that is agile, can be a key enabler in the sharing of best practices, tools, techniques, processes, methodologies, and most importantly, knowledgeable resources. 

How can agile methodologies empower your PMO?
Adopting agile practices and introducing them into the enterprise can be a way to surmount these issues, supporting the PMO’s ability to help achieve strategic business goals and objectives. An agile PMO can ensure work is aligned with strategy, and teams work on the right thing, in the best way. In turn, an agile way of working maximizes value and minimizes risk for the enterprise.

An empowered PMO will provide tangible, repeatable business value through best practices, and enable alignment between business leaders, effective governance, and corporate strategy and culture.  By empowered, we mean that executive stakeholders across the enterprise support and stand by the disciplines that govern, fund, and fulfill the resource requirements sufficiently to drive the standards and policies required for successful business outcomes.

So where does a company’s investment in tooling come into play?  Millions of dollars are spent on a plethora of productivity tools, many of which fail to deliver because they fall at the first hurdle: they are not effectively deployed to maximize their return on investment. Alternatively, they fall at the second hurdle: they are not adopted widely for the use case they were brought in to support. From ITSM, to communication and collaboration, or DevOps, numerous tools are purchased and deployed for, at times, singular or partial benefit, and must be cobbled together as environments continue to grow, in both size and complexity.   

AI, machine learning, tooling, and automation are not new ideas. Exploration and industry interest in these new ways of working will continue to thrive, and, of course, new technologies are always on the horizon. However, rather than getting distracted by the ‘latest thing’, it’s important to consider the overall need when applying technology to a problem or challenge, and for PMO – especially in a remote world – we would argue that visibility and effective remote execution are top of the list, and well placed to become a PMO’s greatest ally.  

If the key attributes of a successful PMO include company and cultural alignment, effective governance, and applying repeatable best practices (such as agile methodology), then surely employing a structured, standardized, and repeatable process for workload execution is the optimum framework for building effective program management foundations.

PMO’s have a line of sight and responsibility for a company’s most strategic initiatives, their resource utilization, budgetary allotments, and business outcomes directly impact how their services and products are consumed. It’s everyone’s responsibility to provide an exceptional customer experience, but it’s the PMO’s job to get these projects done on time and under budget. 

Industry pundits are espousing that IT PMO’s will decline as a result of digital transformation and that the evolving partnership between humans, smart machines, and AI will take on substantial amounts of work across the PMO’s activities. 

Our view is that it’s not about replacement, but rather liberation from manual tasks like reporting and delivering progress updates, and elevating individuals to tackle more creative and strategic challenges. PMO’s and executive stakeholders should be motivated by the prospect of re-purposing these typically tenured and talented resources for more innovative work. 

Leveraging technologies that have the ability to ‘see’, with real-time visibility, upstream and downstream dependencies, communicate seamlessly, and integrate with ITSM, comms, and Dev/Ops tools to orchestrate complex workloads, will in fact improve the pace and accuracy of execution.

From multi-year data center migrations to daily change/release management, moving workloads to the cloud, executing mergers & acquisitions, or operational resilience activities, leveraging technologies that can provide orchestration and real-time observability will be game-changers for PMO’s across industries. 

The benefits of a mature PMO execution capability serve as the catalyst for competitive differentiation, including:

  • Speed to market
  • Repeatable best practices
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Process efficiencies too numerous to count
  • Happier, more fulfilled employees who are aligned with executive stakeholders.

We have covered a lot of territory around how empowered PMO’s can make a material difference in the trajectory of your business transformation and drive exceptional results.  Effective PMO’s are worth their weight in gold and there is no doubt that empowering them with the resources and tools to succeed will enable better business outcomes. Is it time you evaluate the approach, methodology, and tooling that best supports your PMO?

Steve Piggott is the head of enterprise resilience – global accounts for Cutover.

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