Mature PMO critical to success of transformation programme

04 June 2021 3 min. read
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When looking to ensure successful transformation programmes within an organisation, an advanced project management office can be a crucial asset. According to a new study, eight-in-ten organisations view the strength of the department as critical to meeting a programmes objectives.

A project management office (PMO) is a department within a business, government agency, or enterprise, which works to define and maintain standards for project management within the organisation. By introducing economies of repetition in the execution of projects, the PMO strives to standardise change and enable higher ratios of success during transformation campaigns.

According to a new white paper from consultancy Chaucer, the efficacy of a PMO can subsequently have a direct impact on the pace and outcomes of a programme of work. For example, the researchers noted, poorly managed dependencies between workstreams can lead to misaligned plans and expensive resources waiting on others.

How critical do you feel the work of the PMO was/is to the transformation or programme objectives?

Of a study of business leaders performed by the professional services firm, a massive 81% of respondents said the strength of their PMO was critical – either ranking as a four or five on a five-point scale – to the transformation or programme’s objectives. At the same time, a further 85% of respondents said they thought their PMO was either meeting or exceeding expectations, boding well for transformations at their organisations.

Chaucer also checked the maturity of PMOs during its research. A higher level of maturity correlates to better outcome achievement, higher stakeholder satisfaction, and increased PMO efficiency – and fortunately, fewer than 12% of PMOs were found to be below a basic level of maturity. In contrast, two-thirds were working around foundational or advanced levels, and another 12% were already around an exemplar level, again suggesting many organisations can depend on PMOs for quality support during change campaigns.

In an accompanying statement on the firm's website, Aled Laugharne, a Management Consultant with Chaucer, commented, “78% of the PMO examples reported as being below key stakeholders’ performance expectation were graded below foundational on the maturity scale. 94% of the examples reported as meeting or exceeding key stakeholders’ expectation were reported at or above the Foundational level. This suggests that PMOs need to be at least Foundational to meet most expectations, i.e. this is how “good” a PMO must be. Intuitively, this also highlights the importance of establishing and improving a PMO quickly to achieve the foundational level.”

What does the PMO do well and areas for improvement

With that being said, the performance of PMOs was not spread evenly across all areas of business. While 52% of respondents said PMOs facilitated effective governance and more than one-third also said the department was key to effective reporting and planning, dependency management, which closely relates to planning was to be an area with which the majority of PMOs struggle. Just 10% of respondents said PMOs were effective in this regard, while 23% said they would like them to improve performance.

At the same time, PMOs could also improve on providing strategic advice around PMO efficacy, advancing tooling and automation, reaching out to the wider business community, and continuously improving the PMO itself. According to Laugharne, this could be why one-fifth of respondents still do not consider PMOs as mission critical, or do not feel they are up to standard.

Laugharne concluded, “Why circa 20% of PMOs don’t meet stakeholder expectations or are not seen as critical to a programme’s success is an area we intend to investigate. Early indications point to a failure to address wider people issues and an over-focus on reporting as two key PMO pitfalls.”