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What Is a Business-Driven PMO?

There are a lot of buzzwords and phrases out there in the PMO space, but what does it mean to really be a business-driven PMO? It’s very, very simple. Your PMO is there to serve the business. Don’t forget that. The reason you exist is to support the process of getting things done in your organization to improve the business in some way:  greater project throughput, process performance, capability improvement, cost savings, revenue generation, etc.

Sometimes we forget that the reason we have the templates, the tools, the process, and the people is because we are there to make things better for the business—otherwise, why does the PMO exist? And to exist (and stay effective and sustainable), you need to provide real impactful business value that helps move the business forward. The PMOs that don’t survive are the ones that business leaders have lost hope in, the ones that aren’t helping the business get things done better than they would be without the PMO. If you have heard any of the following terms used to describe the PMO, watch out! You may not make it to the next fiscal year.

The Business Perspective: It Might Be Rigged against You

Things you do not want to hear: process-heavy, checklists, red tape, barrier to progress, overhead, administrative, etc. Those words translate to “the first place we make cuts when we need to tighten our budget.”

Look at it from the business perspective. If you are there to make their lives easier, yet you spend months upon months on planning, creating process, building templates, putting in systems, and doing this all with the promise of a someday benefit, you will lose their interest. The business will go on without you. And to make it even more of a challenge, if you weren’t the first one attempting to do this, you have to pay for the lack of patience they now have with you as you are just starting—in their eyes, this is the second, third, or fourth attempt at this. They’ve seen this movie before, and it hasn’t worked. What makes you different? You are months or years behind before you’ve ever even started. I’ve been in that situation many times and help my clients through that process all of the time.

Winning against the Odds

How do you change this? I will tell you what to do right now, immediately, today, this minute: You need to rapidly identify some very quick wins that solve a problem they have.

How? Talk to them.  Have you done that recently? No? Do it now! Find out exactly how much pain they are in and what your PMO could do to solve that pain point by the end of this month. Don’t think you can move that fast? Well, then you’ve just acknowledged you can’t be the PMO that your business needs.

The PMOs that are effective and sustainable—whether just starting up, going through a transformation, or taking their capability to a higher level—are all successful because they know what is going on with the business, understand their value to the business (and how to communicate it), and know how to solve business pain points early and often. That’s how you get the attention of the people that decide whether you stay or go, whether the business has moved on without you, or you are seen as a strategic asset for driving change in the organization.

The pain points you solve do not need to be complicated; they just need to improve the ability for the business to get things done better, faster, or cheaper than before. For example, there is not enough clarity on the projects your sponsors are overseeing—stop the 10-page (or more, yuck) status reports and give them a One-Page Executive Dashboard that covers what they really need to know about the project. Tell them what they need to know to make educated and informed decisions. Then—stop! Stop talking and drilling into details. Stop giving them layers of unnecessary information that only you, as the really awesome detail-oriented person that you are, care about. Just answer their questions and tell them what you need from them. Then get back to the business of getting it done.

How about the meetings for the meetings for the meetings? Stop them. Now. You may as well say you don’t care about company resources, value realization, or the bottom line if you have filled everyone’s calendar with review meetings, status meetings, and other group think that keeps people away from their desks and producing results.

The best thing you can do to raise the energy level and support for your PMO via business stakeholders is to find out what you can do to help them “Get. It. Done.” Start small, show quick and real value, and then grow that trust. People that know, like, and trust you are more likely to try what you are offering. Then, when it makes their lives easier, you can get their support to “buy” into being more patient for the bigger PMO improvements you want to make.

About Laura Barnard

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Laura is the Founder of PMO Strategies, a management consulting firm specializing in creating effective and sustainable change for organizations with an appetite for success. She brings 20 years of change management experience implementing change for a broad range of organizations, from non-profits to large financial institutions. For the last 10 years, she has served the PMI Montgomery County, Maryland Chapter, as a board member in the roles of VP, Certification and Education and VP, Finance. In 2014, she joined the board of the PMI Washington, DC chapter, serving as AVP, Educational Outreach. Laura also sits on the board of Goodwill Industries of the Greater Chesapeake, Inc. in Baltimore, MD. Laura has a Computer Science degree from Virginia Tech, a Project Management Institute (PMI), PMP certification (10 years) and a Prosci Change Management Practitioner certification.

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One comment

  1. Great article Laura. The PMO should be aligned with the business and create streamlined process between IT and the business in order to function smoothly.

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