The PMO: Critical to Building Agile Organisations

Previous posts have highlighted the increasingly important role of the Project Management Office (PMO) as a key enabler of change.

With successful transformation requiring effective, enterprise-wide project, programme and portfolio management, the PMO is fast becoming the de facto organisational structure for standardising project management best-practice, ensuring that projects and programmes are delivered on time, on budget, with agreed outcomes achieved.

Agility has become a strategic imperative

Standardisation and conformity with best-practice, however, should not be at the expense of flexibility and speed of response.

A new study by PMI, entitled Achieving Greater Utility: The Critical Need for Cross Functional Support, provides strong evidence that modern PMOs have a critical role to play in building the agile organisations required in an era of turbulent change and digital disruption.

Based on a global survey of 622 respondents, responsible for the initiation, commissioning and delivery of major projects, the PMI study establishes a strong positive correlation between organisational agility and performance. Agile organisations tend to outperform others. By contrast, those failing to keep pace with the speed of change face an uphill battle to remain competitive.

Leading organisations, according to the report, do not ‘make it to the top’ by accident.

Instead, they have made organisational agility a strategic imperative; creating work environments receptive to change, encouraging collaboration, learning cycles, distributed decision making, value delivery, nimble ownership of processes and procedures. They have empowered people to identify and respond faster (and better) to new challenges and opportunities.

Agile PMOs

The agile imperative has major implications for the Project Management Office.

While many PMOs have already augmented their existing toolkits to include more agile and flexible delivery approaches, they can also play a lead role in extending agile across the organisation, supporting more flexible and adaptive ways of working across lines of business.

Specifically, the agile leadership role of PMOs should cover the following:

  • An evangelist communicating the value of adopting agile practices across lines of business.
  • Educating stakeholders on why and how to be agile.
  • Remove impediments and streamline processes.
  • Promote training in agile practices.
  • Expose and communicate bottlenecks.
  • Build cross-functional teams and break down silos.
  • Coach and mentor project professionals and others.
  • Foster collaboration and knowledge sharing.
  • Share lessons learned and showcase the benefits of working differently.
  • Celebrate success.

Structures and Processes

Although flexibility is key, the report argues that this should be balanced with appropriate structures and processes to ensure that agility does not equal chaos.

This balance is the essence of high agility.

“Agility is our ability to be flexible enough to get things done in whatever way they require, but structured enough to have high quality.”

There is also recognition that some proponents of agile might consider the construct of a PMO to be inconsistent with an agile environment.

The report argues, however, that PMOs are evolving how they work. An agile oriented PMO has a customer-collaboration mindset, operating as an internal consultant, tailoring project delivery approaches to accommodate resources, timelines and overall business needs in a rapidly changing environment.

As always, comment and feedback are very welcome.

What role does the PMO play in your organisation?

You can download the full report here – Achieving Greater Utility: The Critical Need for Cross Functional Support

Please do not hesitate to contact us to discover how Bridgeall Project Management Office can support agile, best -practice project portfolio management.

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