PMOs must embrace disruption

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The PMO of the future will move from "order taker" to "order influencer".
The PMO of the future will move from "order taker" to "order influencer".

The project management office (PMO) cannot escape the effects of the digital revolution that is disrupting every aspect of our lives, and our businesses.

In fact, if the PMO does not adapt, innovate and reposition itself, it will die.

This was the key message to delegates at the recent Gauteng PMO Forum, an interest group that falls under the umbrella of Project Management South Africa and is sponsored by Pretoria-based Project Portfolio Office (PPO).

Setting the scene for the discussion, Guy Jelley, CEO of PPO, noted 91% of the organisations that participated in the 2018 Pulse of the (Project Management) Profession research report admitted to being impacted by disruptive technologies.

Keynote speaker at the forum, PPM professional Karabo Moloko, CEO of CoLAB Project Implementation, and previously VP responsible for PMO, portfolio management and other services at Sasol, concurred.

Explaining the title of her talk "Time for PMOs to embrace disruption", she told the 80-plus PMO executives: "If you do not allow yourself to be disrupted, you will be wiped out.

"The discomfort you feel about the PMO, and your concern about the value it is delivering, that is called disruption," she added, referring to an ongoing theme within PMO circles: how to measure and deliver demonstrable value to the organisation.

Moloko recommended four steps that today's PMOs should take to disrupt themselves in order to survive the disruptive forces all around them.

Change the PMO focus

Moloko advised PMOs to move away from programme or project management (doing things right), to portfolio management (doing the right things).

Bringing in projects on time or within budget would not make the slightest difference to the future survival of the PMO if these projects themselves did not advance the organisation's strategy and/or deliver anticipated value to the bottom line.

Portfolio management would enable the PMO to bridge the strategy and execution gap, she said.

Become an execution specialist

Most PMOs today are governance specialists, with potentially excessive focus on ensuring the 'right' methodology is followed in the deliverance of projects.

While this is important, the PMO should rather embrace design thinking, agile rituals and the utilisation of fit-for-purpose methodologies.

"The PMO of the future will integrate various project management methodologies," she explained.

Move away from project administration to project consultancy

Moloko pointed out that automation will play an ever-increasing role in project management.

"Whatever can be automated, will be automated, and this applies to most administrative functions, including the production of process reports. Ultimately, process quality itself will be automated," she said, and encouraged PMOs to start honing new, consultative skills, to remain relevant.

Become a trusted advisor

The PMO of the future will move from "order taker" to "order influencer": the go-to person who knows the business, knows the products, connects the dots and brings fresh insights to the company as a result, Moloko concluded.

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