Transforming tradition: the Project Management Office

ME PoV Spring 2020 issue

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, not the most intelligent, but the ones that are most responsive to change.” Despite the origin of this quote being in contentious debate, one cannot fault the logic behind it. And it is not only attributable to the origin of species but to companies as well. Digital disruption has had a big impact on organizations. While some organizations are thriving, others are losing their market share. How does this digital transformation affect the Project Management Office (PMO) and what role can the latter play in this transformation process?

Digital disruption is a transformation that is caused by emerging digital technologies and this impacts the organizations, their structures, their services and their business models. The PMO, as part of the organization is impacted by this disruption without exception. According to the global non-profit organization Project Management Institute (PMI) the impact of technology on PMOs is vast, as highlighted by Table 1 below.

Traditionally, an organization would typically update its operating-model design once every 3 to 5 years. In a digital world, organizations are doing so more frequently and we expect things to change on a regular basis. As per PMI research, more than 55 percent of PMO directors say the charter for their PMO has changed in the past five years. Traditional PMOs that have focused on overseeing the tactical activities of a program, project or portfolio, now face more reporting, more paperwork, and more meetings. These PMOs often track schedule, scope, and costs, commonly referred to as the “iron triangle”.

With transformation programs often overlapping, a “need for speed” in transformational journeys has led to the need for organizational design and operating models that are flexible and agile. Many traditional PMOs fall short of their potential as they do what they have been doing for years and fail to adapt to change and are removed from the organization charts eventually leaving unhappy stakeholders and earning a bad reputation.

Traditional PMOs have been really slow in responding to change, following the same old reporting standards and charts. Transformation PMOs on the other hand, have been more open to technological advancement, using agile, cloud-based tools to keep their stakeholders engaged and involved in the process via their mobile devices. PMOs really need to be seen as transformational and leading edge rather than merely as a support system or an administrative body. They are the ones that help organizations focus on alignment to customer experiences and ensuring that the vision, the means of achieving it, and all of its success metrics align with, and support, the business strategy. We know that any change in organizations, whether operational or transformational, will always be delivered through projects. Thus, the PMO will always be the central entity to deliver transformation. The transformation PMOs are expanding knowledge as new approaches are added and combined with traditional project management fundamentals. 




To properly respond to digital disruption, organizational agility is the need of the hour. The PMO can be a key differentiator, and the Transformation PMO can accomplish this by creating a flexible framework that fosters the investment process, managing multiple types of work, adopting lean techniques, and providing tools and support that adapt well to increasingly agile environments. In today's disruptive world, if you're planning to create a new PMO, think pragmatically and embrace digital disruption. There is no silver bullet, yet the Transformational PMO needs to learn quickly. Complete consideration should be taken in the choice to use agile or traditional methods, or a mix of both. The experts in the domain of PMO have to implement their tools wisely, as per the organization’s needs and transformational requirements. Successful companies can only stay on top by focusing on building new digital services to compete with digital businesses and automating their traditional processes. Only then can they increase their chances of survival. 

by Ziad Zakaria, Partner and Adeel Khan Legari, Manager, Consulting, Deloitte Middle East



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