Four critical functions PMOs must perform

Published on
27 November 2020
Four critical functions PMOs must perform

New PMO research published by Escient suggests COVID and the associated economic storm has affected the way PMOs operate:

COVID has altered the rhythm of business planning and decision-making from annual to more regular cycles, to allow organisations to make the proverbial ‘pivot’. And as the linchpin between strategy and execution, PMOs play a critical role in supporting organisations to recover, grow and prosper in 2021.  

Here are the four critical functions we believe PMOs must provide in 2021.

1. Strategic Alignment/Strategy Mapping

PMOs help organisations achieve objectives by converting plans on paper into action via the successful delivery of programs and projects. 

The strategic direction set at the start of 2020 has been blown off-course by the prevailing winds of COVID.  Financial forecasts have been revised and expansion plans deferred.  Consider the retail and hospitality sectors – some key distribution channels in 2019 have now slowed down or shut down. Online sales, which may have been essentially a ‘side business’, is now leading the recovery. 

So, it’s critical PMOs assist in setting the strategy, advising which projects previously mapped to old objectives are no longer relevant and helping map existing or new projects to new objectives. 

2. Portfolio Management / Analysis

Portfolio Management & Analysis is all about understanding, categorising, prioritising balancing and planning the organisations project portfolio. Pre-COVID, portfolio management was done annually but in 2020 a more fluid and agile approach is required. 

In short, PMOs must help organisations to ‘back a winner’ in terms of selecting and delivering programs of work that will deliver sustained growth now and into the future.

3. Dependency Management

Dependency Management is another critical function where PMOs can help organisations understand the impact of delayed projects. 

The current economic downturn means many organisations have delayed projects and used dependency management to see the impact delaying one project has on others. 

We recommend the following approach for PMOs:

  1. Provide a Dependency Management Framework including a Dependency Register template and instructions to Project and Program Managers on how to maintain dependencies. 
  2. Periodically review or spot-checking the dependency registers of projects within the portfolio to ensure good dependency management practices are being adhered to. 
  3. Centralise the dependency register. This way, the PMO can find ‘key’ projects or activities where other projects are dependent and put specific measures in place to manage the dependencies. 

4. Resource Management

Determining the right projects to undertake in the current climate and the sequence for these projects is one thing. Determining the resource requirements to undertake them is another. 

Escient Director and author of Escient’s 2020 PMO research report, Matt Robinson, says with a potentially cut-down workforce, organisations are looking for ways to do more with less. 

“Providing senior management with honest, real-world and data- driven analysis of what is actually achievable is critical for fact-based decision making.”

This includes looking for opportunities to redistribute resources within the organization. If there’s a surplus in one area due to a slow-down in one company function, can these resources be redirected to another? Are there temporary shortfalls that will need to be filled in some other way? Early heads-up on these requirements is invaluable – particularly since the lag in needing and finding suitable resources is probably longer now than ever. 

Without a doubt 2020 has been a year like no other. The laws of nature tell us those able to adapt and respond to change are best placed to survive and thrive. PMOs have a critical role to play in ensuring organisations make smart strategic choices and use their resources wisely to evolve into better, stronger and more sustainable businesses in 2021.

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