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PMOs need to run occasional ‘reality checks’ to ensure relevancy: Gartner

PMOs need to run occasional ‘reality checks’ to ensure relevancy: Gartner

Gartner lists three steps to ensure PMOs respond to business challenges.

Even project management offices (PMOs) that consistently provide a successful project, program and portfolio function will, over time, accumulate tasks and responsibilities that were not originally intended, reports Gartner.

The analyst firm thus advises program and portfolio management (PPM) leaders to run occasional "reality checks" to ensure the PMO hasn't lost sight of its mandate.

"Typically, senior management issues a mandate for a PMO when it is first set up. As business conditions change over time, however, the organisation's needs, objectives and expectations may also shift," says Lars Mieritz, research vice president at Gartner. "The PMO's mandate must also shift to reflect those changes. Otherwise, misunderstandings and gaps will arise due to clashes among assumptions, expectations and realities."

Mieritz outlines three ways to respond to these challenges and ensure continued PMO relevancy:

Undertake annual reviews and updates of the PMO mandate to ensure it is aligned with organisational goals

A few years ago, economic survival was the overriding business driver behind the formation of a PMO, he states. That key driver has since shifted to growth and ability, meaning that the PMO construct now needs to be recalibrated. Some new activities will become necessary — even essential — while others will become irrelevant.

He says Gartner is increasingly encountering PPM leaders who find their organisations straining to perform undocumented tasks and activities that were not part of the original mandate alongside others that were part of the mandate, but no longer provide any benefit. Forcing reviews and updates can help ensure that the PMO is operating in conjunction with the organisation's goals.

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PMO leaders should designate periodic reviews specifically targeted at evaluating the balance between the PMO's roles and skills versus the company's overall needs.

Lars Mieritz, Gartner

Ensure the PMO Is staffed with or has access to the roles and skills necessary to support the most valued needs of the business

Balancing the roles and skills needed to fulfil the organisation's needs and meet its objectives is a tricky balancing act and many PMO professionals end up performing multiple roles.

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While it is good to have staffers who are willing to step up to the challenge and "keep the train running," these good intensions can result in gaps and deficiencies in skill sets going unnoticed — until a crisis brings reality crashing down.

PMO leaders should designate periodic reviews specifically targeted at evaluating the balance between the PMO's roles and skills versus the company's overall needs. This should include asking stakeholders what future needs the PMO ought to plan for in years to come. Much will depend on whether the organisation has moved beyond a basic PMO and into more challenging areas, such as resource management or portfolio management.

Review, update and make known the PMO's contribution by actively identifying cross-enterprise opportunities and highlighting the additional benefits delivered

The PPM function is unique in the enterprise, notes Mieritz. It has the most diverse set of contacts, because it serves clients from across the company. As such, a PMO is likely to develop a deeper knowledge and understanding of individual departments or business units than what typically exists between departments or business units.

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In many cases, however, this collective knowledge is not exploited.

While the PMO's main task of bringing projects in on time and on budget is essential, spotting opportunities for cross-enterprise leverage or identifying cost-saving synergies could turn out to be equally valuable from an enterprise perspective, concludes Mieritz.

Send news tips and comments to divina_paredes@idg.co.nz

Follow Divina Paredes on Twitter: @divinap

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