PMO Critical Success Factors: 6 Alignment Dimensions #PPM
I just read what I found to be an amusing reference from a recent survey on PMO effectiveness conducted jointly by CIO.com and the Project Management Institute. The survey concluded that the longer a project management office (PMO) is in existence, the greater the results. The reference went on to report that of those surveyed, only 37 percent of companies who had a PMO in place for under a year encountered increased success rates of any kind. Conversely, those companies with a PMO in existence for over four years experienced a 65 percent increase in success rates.
Excuse me, but isn't this a little like saying that a baseball pitcher who is still in the game in the 7th inning has a better chance of winning than one who hasn't finished the first inning yet? Or if you prefer, it's like saying that anything with a track record of survival has a better chance of surviving than anything that has no track record. Let's not try to read some kind of magical ah hah! moment into this data. PMOs that thrive and prosper share some fundamental commonalities that are as important in year one as they are in year seven. In fact, if you don't get these things right in year one, you will be out of business. You don't have time to improve with age like a fine wine.
I will refer to these commonalities as dimensions of alignment. That is, PMOs must be aligned with the organization along the following dimensions:
1. Power Base Alignment
PMOs must have the authority and empowerment that results from support and alignment with key business and IT leadership. Success or failure may be pre-determined by your host organization. You can do everything right but be doomed to failure if you don't have the right level of sponsorship from the start.
2. Corporate Strategy and Objectives Alignment
With the right power base alignment with corporate strategies and priorities should happen naturally (i.e., you won't find yourself strategically placed from an organizational reporting perspective if somebody important didn't see the PMO as an important in cog in the companies strategy execution wheel). This typically implies having a business-driven, top-down view of your objectives as part of your PMO's organizational DNA. It usually means that you are not project-centric but are strategic initiative-, program-, product- or process-centric.
3. Business Metric Alignment
This falls naturally out of alignment with the corporate strategy and objectives. PMO metrics should support business and IT leadership which are increasingly "customer-oriented." As a result, metrics should evolve from traditional project-centric scorecards (e.g., on-time, on-budget) to include contribution to product ROI or time-to-market, increases in customer satisfaction through higher quality deliverables, etc. There is no such thing as an "IT project" any more so IT project metrics like cost by itself will not resonate with the C-suite.
4. Customer Alignment
Alignment with leadership and sponsors may be a pre-requisite, but if you don't win the hearts and minds of the PMs and project team members on the ground starting in year one, you may never generate the momentum needed to survive year one. Understanding how to deliver value and service offerings that make PMs successful and coming back for more is critical.
5 Maturity Level Alignment
This may be inextricably intertwined with customer alignment, but it's important to highlight the importance of creating a PMO service offering and portfolio that the organization is ready to consume given its current level of process maturity. It's important to have a vision for a more sophisticated and complete PMO, but let the organization crawl before you ask it to walk.
6. Culture Alignment
This consideration should feel a lot like maturity level alignment. However, the difference is that maturity levels are a lot more dynamic than culture which is the enduring organizational beliefs, values and attitudes which by definition evolve more slowly. And, of course, culture transcends organizational boundaries where the maturity level referenced above refers only to the PPM process stakeholders. The culture of many organizations is heavily driven or influenced by the organizational structure and leadership style. For example, is the organization characterized by a hierarchical organizational structure and a top-down command-and-control style management approach or is governance and authority more distributed/matrixed, collaborative and bottom-up? An authoritative command-and-control style PMO in a more collaborative "build-it-and-they-will-come-culture" may be like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole and vice versa. So, don't forget about cultural sensitivity when establishing and evolving your Enterprise PMO.