Wanted in the PMO: Strategic Thinkers

Project management offices (PMOs) don't just change processes. They change their organizations, markets, industries and communities, said PMI president and CEO Mark A. Langley as he kicked off the PMO Symposium 2013 in San Diego, California, USA.

The 600 attendees -- representing 406 organizations, 30 industries and 29 countries -- heard just how powerful PMOs can be during the 2013 PMO of the Year Award.

The top honor went to Canada Health Infoway, a not-for-profit overseeing CA$2.1 billion in public funds. With a portfolio that has increased fourfold since 2005, the PMO acts as a strategic adviser on digital health-record projects. Proving the value of the PMO's strategic focus: Only 4 percent of projects in the portfolio have failed, and almost all of those failures occurred early in their life cycle, prior to significant expenditure.

"Their PMO is a clear demonstration of how organizations can and should implement their strategic initiatives," said Mr. Langley.

The other two finalists were:

  • Jones Lang LaSalle: The commercial real estate's PMO oversees 1,000 project managers. The PMO focused on strategic sourcing of suppliers, business intelligence, and strategic learning and development.
  • Bentley Motors: The luxury carmaker's Beyond 18 initiative aims to define and drive business strategy across the organization through 2018. After identifying 11 strategic projects, the PMO worked with project leaders to deliver best practices, tools and coaching to the areas guiding the organization's future.

The sessions that followed reinforced the growing focus on strategy. A PMO is the governor and facilitator -- the organization's glue, said Greg Miller, vice president at PMI Global Executive Council member CareFirst, Blue Cross Blue Shield.

PMO staff should go in armed with a comprehensive understanding of the organization's strategy, accept the executive game plan, maintain an orderly and expeditious flow, and unify the organization. "PMOs must take center stage and they must operate strategically."

Today's fast-paced project environment is accelerating the drive toward strategic alignment and change management at the heart of a successful PMO, said Michel Danon, senior vice president and CIO, Hawaii Medical Service Association independent licensee of PMI Global Executive Council member Blue Cross Blue Shield. "We need project practitioners who are really adaptable, who can understand and energize people and point them toward a common goal."

That means finding and fostering the right project talent -- within or outside of a PMO. Ed Hoffman, PhD, CKO and APPEL Director at NASA, a PMI Global Executive Council member, said PMOs can support talent management by:

  • Building individual, team and organizational capabilities
  • Providing checks and balances among project, engineering and safety communities
  • Institutionalizing knowledge of best practices 

"A PMO should be wrapped around the notion of knowledge and development," Dr. Hoffman said.

Lynn Batara, PMO director of Franklin Templeton Investments, spoke of the importance of developing project talent and engaging stakeholders: "The mystery of project success is people."

Does your organization's PMO focus on strategy and talent development? Read more about the PMO symposium on this blog or on Twitter, #PMOsym.

This entry was posted in Program Management, Project Management. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.