Even though I’ve spent the last 15 years in the project portfolio management (PPM) space, I started my career as an accountant and have always loved numbers and analysis. I recently attended the Gauteng Project Management South Africa (PMSA) PMO Forum, an invitation only forum of PMO leaders and executives, and the session re-affirmed the importance of metrics and information for the quality of strategic decision making.
Led by Dr Henk Greeff, an experienced business leader with years of experience in the strategy and PPM worlds, the topic of how PMOs need to position themselves to be seen as adding value and not just being tolerated by CEOs was explored. He shared the frightening statistic that the average life expectancy of Japanese & European firms today is 12.5 years, regardless of size, which made me wonder why so many companies fail. According to the Corporate Strategy Board, the reasons cited for a long list of company failures were in 70% of cases under the control of the executives of those companies and known to them. Another scary statistic considering they could have avoided the failure had they not ignored the information they had. Here are my key take-aways from the morning:
Key Take Away #1 – Ensure your PMO is producing quality information and not only data that is disregarded
Despite the access to an abundance of data and tools to collect and consolidate this data, I constantly find PMOs that produce data “dumps” to their executives. Executive reports that I see still take the form of project lists showing project names, project manager, planned end dates (most in the past already), health and progress and cost variances (too many once again RED!).
Executive reporting very rarely includes analysis and interpretation of the data and understanding of the impact these delays and variances will have on the benefit realisation for the overall strategy. Recommendations on how best to deploy the organisations resources based on the current portfolio status and required decisions are almost never presented. PMOs need to start moving away from distributing data, reporting at the operational level and use their knowledge of the organisational, business environment and its objectives to present information, recommendations, alternatives and consequences of the current portfolio status.
Key Take Away #2 – To be successful and valuable, PMOs must report into the highest possible level
PMOs that have the least number of layers to work through and have clear mandates with access to the highest management forums have a greater strategic capability and impact. PMOs should report into the CEO or the Director of Strategy. If you haven’t got this in place start working towards that today. In the short term, you can begin by ensuring that every project and programme you are accountable to execute gets CEO / Director of Strategy sponsorship to ensure success.
Key Take Away #3 – Projects have an almost 20% greater chance of success in organisations where a project management culture is high
According to the Project Management Institutes (PMIs) Pulse of the Professional for 2016, 71% of projects met their original goals and business intent when the project management culture of the that organisation is high vs. only 52% when the project management culture is low. The organisations in which we operate thus have a large impact on our ability to successfully execute on our projects and thus assist our CEO’s to drive out their strategy.
Even if our position within the organisation is not where we need it to be, its however only one of the three components that drive our influence, the other two being our people and capability. It’s thus key that our PMOs ensure we source and retain the right people with the necessary capability. Only this will allow us to drive the project management culture within our organisation. We cannot ask for more support and influence if our people don’t have the capability to deliver.
With too many organisations failing, despite the access to more data, technology and advice than we’ve ever had, PMOs have a massive opportunity to be heard and supported by their CEOs. They will however have to start thinking differently about the information they provide and must represent a blend of technical leadership, strategic and business management expertise. Addressing the value of our reporting would be my short term goal because it’s something within our ability to impact and address while working on my people and their capability, a medium term goal to ultimately ensure my PMO is situated at the right level within my organisation, my longer term goal.
Regardless of whether you’re an established PMO or not, I’m hoping you find value in these take-aways and look forward to your comments and feedback.