Managed Services T1 - Project Management Practice

How Does the Project Management Office Keep Up?

As companies grow, they need to organize and manage an increasingly wide array of special projects. Over time, they have accomplished this by setting up Project Management Offices (PMOs) and charging them with making sure projects are successful in driving improvements and implementing change within the organization. Today, PMOs are commonplace at all levels of the enterprise. But, as the pace of change continues to accelerate, some struggle to keep up.

Let’s look at how this might play out in a typical marketing department within an enterprise. Not many years ago, a company recognized the need to market directly to customers in order to increase sales. It selected and installed sophisticated multichannel marketing campaign management software. Once in place, new projects sprung up to further refine and enhance marketing campaign efforts. Change of address initiatives, email deliverability checks, and privacy compliance enhancements were necessary additions to the new system. To coordinate and consistently manage these projects, the enterprise formed a PMO.

In this case, the PMO’s focus was ensuring that enhancements to the campaign management software were completed on time and within budget. The result was continuous improvement of marketing efforts and, ultimately, increased sales. The PMO achieved success by applying proven project management practices, such as consistent scheduling and forecasting procedures and gate reviews for approval of requirements and test results. All this added up to an effective PMO that advanced a complex business process.

Then guess what happened? A new wave of change called the digital revolution came along. The rise of social media, mobile devices and advanced analytics based on big data forced the company to rethink how it defined direct-to-consumer marketing. New projects that didn’t easily fit the PMO’s methodology or that required advanced digital expertise came along. Despite its past success, the PMO could not simply rest on its laurels. The marketing department needed to reach out to customers via social media and contract with unfamiliar vendors to develop mobile apps. In some ways, these new initiatives were not all that different from what drove the formation of the PMO initially, but if the PMO didn’t act quickly to integrate these new technologies and data sources, it would be quickly considered antiquated and unresponsive.

How does the PMO avoid this fate? One way is to assess the PMO on a regular basis, examining how it currently supports the organization and how it may need to evolve in light of new strategic initiatives. Doing so is best done through a systematic effort of structured interviews that provide both quantitative scoring and qualitative evaluation.

To better understand the function of a PMO, why they sometimes fail and how yours can recognize the need to change, read this ISG white paper Why PMOs Fail and How to Ensure Their Success. Please contact me directly to discuss further.

About the author

Chris VanHoeck is an Associate Director in the Project Management Services organization who brings a broad experience base to support of ISG clients. With over 25 years of consulting, managing projects, and leading systems development efforts, clients benefit from his expertise in whatever role is required. He is able to quickly assess client’s needs, advise the best approach for success, and implement those recommendations. His work has spanned manufacturing, sales, marketing, engineering, and finance applications.

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