Resourcing the High-Performing PMO

By: Vikram Rao

You’d be hard-pressed to find a single Fortune 1000 company that either isn’t currently in the throes of executing a transformational initiative or hasn’t executed one in the last several years. And while the reasons for transformation are varied–cost reduction, post-merger integration, business process simplification, reorganization, digital transformation–one of the first steps in rolling out any form of change is to establish a high-functioning Project Management Office (PMO). In fact, data has shown that more than half of scale change initiatives fail to meet their objectives. We at HighPoint Associates believe standing up a strong PMO with the right resources and mandate will significantly increase the probability of successful change initiatives.

When it comes to resourcing, PMOs are typically viewed as a necessary expense that should be run as lean as possible. This thinking is partly due to optics: There is a line of thinking that adding resources to a PMO could come at the expense of resourcing a Business Unit or Function that is impacted by the change and therefore should be limited. But successful transformation requires a PMO that is more than just a passive organization that gathers data and reports on the progress of workstreams. The role of the PMO in a major transformation is to ensure that strategic goals are being achieved while following company best practices and adhering to established timelines and budgets.

If your organization is questioning the value of a well-resourced PMO, below are three often overlooked PMO roles for a successful transformation effort:

1. Provide coaching and tools to support workstream/functional leaders in achieving success.

Workstream leaders balance competing priorities and need allies who can help them navigate these complexities while reporting back to sponsors. There must be flexibility to juggle and reprioritize while ensuring value is captured. Standing up a PMO with the right talent and seniority, who also have a strategic mindset and can “see around corners,” will help provide necessary coaching and insights to the workstream leaders and deliver sought after results.

2. Ensure the new state is a true improvement in all relevant measures.

Truly successful change initiatives cannot optimize on a few measures while compromising on others. For example, change initiatives designed to reduce cost cannot sacrifice performance or customer experience. Setting up a pragmatic PMO that looks at all measures the change initiative impacts will help ensure there are no unwanted or unnecessary compromises.

3. Exercise the change muscle to prevent regression.

At the first hurdle, parts of the organization will naturally want to go back to the old state, both operationally and culturally. This is not because they want to scuttle change, rather they are used to doing things in a particular way. As an example: If support agents continue to service routine requests from customers, there will be no incentive to move to customer self-service or the ability to charge a premium for live support. A well-resourced and seasoned PMO will know when to rip off the band aid to help prevent regression and move organizational thinking and behavior in the right direction.

The above scope does not mean a high number of expensive resources must be added to the PMO. Instead, the PMO should be staffed with the right mix of talent that complements and supports the workstreams and ensures value capture and lasting change. While there is no benchmark or guide that can accurately suggest the percentage of resources that go into a PMO, it is reasonable to conceive a 10% allocation of the transformation budget towards the PMO .

In short, a well-run Project Management Office has the power to bring structure, focus, and speed to enterprise-wide change initiatives and process improvements. You can learn more about the power of PMOs in this HighPoint article, 5 Ways to Get More Value Out of Your PMO.

Is your business seeking strategic change that sticks?

The top-tier consulting team at HighPoint Associates brings substantial experience setting up and supporting a highly transparent, visible, and results-centric PMO, allowing your business to execute rapid, meaningful outcomes against strategic imperatives with effective change communications, resourcing, and pace. For better, faster results, contact HighPoint Associates.