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PMO: The Gap Closers

PMO's Bridging the Gap with Portfolio Management

In a new report from Strategy Execution, 86% of organisations which are delivering change through programmes and projects struggle to prioritise work streams and resources. There are further stats; 45% lack change management skills; 29% have poorly resourced initiatives; 27% lack project management skills.

For organisations delivering any kind of change which is crucial for their business now and in the future, any figure above 1% is too much.

Emerging Trends Report - Strategy ExecutionThe report – Emerging Trends in Project Management and Project-Based Organisations – is telling us how much more projects and a project way of working have grown over the last 14 years. Back then, changing the business accounted for 10% of the organisation’s workforce and resources. Today 30% of an organisation’s employees can be focused on delivering change type work. Worldwide, those figures account for a 68% uplift in economic activity related to project-oriented work (figures from PMI’s Project Management Job Growth and Talent Gap 2017–2027)

The report also refers to recent figures on project execution failure – taking into account business and strategic level impacts on failure as well as programme and project level.

Project Failure

All these insights form the basis of the latest survey from Strategy Execution which focuses on the emerging trends and the impact on skills.

There are gaps that need addressing in:

  • Selecting the right work to be done and eliminating projects/work efforts that should not be started or continued
  • Developing a creative, problem-solving mindset and toolset
  • Building an adaptive leadership mindset, skill set and toolset
  • Managing multiple priorities and interrelated work streams
  • Creating the conditions for leading and managing a team in an environment of ambiguity and uncertainty

The gaps that exist – between setting the strategy to executing the strategy through programmes and projects – have been identified as falling into four different categories:

  • Strategy
  • Work
  • Self
  • People


The PMO: Gap Closer

Reading the report and the call to actions – one thing struck me – who in the organisation is responsible for ensuring the gaps get closed. Who is ultimately accountable? Who provides the expertise to carry out the actions? Who is there to make sure the many different cogs are aligned and turning?

It’s the PMO.

It’s a combination of different PMOs in a larger organisation – a Portfolio Office with Programme and Projects PMOs, maybe even a Centre of Excellence too. In a small organisation, it’s a central PMO that carries out key services in portfolio, programme and project support.

It’s an entity that can support that process of strategy implementation to project execution then continuous improvement and feeding back into strategy setting.

The only entity that exists today that can support that is the PMO.

Perhaps it’s not called a PMO – it can be called anything. It’s objective should be “support the business in choosing the right projects and programmes – then support those projects and programmes in doing things right.”

In the Root Causes of Project Execution Failures above, the PMO can provide services and support in areas such as communications and stakeholder management; sponsorship; increasing skills levels of project staff; aligning strategy to execution through effective portfolio management and resource management.

Where the PMO Closes the Gap

In the report, there are examples of calls to action on the key gaps. Let’s take a look at a few of those to demonstrate where the PMO can help people within the delivery business in the four main gap areas:


Urgent Area of Focus: Selecting the right work to be done and eliminating projects/work efforts that should not be started or continued

The PMO can:

  • Assist in setting up the portfolio management processes and tools
  • Work with senior managers on project prioritisation
  • Provide objective, rational and constructive challenge on decisions
  • Review and provide insights on current resource capability and capability across the delivery organisation


Urgent Area of Focus: Managing multiple priorities and interrelated work streams

The PMO can:

  • Provide tools, techniques and guidance in resource management
  • Provide data analytics and insights reporting to aid decision making across workstreams
  • Ensure consistent ways of working and best practice guidance in planning and reporting across the organisation
  • Facilitate workshops and planning sessions.


Urgent Area of Focus: Creating the conditions for leading and managing a team in an environment of ambiguity and uncertainty

The PMO can:

  • Provide training, workshop and other learning sessions for delivery staff
  • Provide and support virtual and ccollaborativetools for team working
  • Provide expertise and consultative support in risk management
  • Provide different delivery models, processes, tools and techniques for different delivery types.


Urgent Area of Focus: Developing a creative, problem-solving mindset and toolset

The PMO can:

  • Provide training, workshop and other learning sessions for delivery staff
  • Can create and support Communities of Practice, bringing people together to learn from each other
  • Can provide online hubs of supporting materials and resources
  • Can set up and support peer-to-peer mentoring programs

When we look at organisations today – focused on keeping the lights on operationally day after day and responding to the need to change to ensure they can continue to keep those lights on – there’s a delicate balancing act to maintain.

The gap between strategy and execution – and between operations and change – has got narrower by utilising portfolio management. Portfolio PMOs have in turn become more popular as a result. If we take the Portfolio PMO and couple that with the wider known delivery support PMOs – Project and Programme Management Offices, organisations which use networked PMOs across the business have now developed a service based entity that can help them manage, support and oversee the work that needs to happen to close that gap for good.


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About Lindsay Scott

Lindsay Scott
Lindsay Scott is Director of PMO Learning, the PMO training specialist and Arras People the programme and project management recruitment specialists. Lindsay is the project management careers columnist for PMI's Network magazine and co-editor of the Gower Handbook of People in Project Management. Lindsay created and hosts The PMO Conference and hosts the monthly PMO Flashmobs

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