The word ‘Transformation’ is banded about a lot these days, especially given the current changes taking place in our rapidly evolving globalised world. So, let’s start with establishing what is business transformation. After all, there are still many definitions depending on your organisation and context. Here we will use APM’s definition;

Digital transformation is essentially business transformation that comes about as a response to changes in customer behaviour. The changes in customer demand due to rapidly advancing technology, and the shift in how they access information, products and services mean companies need to determine whether their current processes, procedures, operating models and organisational structures are still relevant.
APM’s definition

Great companies foster a productive tension between continuity and change.
Jim Collins

Why is business transformation important for an organisation?

All businesses will go through a transformation at some point. Why?

Reasons for business transformation include:

  • Obtaining market advantage
  • Remaining competitive
  • Finding efficiencies and decreasing costs
  • Embracing new technologies and advancements
  • Exploring new revenue streams
  • Bring innovation to their customers

Normally the process involves understanding the current organisational context, where the organisation wants to be and then developing a roadmap for how to achieve this future aspirational state.

I think as a company, if you can get those two things right — having a clear direction on what you are trying to do and bringing in great people who can execute on the stuff — then you can do pretty well.
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook

How can the PMO help with transformation?

In essence, we need to be thinking about people, processes and technology when it comes to large business transformations. But how can the PMO help with this transformation? Whilst all PMOs (and organisations…and teams… and leaders) are different, here’s what I think are the 3 most powerful ways in which a PMO can help achieve business transformation success:

1) The PMO should be seen as a strategic partner

It should be sitting at the Executive C-Suite level. All projects and programmes should be linked to strategic business objectives. Make sure that all projects and programmes are aligned to business strategic objectives and that the PMO has oversight of the entire portfolio. The PMO should undertake Portfolio Analysis to provide recommendations as to which projects should be prioritised, what budget should be allocated, and resource capacity versus demand.

Projects should be managed carefully, risks and issues escalated via governance routes where appropriate. In recent years there has been a gap between organisational strategy and the projects being implemented – the PMO can look to address this and ensure that the right transformations are taking place at the right time. If the PMO is seen as a strategic partner, then it will also have more validity and credibility when it comes to leading business transformation programmes, ensuring that any transformations are aligned to market trends and organisational culture. The PMO can also act as a broker of information on the transformation – reporting upwards on success and communicating downwards on delivery.

2) The PMO are integrators

It should be a central hub of knowledge and resources- a team that has oversight of the whole organisation. Due to its’ unique position within the business, the PMO is in the optimal place to encourage and master collaboration. It is through collaboration that many organisational challenges can be tackled. Encourage collaboration across departments by ensuring that a holistic view of the portfolio and company objectives is readily available – colleagues working towards a common goal will promote empathy and teamwork.

Information sharing is key to collaboration too; having some form of PPM tool will help here. Other ways in which your PMO can master cross-organisational collaboration is by developing a common organisational language with common processes and procedures and importantly a strong communication plan for your transformation which includes varying formats and frequency depending on your stakeholders. Make sure you celebrate any wins too! The PMO is in a distinctive position to encourage this type of culture and activity across an organisation.

3) The PMO needs to be Agile

All PMOs are different, there is no “one size fits all” approach. It is crucial that a PMO’s approach and ways of working are tailored based on organisational context and the project management capabilities in the community. The focus of an Agile PMO should be to provide an environment where Agile projects succeed. Learn more about the Agile PMO.

Organisations that demonstrate agility show:

  • Little hierarchy within their structures
  • A common purpose and belief system
  • A focus on empowered people, their development, and their well-being
  • Simple, adaptable processes and governance models
  • A culture supportive of innovation and learning

Higher than average risk threshold

In a world that changes really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.
Mark Zuckerberg

By ensuring that your PMO operates with agility and fully understands what it means for a project to be delivered using Agile practices, you will also support your organisation in making those transformational changes in a big way. Leading Practitioners and those well-experienced in Agile principles and practices are very much sought after in the world of project management and PMOs. And it is these experts who can be called upon to support the delivery of an organisation’s transformation programme. An Agile PMO should enable both Agile ways of working, and agility within own teams and the wider project management community.

In summary, the top ways in which your PMO can drive business transformation are; advocate for your PMO to be a strategic partner with an active senior sponsor, collaborate widely as a team and across the organisation and be agile. Keep it simple and remember, your focus should always be #humanfirst.

It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive, but those who can best manage change.
Charles Darwin

How can you support your PMO?

APM Accredited PMO Practitioner Training Course

The PMO Practitioner course is designed for anyone who has a keen interest in PMOs, practitioners (new and existing) who are delivering, managing, implementing or transforming a PMO. It enables PMO people to develop their skills to bring a unique and best in class PMO to the forefront of their organisation. For Practitioners, by Practitioners.

Agile for PPM Professionals Training Course

This Agile training course is for project, programme management professionals and PMO Professionals alike, those who have a keen interest in understanding Agile ways of working and how to apply them to their day to day in waterfall or hybrid environments, and even for Sponsors looking to identify, adopt and champion more Agile ways of working.