by Moira Alexander

How to develop a PMO strategic plan

Jul 11, 2018
IT LeadershipProject Management ToolsSoftware Development

Developing a PMO strategic plan that ensures high alignment with business objectives is no light task. Here are the key steps to effectively launching your project management office’s strategic plan.

Project management teamork
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Strategic-level (PMOs), also known as enterprise project management offices, are essential in developing, maintaining and communicating effective project, program and portfolio practices. Having a solid company-wide strategic plan provides the blueprint that all PMO initiatives should align with and be measured against. Unfortunately, only 41 percent of strategic PMOs have a high level of alignment with their organization’s strategy. Given the likelihood of project failure, organizations are under increasing pressure to develop a PMO strategic plan.

If a PMO or EPMO does not have a strategic plan that aligns with overall operational goals, then projects are at risk of wasting resources and time, and are unlikely to produce deliverables. It is vital that organizations fist identify long-term operational goals, establish a PMO, and then develop a PMO strategic plan that aligns with company-wide objectives.

Here are nine steps to help your company establish an effective PMO strategic plan that utilizes talent, technology and resources to synchronize activities with business goals to improve overall performance.

Establish a clear understanding of the company’s vision and mission

Without a clear understanding of the company’s vision, mission and goals, it is virtually impossible to establish a successful PMO plan. To get a complete picture of the company’s overall strategic vision and mission, PMO leaders must be directly involved in executive planning sessions at a strategic level. This is the only way a PMO can truly be effective in its approach and endeavors.

Establish and prioritize PMO goals

PMO leaders and the executive team must work together to identify companywide objectives and determine the role of the PMO in meeting them. All goals should be directly linked with higher-level company initiatives, rather than focusing on department-level projects. Identification of goals and the prioritization of each resulting project should be a coordinated effort between executives and the PMO leadership team.

Assess PMO resources and capabilities

To develop an effective strategic plan, all available resources, including internal and outsourced talent, must be assessed. PMO leaders should examine the PMO’s capabilities and technologies, and determine any areas of weakness or areas where the PMO may be operating in a position of strength. By doing so, PMO leaders can advocate for the right type and amount of resources to properly and sufficiently support the goals of the company without the risk of gaps that can impact the PMO’s ability to deliver results. This step is important in securing full buy-in from the leadership team. Without the full backing of the executive team, or the necessary people, processes, and technology in place, the PMO simply cannot effectively execute any strategic plan.

Document the PMO’s plan for meeting goals and reducing risks

Once full buy-in and support for the PMO is received from the executive team, PMO leaders can start formalizing a strategic plan. The plan should include the organization’s vision, mission and goals; the role of the PMO and how it intends to execute projects in a way that accomplishes company goals; the available resources and how they will be utilized; strategies for dealing with factors that may impact outcomes; and how the PMO will measure success.

Monitor and measure performance

Establishing relevant PMO performance indicators to measure success is vital in determining whether the PMO has been strategically effective. These indicators help identify where the PMO may be deficient and where corrections or assistance may be necessary. It can isolate issues that may exist in various areas — such as human resources, processes, budgets, quality control, how technology is being leveraged and so on. In addition to identifying where gaps exist, performance indicators can help the PMO identify organizational impacts and adjust the strategic plan. Without the means to monitor and measure performance, the PMO has no way to identify whether it is on track and no way to catch red flags early enough to avoid bigger problems later.

Recommend changes and improvements

It is not enough to identify performance shortfalls. A strategic plan can only be successful if PMO leaders recognize, recommend and implement improvements to increase the chances of meeting the objectives. All recommendations should be vetted with the executive team to ensure all considerations have been factored in. Final approval should also be received from executives, as changes to the strategic plan will impact the company as a whole.

Implement approved changes

It goes without saying that not all recommended changes or improvements will be approved by company leaders. It may make sense to implement some changes immediately while others are more appropriate to implement further down the road. It’s important to prioritize and ensure the correct time to implement such changes before executing them.

Assess changes as needed

As with any other plan, the PMO strategic plan should be reassessed as company-wide goals, hierarchy, resources, policy, or other changes occur that might impact on the success or failure of the PMO. Many other factors can also play into this, such as regulatory hurdles, changes in key personnel, cultural shifts, and a host of other things. This is where change management specialists should be consulted to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.

Develop and maintain a culture of excellence and accountability

Every member of the PMO plays a vital role in maintaining a high standard of excellence. This happens through accountability whereby each member understands and recognizes the significance of their work in contributing to or detracting from overall team performance.