The indispensable role of PMOs in IT

Information technology has benefitted plentifully from the project management approach. Project management’s relevance as a separate discipline was established because of the massive value it brought to engineering and manufacturing several decades ago. Since then, it has grown in reach and relevance and is now applied across industries. Marketing, logistics, creative design, and research — project management is everywhere. Project managers keep on reinventing methodologies to make them in sync with the current times. They also keep on adding better ways to make project management offices (PMOs) work for IT. Without a doubt, IT PMOs have progressed a lot in maturity and scope. We’ll explain this in more detail in this guide.

PMOs in IT: The basics

In IT, the PMO has to deal with unrelenting pressure to get more software, quicker implementations, and quicker and better support. With time, the number of these demands surges. The PMO has to manage the load without requiring the addition of headcount, mostly. Prioritization, hence, plays a major role in running a PMO successfully.

There are three kinds of project management offices — supportive, controlling, and directive.

The supportive PMO offers guidance, resources, and best practices when it’s asked to. The project team may or may not follow it.

The controlling PMO gets involved, puts in project-specific practices, and tries to implement and enforce some standards, without being pushy and without being in charge of things.

The directive PMO takes complete control of processes and protocols, with no room for flexibility, particularly in industries with strict regulations and in projects with high-risk environment.

The indispensable role of PMOs


Software has become crucial for most business functions — right from marketing to selling, from manufacturing to finance. Naturally, the IT department receives unanticipated requests and complaints from all organizational functions. Because of this, PMOs need the best people, practices, and tools to keep IT Projects on track.

The PMO has to meet the triple constraints of cost, time, and scope. Also, PMOs need to empower IT to do well on critical success factors of specific projects.

Research shows that the percentage of companies that had a PMO in 2016 was 85 percent, that’s a five percent jump from 80 percent in 2014. Also, of the ones that don’t yet have a PMO, 30 percent intend to get one.

Data-driven resource management


The cost pressures on IT are not hidden from anyone in the industry. C-suite executives are focused on achieving more with limited resources. This calls for data-driven resource management, and enterprise PMO is slowly aligning itself to the idea.

Companies that fail to use this methodology stand to face a severe shortfall of adequate skilled resources. Project planning, as well as execution, depend heavily on the availability of sufficient project staff. The data-driven resource management approach is centered on:

  • Number of people, and detailed break up of their skill set.
  • The models used to forecast demand in IT.
  • The ease of transitioning people from one project to another.

Better skill-based utilization of costly resources helps IT keep costs down, and ensures existing capacities aren’t wasted.

Millennial project managers

A Deloitte study estimates that by 2025, 75 percent of the global workforce will comprise of millennials. An equivalent representation in the project management space will mean that many of the managers working in PMOs will be millennials.

The unprecedented flexibility and ambitiousness of millennials are already questioning traditional paradigms of project management in IT. That’s why you see new age ideas such as DevOps and BYOD get management support, even in traditional enterprises. The focus on work and personal life balance will pave the way for better remote work practices, with support from PMO.

In general, the influx of millennials into PMOs is bringing in a culture of quicker decision making and higher risk taking. Enterprises realize the importance to leverage the experience and expertise of Gen X, and the exuberance and passion of millennials to take PMO forward.

The blending of Agile and DevOps

Agile is a methodology of using tools, processes, and organizational design to make programs more adaptive, relevant, and efficient. It’s rooted in software development lifecycle.

DevOps calls for a cultural shift, with utmost focus on rapid delivery of high-quality IT services, to be achieved by improving collaboration between development and operational teams.

Whereas tech pundits often draw lines between these two, forward-looking PMO understands that DevOps is the application of Agile to IT operations. What this means is that PMOs will need to find their own best practices to implement Agile, with more focus on people rather than systems.

Project management office in the era of AI


It’s hard to keep artificial intelligence out of any tech conversation, even if it’s about project management offices. There are two important implications for PMOs.

Firstly, leaders need to anticipate the kind of tasks within their projects that are the likeliest to be impacted first by the wave of artificial intelligence. The people doing these tasks need proactive training to help them up-skill and cross-skill so that they can perform more valuable tasks. Balancing these proactive training programs with project demands, amidst risks of employee attrition immediately after they acquire niche skills, is a challenge.

Second, PMOs have a marvelous opportunity to make everyone’s life easier, and that’s by helping internal IT with projects related to the deployment of chatbots. These AI and NLP powered bots act as virtual assistants for all employees, creating newer and better mechanisms for PMO to improve individual employee productivity, understand user pain points, and automate data harnessing tasks that take a lot of time and effort.

Before we wind this guide up, let’s also understand that the lifecycle of trends is shortening, and before you know it, there will be more forces changing the world of PMO forever. If PMO is an essential function for your enterprise’s IT, now’s the time to align with the larger, stronger, and bigger movements in the industry.

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