virtual pmo

The Virtual Enterprise PMO: a Performance Accelerator

CEOs realize the necessity of ensuring that their leadership teams approve the right projects, aligned with their strategic goals, and that these projects deliver the expected business benefits. The responsibility for meeting these challenges rests with a Project Management Office. However, these same CEOs often hesitate to invest in a Project Management Office. Yet, there is a very effective solution. This solution is a community of decentralized part-time project management experts creating and running a virtual Enterprise PMO.

A Virtual Enterprise PMO

First, a Virtual Enterprise PMO is a Project Management Office. In particular it makes sure that the right projects, programs, and portfolios are being approved, that they are aligned with strategic goals, and that they deliver their expected business benefits.

Second, it is an Enterprise PMO because its scope is the entire organization. It “influences” project management practices from bottom to top all over the organization. It also interacts with the outside of the organization. Therefore it breaks the barriers between the different schools of thoughts in this matter of project management.

Third, it is virtual because it is not a formal full-time organization of individuals but rather a community of decentralized project management practioners dedicating some of their time to this Enterprise PMO. Altogether, they share a common purpose which is to make the organization succeed through its projects.

Aligning the projects with the strategic goals

The Enterprise PMO serves as a critical link between executive vision and the work of the enterprise.

Excellent strategy execution drives the corporate value creation. In “Eight shifts that will take your strategy into high gear“, McKinsey’s Chris Bradley explains that the traditional linear five-year plans are poor fit with a dynamic VUCA world. The best way is a set of regular strategy conversations that discuss a live list of strategic issues, a roster of big moves, and a pipeline of strategic initiatives for executing these moves.

Here the Virtual Enterprise PMO plays its most important role. It provides a forward looking visibility on the progress and impact of the existing initiatives. It focuses on actions to solve the issues. And it leads the choice-making exercise that updates the strategic initiative portfolio that the strategic journey requires.

Delivering the expected benefits

An Enterprise PMO supports the projects, programs, and portfolios that the organizations requires. It provides a variety of standard organizational methodologies for planning, executing, staffing, prioritizing, and learning from all the projects that comprise the organization.

These methodologies give organizational life a coherence that is key to sustainable success. The Enterprise PMO may also directly supply staff and all sorts of resources if necessary.

The members of a virtual Enterprise PMO have several characteristics.

  • First, they commit to offer time and energy to the shared purpose of the Enterprise PMO while playing their primary job.
  • Second, they demonstrate a clear stakeholder and result-orientation.
  • Third, their expertise is in a variety of domains, from R&D to Information Systems, from business to manufacturing.

As a result, their scope of influence within and outside the organization is very large.

Capitalizing on the the virtual

Above all, an Enterprise PMO takes advantage from being virtual.

Take the example of a traditional Enterprise PMO composed of a few project management experts working as an entity. Now imagine a PMO with many more part-time experts distributed in as many places in the organization working as a virtual team with its specific governance process and its shared agenda. For the same effort, its influence is much larger, both locally and at the corporate level.

Now imagine a PMO with many more part-time experts distributed in as many places in the organization working as a virtual team with its specific governance process and its shared agenda. For the same effort, its influence is much larger, both locally and at the corporate level.

As an illustration, Nassim Taleb explains in his last book Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life  that:

“It suffices for an intransigent minority with significant skin in the game to reach a small level in the population for the entire population to submit to their preferences.”

A typical example of such a virtual Enterprise PMO comprise sponsors, project leaders and PMOs. It covers most domains from the organization, from research to sales, from industry to information systems. Each of its members understands a variety of situations, from Scrum to Strategic Initiative Portfolio management.

They are open to a variety of hard and soft capabilities. But they are intransigent in their correct application across the organization. And they have also their skin in the game since they continue to act locally as sponsors, project managers or PMOs. Their is no bureaucraty in such a model.

A performance accelerator for CEOs.

A virtual Enterprise PMO is a real performance accelerator in the domain of project management.

With this in mind, a small initial team of PMOs could decide to join their forces and bridge a few vital performance gaps.  As a result, they generate rapidly significant and visible changes. Local project management improves. Transversal projects benefit from shared company-wide yet diverse methologies. Portfolios reflect better the strategy.

All in all, higher and faster project benefits are on the table. And finally, the executive committee can only give its full support to this virtual Enterprise PMO.

To your continued success

Philippe Husser


Why and How PMOs Should Be “Ahead of the Wave”

PMOs should stay “ahead of the wave”. Only then can they provide the support one expects from them to make a strategy and its vital initiatives and projects a success.

I remember the time I took a PMO role in a great marketing team. I came with methods and tools that succeeded in information systems. Yet they simply did not work there. This marketing function was very advanced and effective. People cooperated closely with innovation teams and many others, especially customers all over the world. They all prepared the future. And they needed a very specific support from me, a support I was not prepared at this time to give. My mission ended rapidly…

I became later the PMO of a variety of large and complex transformation programs. I learned there that complex systems develop more through the interactions between their components than through these mere components. I also detected that living systems cannot be reduced to underlying laws of traditional “scientific” project management. Complex systems generate novel and coherent structures, emerging patterns and properties, during self-organizing processes. They are an exciting playground for innovative PMOs.

Therefore, I decided to spend the rest of my life to study and learn how to stay “ahead of the wave” and to support more effectively strategy, portfolio, and program execution.

A strategy prepares an organization to move successfully into a sustainable future. It requires advanced portfolio and project leadership. An effective PMO contributes to this leadership by staying “ahead of the wave”.

My message today: You stay “ahead of the wave” when you complement the fundamentals of the capability (technical, business and strategy, leadership) triangle with studying, learning, and exploring three domains: complexity sciences, innovative strategies, and human dynamics.

Complexity Sciences open new perspectives to project practioners. They explore nonlinearities, acceleration in dissipative systems, or unpredictability. They explore emergence, phase transitions, and avalanches. They compare system resilience and efficiency, order and lack of order. Yet these are only a few domains that challenge complex projects.

Innovative Strategies challenge direct routes and develop more roundabout approaches. They introduce multimodal strategies with a mix of high-risk low-probability events and low-risk high-probability events. Power laws, fat tails, and optionality are their domain of predilection.  They compare intertemporal approaches with temporal ones.

Human Dynamics go well beyond traditional leadership. Human Dynamics deal with extended social sciences, both hard (like social network analysis for example) and soft (like cultural understanding for example). What are the social structures, cultures, languages, behaviors, influence networks concerned by a project? What is the Procrustean bias? Why buddy systems are so powerful? How do synergies and antagonisms play a role? Do you need an enemy to succeed?

Yes, my message today is: project practioners, and especially PMOs, stay “ahead of the wave”.

To your continued success


High-Impact PMO
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