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

2 thoughts on “The Virtual Enterprise PMO: a Performance Accelerator”

    • Dan, this is a great question. My experience is that we do not want a traditional PMO in an agile world. Yet, a community of decentralized experts developing, supporting, mentoring is very helpful. Let’s take an image. I believe that organizations are progressing along a journey. Parts of them are very agile (you make a customer app better and better). Parts are not and should not be as agile (you do not want to change a heavy infrastructure every day). You have squirrels and horses. And both are important. So, the “PMO” may play a role for example in bridging the gaps between squirrels and horses and in making sure they get along well. This “PMO” may also, other example, play the role of a portfolio management office for the Digital Transformation and make sure it creates synergies with the business initiatives.


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