There have been a number of articles recently about the “decline” of the information technology project management office, both in terms of staff size and the percentage of projects it directly oversees. Even if that’s true, the reports of the project management office’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Tomorrow’s office might not (and likely should not) look like today’s.
The office’s traditional value proposition is under pressure in four ways:
Project delivery: We’ve seen a trend toward project managers moving into lines of business or functions to allow for greater responsiveness and delivery speed. We’ve also seen an increase in part-time project managers — employees who are doing project management work as a small portion of their jobs. Both of these trends mean that the project management office is overseeing less and less actual execution work.
Performance measurement: Business partner value expectations are changing. Support for knowledge worker productivity and the speed of delivery are increasingly more important than traditional efficiency and return-on-investment metrics, and project management offices are struggling to adapt their existing project and portfolio metrics to keep up.
Portfolio management: The unit of investment and management is changing at many organizations, as the amount of work done in programs or as part of an end-to-end IT service is increasing. As a result, funding and prioritization decisions are being made more frequently above the level of the individual project.
Project manager development: On average, only 30 percent of project managers have the entrepreneurial skills necessary to regularly deliver project business outcomes. And as project managers move out of the project management office and a larger percentage of work is done by part-time project managers, the office isn’t able to build those entrepreneurial skills as effectively using its existing training and development approaches.
In response to this pressure, many project management office leaders look for replacement activities to demonstrate their office’s continued relevance. Instead of chasing the next high-value activity, the best project management office leaders view the changes as an opportunity to clarify what their office will — and, more importantly, won’t — do.
The office’s value proposition should shift over time to match the evolving needs of the organization.
Matthew McWha is a practice leader of Arlington-based CEB. This commentary is adapted from a piece he wrote for a CEB blog.