Why businesses should embrace disruption

Keeping pace with disruptive technologies means taking a new look at how projects are planned and delivered. 

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Disruptive technologies – including artificial intelligence, the internet of things, cloud computing and robotics – are changing how organisations work, and how they compete. As Ken Toombs, global head of IT management consultancy Infosys Consulting, stated in the recent thought leadership report, Forbes Insights (2018): The C-Suite Outlook: How Disruptive Technologies are Redefining the Role of Project Management, “disruption is real, and it’s impacting even the largest companies”. Businesses therefore need to rethink not just how they design their strategies, but how they implement them.

On average, organisations fail to meet 20 per cent of their strategic objectives because of poor implementation. Only one in ten organisations deliver all of their strategic initiatives successfully, according to a recent survey by the Brightline Initiative. A next-generation project management office (PMO) can help solve this execution problem – but only if it is allowed and encouraged to evolve. Forward-thinking organisations such as software giant SAP and ANZ, one of Australia’s leading banks, are already transforming and redefining their PMOs. Here are three steps companies can take to help their PMOs reach their full potential.

1. Empower the PMO

As with all change initiatives, this must start at the top. The C-suite must enable the PMO to focus on the organisation’s strategic objectives as well as to manage traditional delivery goals. While the C-suite defines the strategy, providing overall direction for the organisation, the PMO must align that strategy with business outcomes, by constantly evaluating whether projects and programmes are delivering the desired results. The PMO must be given the authority to change course, if projects are not meeting strategic intent.

2. Include key performance indicators (KPIs) that assess progress in achieving strategic objectives

The PMO and project leaders will need to move away from using only traditional delivery metrics, such as cost performance index and schedule performance index, to using KPIs that assess the organisation’s progress in achieving its strategic objectives, such as driving uptake of new technologies and driving transformational change. Project leaders will be responsible for ensuring the leadership’s strategic roadmap and organisation-level KPIs are reflected in the project-level business outcomes and KPIs.

3. Re-tool and re-skill project leaders

The Accenture study Operate Like a Disruptor “found example after example where things that incumbent companies would do in months... or years were done by disruptors in days or weeks.” Keeping pace requires embracing the full spectrum of skills that enable delivery of projects and programmes. The PMO must enable project leaders with evolved standards, tools, and knowledge.

Project Management Institute (PMI) research has identified six crucial skills project leaders need to develop. Data science; an innovative mindset; security and privacy knowledge; legal and regulatory compliance knowledge; ability to make data-driven decisions; and collaborative leadership. These skills complement those that form the PMI Talent Triangle®: technical project management, leadership, and strategic and business management. As organisations transform digitally, a new overlay of digital skills will supplement the PMI Talent Triangle®.

Indeed, the next-generation PMO should be a change-ready, forward-looking version of itself, unafraid to experiment and prepared to help employees adopt new ways of working. As it evolves, the PMO can lead the way in helping an organisation ensure that the strategy behind its digital transformation is executed in a way that both delivers results today and prepares it for the future.

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Cindy Anderson is the vice president of brand management at the Project Management Institute.