How Project Professionals Will Shape the Future PMO

Executives need the project management office (PMO), according to speakers at the PMI® PMO Symposium. It’s the primary enabler of change — a powerful force in today’s constantly shifting marketplace, said Terry Doerscher of BOT International, the featured speaker on Tuesday night.

As a result, he argued that PMOs of the future would include all aspects of the business, not just projects and programs.

And that could mean a whole new career path for project professionals with the right skills. “It’s not a huge leap to go from a portfolio project manager to an executive project manager,” he said.

But it’s up to PMO leaders to take action to fulfill their vision.

“The best way to predict your future is to create it,” said Greg Miller, vice president of the PMO at CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield, during a panel discussion on the strategic PMO.

Mark A. Langley, PMI president and CEO, moderated the panel, which also included Human Systems International Limited’s Terry Cooke-Davies, PhD, and Microsoft’s Bill Dow.

Dr. Cooke-Davies asked attendees to remember that portfolio management is about aligning project and program costs with business value, and program management is about delivering strategy. When organizations forget those roles, though, PMOs become nothing but process police.

Mr. Miller outlined what PMOs need to show executives to be viewed as a strategic player:

  • The CEO wants to know the strategic plan.
  • The CFO wants transparency and the value proposition.
  • The CIO wants to know the IT spend on business needs.

Between the panel discussion and the featured speaker, attendees networked with peers and participated in breakout sessions.

At one of those sessions, Jim Furfari, PMP, of Colorado Springs Utilities, led a discussion on how to prioritize projects. At his organization, the process begins by checking the availability of resources. This prompted lively discussion, as many attendees suggested the availability of funds was a more appropriate place to start. “It makes no sense to prioritize projects that you don’t have the resources to do,” he explained.

In another breakout session, Joseph Sopko of Siemens, co-author of The Guide to Lean Enablers for Managing Engineering Programs, said lean principles make “good sense, but they’re not common.” These principles are often lost in complicated processes and with a “we’ve always done it this way” attitude.

Among the best lean practices he outlined were defining value to the program stakeholder and making imperfections visible while pursuing perfection at the same time.

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