Disruptive Technology: Expanding the Project Manager’s Role

Posted on March 5, 2019

Learn how PMO’s roles are evolving to manage disruptive technologies

Disruptive technologies are spurring the evolution of project management offices (PMO) from passive managers of costs and schedules into organizational leaders that execute strategic initiatives.

That evolution is vital both for the success of the organization and the continued prominence of the PMO, observers believe. Success will depend on PMOs embracing new technologies as well as developing the skills to use them.

According to “The Next Generation PMO,” a November 2018 report by Capgemini Government Solutions and the Project Management Institute (PMI), a survey of more than 500 PMO managers found that more than half say that their project management offices’ reconfigurations, brought about by disruptive technology, have brought about a need for new skill sets.

Change Management a Necessary Skill

Change management is near the top of the list of skills that are frequently used by or requested of PMOs, according to the report. Nearly half of the PMO managers surveyed described their teams as either the “sole driver of” or “very involved in” leading the charge to leverage the new technologies for the benefit of their organizations.

Strong change management is vital as these transformations involve professionals throughout the organization, a situation that can make finding consensus a challenge.

Other skills increasingly being used by, or requested of, PMOs include leadership, informal communication and risk management. These skill increases point to the growth in the PMO’s importance (within the organization) in the time of disruptive changes.

Changes will come rapidly, which is at odds with project management’s history of gradual change, according to the PMI report. Of the PMO managers surveyed, 30% said their PMOs have been reconfigured due to disruptive technologies.

The shift toward PMOs taking greater responsibility for strategic initiatives, though, seems to be speeding up their efforts to transform – at least it has for the PMOs that maintain or improve their status within their organization.

The PMO’s Role is Changing

PMOs must move beyond previous roles as administrators or support systems to become “transformational and leading edge,” according to Bill Mabry, a PMO director at Salesforce, who was quoted in the PMI report.

Mabry lauded “smart” PMOs for “repurposing to align to customer experiences” and bringing metrics in line with their organizations’ “broader business strategy.”

The development of strategy remains the domain of an organization’s corporate suite in most cases. Increasingly, however, the PMO is the department charged with the implementation of that strategy. Of the PMO managers surveyed, 37% say their departments are managing their organizations’ strategic initiatives, while another 36% report “significant involvement” with the initiatives on the PMOs part.

These changes also have altered the measures used to evaluate PMOs. Where previously the PMO would be rated for its contributions to scheduling and budgeting, its new role is strategic enabler, responsible for implementing the organization’s strategies as well as ensuring that those strategies achieve the desired goals.

The marching orders for PMOs in the age of disruptive technologies were summarized in the report in three directives:

  • Quick adaption of changes brought on by disruptive technology
  • Support for initiatives based in those disruptive technologies
  • The application of the technologies to the PMO’s function

Organizations need to ensure that they are ready to make the most of the opportunities presented by disruptive technologies, and that they can face challenges and capitalize on opportunities in the future. To do this, the organizations’ PMOs must become strategic enablers in order to bring the company’s vision to reality.

Mike Palladino, a PMP® certified professional, and adjunct faculty member at Villanova University says, “PMO’s that focus on strategic value and streamlining project execution are far more valuable than PMO’s that focus too much on process adherence.”

PMP is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.