Role and responsibilities of a PMO director in the Digital Era

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The Digital Era is here, constantly changing how people and organizations interact with each other through technology. Today’s technological advancements and affordability, allow individuals and organizations to innovate, disrupt and compete equally despite their size, location and availability of resources. Their main differentiators are now their ideas, speed, and excellence in execution.

As a result, organizations are going through a transformation where technology is positioned at the core of business strategy revolutionizing how they create, deliver and connect with partners and customers: The Digital Transformation (DX).

Whether they are recognized as such or not, digital transformation projects are being delivered in every corporation globally. According to IDC’s 2018 Futurescape, Digital Transformation prediction highlights state that by the end of 2019, Digital transformation spending is expected to reach $1.7 trillion worldwide, a 42% increase from 2017 posing a challenge for Enterprise Program Management Offices (ePMO’s) to deliver the expected ROI.

Consequently, PMO Directors are also undergoing a transformation, reinventing themselves and their “offices” to ensure their Project Portfolios are fully supporting their Digital strategies delivering the expected ROI in a timely manner and their projects are meeting their Stakeholder expectations and delivering the anticipated benefits.

But how do DX projects differ from other projects? In general, they require more specialized skillsets to be managed because:

  • They are innovative by nature: DX initiatives tend to deliver novel solutions not only at the organization but also at the industry level. Hence requirements tend to be very fluid, the scope is dynamic, adjustments are required throughout the project lifecycle and the risks are high. Whenever possible, Proof-of-concepts, prototypes, and simulations are required.
  • They deliver technological solutions or services: These types of project require strong technical resources and usually benefit from differentiated approaches such as Agile, Scrum, and Kanban.
  • Missing a deadline can severely impact business: Being the first to disrupt or respond to a market disruption is key to ensuring an organizations ability to compete and survive. Timely delivery is of the essence.
Digital Transformation Project Managers


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PMO Directors are accountable for the success of their portfolios and projects and as such have a role to create an effective ecosystem in making their offices digitally ready:

  1. Increased cross-functional partnership: By dedicating extra time to engage with other leaders, PMO Heads will gain full visibility of the organization strategy and remain up-to-date on expected outcomes and required time-to-market. Consequently, Portfolio and Project management targets and KPI’s can better adjusted to meet the organizations' expectations. PMO leaders, on the other hand, can proactively share metrics more often giving leadership full transparency of the portfolio performance.
  2. Closer engagement with the Project Management Community: As PMO Directors become more connected with the leadership, the next step is to translate the organizations' vision into tactical objectives to Portfolio and Project managers and encourage them to cascade it to their teams. The better project teams understand the purpose and how their projects fit in the organization, better decisions are made and the teams increase their levels of alignment and collaboration. In addition, PMO leaders must also encourage project managers to work more closely with their Stakeholders and peers, learning from each other’s experience and building communities of practice. A critical success factor of digitally mature organizations is their ability to quickly respond to change. Embracing change quickly is the result of trust and collaboration. 
  3. Mentoring: Digital transformation projects tend to be more complex, risky and requiring faster delivery. Project Managers can feel intimidated and PMO Directors can play an important role in supporting their staff to develop the necessary skills to lead these agile and dynamic projects. There are several different approaches to the delivery of DX projects in the marketplace today: Agile, Scrum, Kanban, Waterfall, DevOps and choosing the best methods can have a huge impact in time-to-market.
  4. Benchmarking: Additionally, PMO leaders have the responsibility to bring in-house the industry best practices that best fit their organization needs in terms of methodologies, frameworks, processes, tools, and people available in the market to support their teams
  5. Culture: To their industries, a digital organization is more competitive, from an internal point of view it means a more flexible, agile and change-friendly culture. PMO Heads must encourage their teams to embrace and spread this digital culture leading by example.

Becoming a digital organization is not a destination, but an endless and complex journey where timely delivery and excellence in execution can determine whether companies will survive and thrive. Enterprise PMO’s have the mission to be the catalyst for strategy, technology and people driving organizations to become not only more agile but also more focused and disciplined enough to deliver tangible outcomes and benefits.

About the Author: Fabio Almeida is an IT executive with over 20 years of experience in the areas of Digital Transformation, PMO Project and Portfolio Management, IT Service Management, Governance, and Innovation Management (Intra-entrepreneurship).