How to align projects management with your business strategy

Moira Alexander

project management success
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Project management office (PMO) professionals hold significant knowledge that can help ensure alignment for businesses focused on achieving their vision. In order for businesses of today to reach full operational effectiveness, C-suites will need to unlock the potential of their PMO resources.

Historically, many PMOs were set up to manage and meet program- and project-specific deliverables and requirements, and did not necessarily have a strong direct link with high-level business objectives. Today, effectiveness is increasingly measured by how clearly the PMO can map a direct line back to the success of overall business performance.

Unrealized Potential

For the most part, a PMO should play a pivotal role in ensuring business objectives are successfully met; the days of just managing program and project specific outcomes are gone. When a PMO lacks alignment with the business' strategy, these issues will arise:

Ambiguous PMO direction. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) reports that 90 percent of senior executives believe activities that support strategic goals are vital to keeping up with changing economic conditions. However, approximately 61 percent of those surveyed are unclear on how to accomplish these activities. Moreover, the EIU reports, in the last four years only 56 percent of those businesses have been successful in meeting their strategic goals. The problem in part seems to be tied to businesses using PMO resources to focus primarily on project success and not enough on strategy and in so doing contributing to these findings.

Underutilized PMO resources. A Project Management Institute (PMI) research report shows that in 54 percent of businesses, PMOs are set up in a business unit level formation and are not clearly focused on companywide performance as a whole. The report also indicates that only 33 percent of businesses have captured the full benefit of their PMO.

Low company performance at a high cost. The PMI report goes on to say that only 42 percent of businesses find their projects align with their strategy. Yet, the cost of PMOs is on the rise. A PMO is a valuable resource; the real issue is whether its activities are supporting the high-level plans and vision of the business. Implementing only siloed departmental projects is simply ineffective and a poor use of human and financial resources. C-suites will need to focus more on maximizing these assets.

Decline in project success rates. In another recent report by PMI, researchers found that while PMO growth is on the rise, the success rates for projects have actually declined. According to the report, the key reason is lack of alignment with business strategy.

Power Behind Strategic Alignment

PMOs that ensure alignment with strategic objectives are almost twice as likely to become high-performing teams capable of implementing successful strategies and creating significant value. Higher-performing PMOs are also four times more likely than lower performers to execute a planned strategy, three times more likely to be successful, and more likely to enable companies to perform financially, according to PMI research.

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