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Traditional vs Digital PMO

A Portfolio, Programme and Project Management Office (PMO) has always served as a powerful catalyst for organisational change through programmes and projects aligned to deliberate strategy and vision. With senior management commitment, PMOs can change organisational mindsets and behaviours, garner stakeholder support, and provide valuable insight into the adjustments needed to successfully deliver strategic intent and benefits realisation.

Traditional PMOs provide this insight largely through the management of multiple data sources for HR, Finance and project portfolio management and dashboard reporting. However the tools available today do not meet the requirements of a true digital organisation. As data repositories become more complex, and often fragmented, decision makers embark to ascertain the one piece of data from their various applications that should be relied upon for accurately and transparently reporting programme and project status and progress against agreed spending objectives and constraints. 

What a digital PMO offers to key decision makers is the ability to acquire data, information, knowledge and wisdom easily and make informed decisions at any given time through a single source of truth. It requires organisations to have a clear and common understanding of exactly what “digital” means to them and, as a result, what it means to their Portfolio, Programme and Project Management Offices (PMOs). They need to take deeper look at how their organisation can challenge the status quo and develop meaningful digital strategies that intrinsically link and drive better business performance in terms of value for money, benefits realisation, and return on investment. 

For PMOs to evolve into an immersive digital environment, and for the transition to be meaningful and sustainable, the concept of digital should be perceived and used less as a thing and more a way of doing things. Data collection, analysis and reporting are a large proportion of the project portfolio management discipline. However it is the rise of emerging technologies like cloud solutions, digitisation, Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), 5G mobile internet, automation, robotics and voice-driven project portfolio management software that forms the crux of a digital PMO. 

Evolution towards a digital PMO

The PMO should influence organisational success more than ever before and provide the platform for greater organisational agility. It will achieve this by ruthlessly focusing on what is most valuable; challenging and shaping strategy and portfolio; and supporting effective organisational change management. It will do this with fewer people who have more specialist skills and absolute clarity of mandate. They will be enabled by the effective use of industry leading technology to boost productivity and collaboration, particularly across disparate teams, organisations and geographies. To achieve this, traditional PMOs need to learn how to exploit opportunities presented by technological advancement by:

  1. Putting customers first - There is no point in offering excellent services if customers do not use them. Relevance will always beat excellence.
  2. Simplifying to focus on value - Unnecessary complexity, particularly inappropriate governance and decision making is the enemy of the PMO and any effective digital services.
  3. Challenging and innovating - Continuous portfolio, programme and project management improvement never just happens. It requires senior management commitment to create the right conditions for success.
  4. Exploiting automation and artificial intelligence - The PMO should take advantage of automation and artificial intelligence to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the services it provides and, in turn, promote smarter delivery within the organisation.
  5. Providing insights from information - The PMO can access vast quantities of rich data that it should be turning into actionable insights to challenge and influence strategic and operational decision-making.
  6. Enabling self-service - For the PMO to maintain its focus on providing value to existing and new customers, it needs to be able to coach and support people to be self-sufficient.
  7. Nurturing the knowledge worker - The PMO is well placed to exploit technology-based innovation, but its most valuable asset remains its human talent. To truly unlock the opportunities of digital transformation, the PMO needs to create a culture of autonomy and empowerment where decision-making is accelerated by pushing it to the people who are closest to customers. 

In summary, whether it exists to serve the enterprise, or is dedicated to a sub-portfolio, programme or project, the PMO function sees and touches most levels of the organisation. It sees upwards to business strategy and priorities and downwards to the realities of everyday delivery. By re-imagining the PMO design model, processes, ways of working and culture, it can support creation of the digital environment for an organisation to exploit the opportunities presented by technology. This in turn, creates value at the new frontiers of the business world; creates value in the processes that execute a vision of customer experiences, and builds foundational capabilities that support the entire organisational structure delivery true line of sight of strategic intent and benefits realisation.


  • Marcus Samphire, 2018, The PMO – your catalyst for digital transformation

Karel Dörner and David Edelman, 2015, What digital really means, McKinsey and Company

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Milvio DiBartolomeo

About author

OGC Gateway Assurance Expert | Author | Agile, Project, Programme & Portfolio Management and Better Business Cases Specialist

Milvio DiBartolomeo has a proven track record in ICT project, programme and portfolio management in the Queensland public sector, Australia. He has worked on a number of transformational change initiatives across the programme and project lifecycle as a business and process analyst, software tester and project manager. He practices what he preaches having successfully implemented staged funding release by gated review technique to protect public sector investment and redesigned the project governance structure to minimise senior management time commitment for a Queensland Government department. He has extensive PMO experience as a Portfolio Manager, Capability Support Manager and now as a Workforce Delivery Manager. With a lifelong passion for learning his credentials include practitioner level knowledge in Better Business Cases, Managing Benefits, MoP, P3O, MSP, PRINCE2, PRINCE2 Agile, AgileSHIFT, ICAgile, ISTQB software testing and ITIL. He also released his first white paper called “Project Optimism Bias in Capital Investment Decision Making” through APMG-International.
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