From Peacekeeper To Change Agent

Empowered EPMOs Can Be Engines of Organizational Agility



Empowered EPMOs can be engines of organizational agility.

By Abid Mustafa

Forrester didn't mince words to summarize a report it published earlier this year: The Sorry State of Digital Transformation in 2018. The report's survey results made clear that cultural inertia is a big obstacle to transformation, and agility and cross-departmental collaboration are key competencies to develop.

It's strange to find companies still struggling to adapt quickly in the digital age. I suspect that many business leaders don't realize they can leverage something in plain sight to drive change: the enterprise project management office (EPMO). Once viewed as the enforcer of the corporate order, the EPMO today is uniquely positioned to eliminate silos and encourage dexterity in the age of change.

Why? First, the culture of the EPMO is rooted in understanding new project requirements and continuously measuring them against the strategic imperatives of the organization. Second, the EPMO often is tasked with the delivery or support of transformation initiatives, which requires mastering change management techniques and skills. Moreover, the closeness of the EPMO to the C-suite means that it can leverage the support of an executive hammer to push change through if needed.

In practice, however, change is the prerogative of line management functions. But line functions preoccupied with operational thinking and tasks are notoriously bad at being agile and fostering cross-department collaborations.


For instance, the implementation of a new digital channel is usually driven by marketing, which is often insensitive to the requirements of other departments. Efforts to incorporate end-to-end onboarding and support requirements are downplayed at the expense of faster go-to-market deployment. This invariably overwhelms the technology and support department. Predictably, the resultant digital channel fails to live up to expectations and the company is forced to reassess its investment in digital.

This is where the EPMO can step in and add real value. The EPMO tends to play a peacekeeping role: It asks the right questions, collates the correct requirements and ensures a balanced view from all stakeholders in the customer journey is captured.

What the EPMO lacks is the appropriate empowerment to drive change in the organization. A small change in the role of the EPMO that allows it to drive the delivery of digital transformation initiatives—backed by the authority of the C-suite—can produce an EPMO ideally suited to promote agility and collaboration in a rapidly changing world. PM

img Abid Mustafa has worked with project management offices for 11 years. His book In the Age of Turbulence: How to Make Executive PMOs Successful is available in paperback and on Kindle.
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