Designated Disrupters

EPMOs Can Be Central to the Innovation Process—If Executives Empower Them



By Abid Mustafa

Digital disruption is everywhere. So organizations are employing creativity and innovation to reinvent their business models and work practices. In simple terms, creativity is about the generation and filtration of ideas, while innovation is about the implementation of screened ideas. Enterprise project management offices (EPMOs) are ideally placed to facilitate innovation—yet many organizations leave them on the periphery of this process.

The EPMO is more than capable of taking lower-level actions on behalf of the C-suite.

Depending upon the nature of their business, organizations usually adopt a product life cycle (PLC) process for creativity and a solution delivery process (SDP) for innovation. (PLC involves idea screening and settling on product features; SDP involves creating the actual product.) Some organizations might run a single transversal process that fuses the PLC and the SDP. However they might interact, both of these processes are undergoing substantial changes in the face of new business realities to enhance creativity and innovation.

The cause of these changes is digital disruption, which is forcing executives to compress their decision-making process in a bid to quickly and effectively respond to new market trends. Paradoxically, disruptive technologies such as the cloud, the internet of things and artificial intelligence complicate the decision-making process by adding an enormous amount of information for executives to process. This complexity creates stress and at times inhibits executives from making the correct decisions, especially during the SDP.

Delegate to Accelerate

Executives can spare themselves the burdens of such complexity if they empower EPMOs to make certain decisions on their behalf. Until now, most EPMOs have left final decision making to the executive(s). For instance, on a delayed cross-functional project, it is routine for a good EPMO to present the causes of delay, as well as the various mitigating actions and their consequences. The executive weighs the pros/cons of each mitigating action and settles on a solution.

The EPMO is more than capable of taking lower-level actions on behalf of the C-suite, however. A strong SDP will identify low-level decision realms that the EPMO can handle, giving executives time to focus on more important decisions. This streamlines the innovation process, reducing time to market for products and services and thereby enhancing customer experience. It also greatly reduces interdepartmental paralysis, which for organizations in fast-moving markets can prove disastrous.

Executives already have confidence in their EPMO's competencies—attention to detail, data-driven rationality and strategic alignment. Now the time has come for them to empower the EPMO to make specific decisions on their behalf and unlock latent energy in departments in the pursuit of innovation. PM

img Abid Mustafa has worked with project management offices for 10 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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