There's always been a great divide between development and operations, particularly when it comes to the role of the enterprise project management office (EPMO). EPMOs traditionally have limited their focus to development's one-off endeavors, while the repeatable activities of operations have been a Rubicon they do not cross.
But as the use of digital technology increasingly blurs boundaries, operations are no longer off-limits for EPMOs. Digital tools such as robotic process automation and big data allow for rapid delivery of projects. And the influx of digital projects means that outcomes—such as user adoption of mobile applications or an increase in subscriptions from digital channels—accrue long after delivery. There has to be a body to monitor the benefits realization of operations—and EPMOs are exceptionally well-suited to tackle it.
Tasking operations with reporting on business benefits is not sound practice, because there's an inherent bias toward embellishing reports to reflect more favorable views, particularly when operational executives are at the helm. For instance, if the monitoring of business benefits were left to marketing, their reports likely would include a positive view of customers interacting with digital channels—even if they had run into support issues. The EPMO has to remain unbiased in its judgment, as anything short of this will undermine its credibility.
Having C-suite support empowers the EPMO to cultivate respect from other departments. Hence, venturing into operational work is neither a leap of faith nor a huge challenge to the EPMO's charter. The biggest benefit to the C-suite is accurate reporting about business benefits—neither under-reported nor overinflated.
Yet EPMOs that embark on such a course will require a mindset change. They need to get over their distaste for operational activities and be willing to dive into the murky world of operational activities and data issues. Embracing this shift will enable EPMOs to play a pivotal role in the monitoring of the post-delivery business benefits of projects.
For starters, EPMOs can ensure that project owners are held accountable until benefits are realized. The EPMOs, in consultation with the C-suite, also can help change processes so that rewards are not disbursed after project deliverables but contingent only on the benefits delivered.
By expanding their oversight to operations, EPMOs can have a game-changing impact on the success of digital projects—and the way such initiatives are conceived and delivered in the organization. These small changes will deter project owners from launching digital projects without careful attention to the definition of measurable benefits. By the same token, project owners will keep a grip on all projects until their intended benefits have been realized. PM
|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.|