Project Management Institute

Translation management

as IT automation demands take off, PMOs can help manage business requirements


By Abid Mustafa

Increasingly, project management offices (PMOs) are involved in the delivery of flagship business transformation programs. With senior leaders often viewing IT as a factory—business needs in, automated solutions out—PMOs are stepping in to fill the middle ground in the IT work stream. They're helping to translate high-level business requirements into lower-level requirements.

At the core of automation is requirements management—the elicitation of business requirements into technical requirements that then point to a software solution. The PMO staff can use their cross-functional skills to help business analysts create low-level requirements by facilitating meetings with stakeholders in the organization.

For instance, an end user at an organization (e.g., call center staff) may stipulate a business requirement such as payment by debit card. In collaboration with a business analyst, the PMO staff will speak to other corporate users to identify which type of debit cards can be used, and through which banks.

The goal: enable organizations to minimize errors, speed up execution of program deliverables and ensure that the customer experience is not jeopardized.

Imagine scores of these low-level business requirements emerging from large transformation programs. To avoid chaos, there needs to be a way of centrally managing the business requirements flowing into IT. With multiple complex programs and projects running concurrently, a permanent business demand management function is in order—and the executive (or corporate) PMO is best positioned to take on this role.

Why? Because the PMO has the leadership and relationships with corporate stakeholders. A team of business analysts can work alongside their PMO counterparts to ensure the low-level business requirements capability gap is closed. In practice, this involves end-to-end business analysis of program/transformation requirements for automation and specifying low-level business requirements with IT to ensure the right solution.

On its own, the PMO's business demand management function will fail—success requires a parallel function in IT that determines the feasibility of business requirements by conducting system analysis. This IT demand management function establishes relevant underlying systems requirements for a project or program if current IT systems are inadequate. This function does not produce a set of low-level business requirements, although it does provide end-to-end traceability from low-level business requirements all the way to the automated solution.

The goal of all this is simple: enable organizations to minimize errors, speed up execution of program deliverables and ensure that the customer experience is not jeopardized. For this transformation to happen, however, the PMO director and CIO must establish a workable model for the demand management function that the rest of the C-suite will support. PM

img Abid Mustafa has worked with project management offices for eight 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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