PMO Success in Latin America

Enabling Success through Project Management Strategy and Talent

Four young professionals smiling


Projects in Latin America are at a pivotal point. Across the region, from infrastructure to finance, IT to sustainable development, organizations are deploying initiatives to create lasting, meaningful change. To deliver these successfully, effective project management is critical. Yet for many organizational leaders within the region, project management remains a low priority.

This research1 reveals that project management has an image problem in Latin America. More than one third of survey respondents describe project managers as bureaucrats and rule followers, while more than half of the respondents associate project managers with scheduling. Seen as an administrative function more focused on process and the details of delivery than realizing organizational objectives, the strategic value of project management remains unrecognized.

Changing this perception is critical if Latin America is to unlock the potential of The Project Economy. Organizations in the region must recognize the strategic importance of project management and empower the people that execute projects and drive change.

Map image for PMO Success in Latin America

Successful organizations in Latin America make effective project management a priority—taking project management out of its silo, linking project management strategy to execution, and identifying and developing project talent.

This report, drawing on evidence from the latest PwC and PMI research, explores how organizations in Latin America can realize the true value of project management to drive strategic goals and boost organizational performance—and potentially shift perceptions of the profession in the process.

This report focuses on two major implications for Latin America:

  1. Enhancing the strategic value of project management
  2. Identifying and developing project talent

The Global Top 10 Percent

PwC and PMI’s research has identified a global cohort of 230 organizations with high-performing project management offices (PMOs). Companies with advanced PMO maturity are more likely to have performed much better compared to the previous year in common indicators of business performance, such as revenue, customer loyalty and acquisition, and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) indicators.

These organizations are found across the world, including 14 in Latin America. We will refer to these organizations as the “Top 10 Percent” throughout this report as a benchmark for what organizations in Latin America can do to join them.

Top 10 Percent are more likely to have project management represented at the C-Suite level, consistently contributing to the development of strategy. Elevating project functions to this level is crucial to ensure that PMO operations align with wider organizational strategy and that the value of project management is continually recognized. They have also been more agile in their response to the pandemic; they face fewer challenges when it comes to attracting, retaining, and upskilling talent, and are more advanced in terms of implementing technological solutions.

The Top 10 Percent are more fully described in our recent report, PMO Maturity: Lessons from the Global Top Tier.

Research Background

In July and August 2021, PwC and PMI undertook a global survey of 4,069 people involved in leading or facilitating the delivery of projects, programs, and portfolios. The survey, made available in several languages, explored how projects, programs, and portfolios are working for project managers and their organizations. A total of 539 Latin America respondents with project management responsibilities took part in the survey, with 269 responses from senior leaders.

Latin America response profile (n = 539):

22 countries including: 

  • Mexico (42%)
  • Brazil (23%)
  • Argentina (7%)
  • Costa Rica (5%)
  • Ecuador (4%)
  • Remaining countries (19%)  

29 sectors including: 

  • IT (29%)
  • Construction (11%)
  • Telecommunications (10%)
  • Financial services (10%)
  • Government (7%)
  • Energy (7%)
  • Remaining sectors (26%) 

Respondents including: 

  • Individuals who work in a Project Management Office (PMO)* (61%)
  • Individuals in the C-suite or equivalent roles (50%)
  • Individuals who lead a PMO* (22%)

To better understand the factors driving trends across the region and to uncover opportunities for improvement, PwC and PMI carried out a series of interviews with project management experts. These insights help to bring real-life examples to many of the key insights from the global survey. 

*The term “PMO” used in this research also refers to the following offices: program management office (PgMO), project portfolio management office (PPMO), and enterprise PMO (ePMO). We are also using “PMO” to refer to other offices that implement various initiatives, including “projects,” “organizational change,” “new offerings,” etc. (e.g., Strategy Management Office, Transformation Management Office, Product Management Office, etc.).

Enhancing the Strategic Value of Project Management

Organizations in Latin America can improve business outcomes by accelerating their project management maturity. These improved outcomes are demonstrated by the Top 10 Percent, which are highly mature organizations that report better overall performance (Figure 1). These organizations are establishing strong governance, aligning projects with organizational strategy, and investing in their project management talent.

However, PMOs in Latin America are struggling to attract internal investment and support.

Organizational leaders often lack an understanding of how these functions can support decision-making and help to execute strategy. Meanwhile, high-profile examples of poor project execution have increased skepticism of the value of project management.

As a result, project management is often treated as a separate administrative function or an overhead in which business leaders are unwilling to invest further. Constrained by tight budgets and isolated from the wider business, project functions may struggle to deliver successful initiatives—further diminishing appreciation of their worth.

Figure 1: Organizational Performance
The percentage of C-suite respondents who stated their organization performed much better in 2020 compared to 2019 in the following key metrics:

Figure 1 of PMO Success in Latin America

Source: PMI and PwC Global Survey on Transformation and Project Management 2021. Responses from C-suite level respondents only.

How Organizations Can Connect Projects to Strategy

The gap between projects and strategy is driven by a misperception that project management is solely about method and that project professionals’ goal is simply to enforce schedules. Successful PMOs in Latin America act as enablers—not blockers— realizing a range of enhanced outcomes and benefits by linking strategy to execution. 

Bridging this strategic gap helps PMOs align project outcomes with key organizational objectives. This report highlights two core principles that organizations in the region are implementing to become front-runners in achieving strategic alignment: 

  1. Align measurement to strategy
  2. Create a common project vision

Figure 2: PMOs and Strategy 

PMO alignment and contribution to strategy:
Global Top 10 Percent vs organizations in Latin America

Figure 2 of PMO Success in Latin America

Source: PMI and PwC Global Survey on Transformation and Project Management 2021. Responses from those who work within a PMO only.

Align Measurement to Strategy

Aligning project performance metrics to strategy is a key characteristic of the Top 10 Percent. The survey shows that 94% of the Top 10 Percent are fully aligning initiatives and key performance indicators (KPIs) to the wider organization’s critical strategic and change goals all of the time—in contrast to Latin America, where only 34% of organizations do this consistently.

Our conversations with PMO leaders in Latin America reveal that PMOs have a tendency to be overly focused on method and process, even at the expense of outcomes. This stands in contrast to widespread recognition of the importance of defined objectives to project success; 64% of the global sample of project managers felt that clearly achievable milestones and objectives were a top-five contributing factor to project success. 

Developing and embedding benefits realization frameworks can help to improve the links between KPIs and organizational strategy. This enables continuous tracking of the value project management is creating for the business. Organizational goals never remain static, and ongoing feedback loops allow adjustments to be made, as required, to support continuous alignment. 

But our survey indicates that only 22% of PMOs in Latin America are consistently driving a benefits-management or outcomes-driven culture, which may explain why a high proportion of projects in Latin America are often perceived as underdelivering on expected value. 

Create a Common Project Vision

A common project vision enables project teams to execute in a way that not only delivers value for their organizations, but also delivers in line with their organization’s values. 

Delivery criteria can span a range of areas, including improving innovation, upskilling, sustainable development, diversity and inclusion, and more.

Consideration of these factors can be embedded into decisions on how the project will be carried out.

Project teams can then deploy their expertise by selecting the most effective methods and approaches to deliver these organizational values.

PMO Success in Latin America

  • PDF report available in English, Portuguese and Spanish.



Creating a Common Project Vision

As a member of UNOPS, Leyre Sastre is passionate about serving people in need and helping communities to achieve sustainable development. UNOPS develops specific success criteria for initiatives to ensure that projects deliver value—both in line with the UN’s core values and with what the local community identifies as sustainable economic, social, and environmental improvement. 

For UNOPS, developing and delivering on success criteria involves the following steps:

  • Align with the local community: Involve the local community across a range of ages, demographics, and life stages to understand what sustainable success means to them. UNOPS recognizes people as drivers of their own development, valuing their knowledge, experiences, and proposals. They place people at the center, with real capacity to influence projects throughout their life cycle.
  • Focus on outcomes and the sustainability of outputs: Consider what the project needs to deliver long term, including how deliverables will be operated and maintained after the project ends.  
  • Embed social inclusion in ways of working: Integrate gender and diversity considerations into all relevant projects. For example, the UNOPS criteria on inclusion requires that project teams implement gender diversity action plans within the project schedule.

How Project Professionals Can Communicate Value

Demonstrating the value of project management does not stop at aligning with organizational strategy. 

Project professionals also have a role to play in communicating the strategic impact of projects to the wider organization. This research highlights the core ways in which project professionals effectively convey the value of the projects they deliver. 

Emphasize  outcomes:  Focus  on  outcomes—the “what” rather than the “how” of the delivery. This is especially important for communicating value to senior leaders, who are often distanced from the details and prefer to speak in terms of what is to be achieved. Emphasizing outcomes has the additional benefit of keeping project professionals focused on their end goals. 

Raise  awareness  of  value  creation:  Communicate the value of project management methodologies with non-project stakeholders. “Convincing people that aren’t part of the project is more difficult, as they are less familiar with the value,” explains Carolina Boros, a PMO leader for the Central Bank of Brazil. “We need to show them how important project methodologies are— how they give us governance, transparency, results, benefits, and innovation.” 

Improve  the  C-suite’s  line  of  sight:  Provide organizational leaders with line of sight into the business outcomes of projects through easily accessible and impactful reporting. The C-suite should have visibility of the project KPIs that align with the organization’s overall KPIs to better support their decision-making and realignment of project portfolios. This strengthens the business case for project functions, helps to secure future investment, and encourages participation and buy-in from the rest of the organization.

Beyond the Big Organization

Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) dominate local economies across the Latin America region. We found evidence that many SMEs in the region associate project management practices with large, complex, multinational organizations and can be hesitant to adopt project management strategies or approaches due to concerns over cost, time constraints, and perceived suitability for their needs. 

While not all organizations require a PMO, SMEs stand to make gains by adopting project management approaches in a flexible way that suits their organizations and helps to deliver strategy. “People in SMEs often ignore good project management practices,” explains André B. Barcaui, Project Management MBA Coordinator, Fundação Getulio Vargas, Brazil. “They need project management, but they are afraid that it’s too expensive or bureaucratic. But people might be curious about how to use these things. There are opportunities around doing a diagnostic for each organization and training their project professionals by suggesting tailored workshops and tools.”  

SMEs typically operate with more restricted budgets and resources than their larger counterparts. A helpful first step for SME leaders looking to adopt project management practices is to define their delivery priorities, then consider what they can achieve within their allocated time, budget, and resources. This will enable them to identify the specific approaches that can meet their needs within the resources they have available.  

Identifying and developing project professionals should also be a priority for SMEs. Project talent in SMEs will be able to lean on their power skills—skills such as empathy, collaboration, and communication—to develop a tailored, flexible project culture that realizes the value for their organization.2

Identifying and Developing Project Talent

Supporting the people who deliver projects is an essential component of energizing The Project Economy in Latin America. With a large, working-age population and an increasing number of major infrastructure projects planned or underway, the region has great potential for the development of a strong project workforce and next generation of project talent. 

However, our research shows that organizations are challenged to find project management talent with the right mix of skills, including expertise in method and process as well as strategic thinking and power skills such as empathy, collaboration, and communication (Figure 3). 

To address these recruitment challenges, organizations in Latin America can prioritize talent development for project management professionals already employed within the organization. Among the Top 10 Percent, 74% recruit project talent internally, and more than half of organizations in Latin America are following suit.  

Organizations can also consider their “hidden talent.” These are employees who, despite not having a specific project management title, spend a significant portion of their time working on projects and delivering change. These hidden project managers often have a strong understanding of their organizations, which helps them in delivery.  

This research shows what successful organizations are doing to support talent development for project management professionals already present in their workforce: 

  1. Emphasize the value of power skills
  2. Make continuous learning a priority
  3. Attract young people into project management roles


Figure 3: Skills and Capabilities
Top five skills/capabilities of project managers in Latin America and the percentage who say they find it difficult to find candidates with these skills

Figure 3 of PMO Success in Latin America

Source: PMI and PwC Global Survey on Transformation and Project Management 2021.

Leyre Sastre works for the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), dedicated to infrastructure, procurement, and project management services for governments, financial institutions, and other UN agencies in Latin America. She holds a diverse role as Coordinator of Regional Activities, providing oversight, risk, and issue management to 13 offices across the region and advising the regional director on the management of the regional portfolio.

Emphasize the Value of Power Skills

Previous research by PwC shows that the best project managers are evolving beyond a narrow focus on managing scope, budget, and schedule. They are building trust and relationships with a variety of stakeholders and using a mix of emotional intelligence and strategic acumen to drive results.

But the outdated image of project professionals as bureaucratic, rule-following schedulers is persistent in Latin America (Figure 4). It highlights the pressing need for organizations in Latin America to promote the refreshed image of the modern project manager3 to drive support for project functions and to attract and develop new project talent, both internally and externally in organizations.

Figure 4: The Image of the Profession
Perceived positive and negative attributes of project managers in Latin America

Figure 4 of PMO Success in Latin America


Source: PMI and PwC Global Survey on Transformation and Project Management 2021.

Organizations in Latin America need to consider how power skills can be developed as part of their long- term education and training strategy.

Our experts suggested that Latin America may have a particular advantage when it comes to developing and nurturing power skills. “In Latin America, we have a people-centric culture,” explains Andre B. Barcaui, Project Management MBA Coordinator, Fundação Getulio Vargas, Brazil. “We like to make contact, talk—we are very warm, and we can be flexible. So, we can be good at that social part of project management—we can talk to people, see them, give praise and feedback, which is so important.”  

One thing I have observed is a huge change in terms of what you expect from a typical project manager. When I started working as a project manager, the “hard” technical skills were key. Today, with all the changes happening all over the world and how adaptive we have to be, the “soft” personal skills, like emotional intelligence, negotiation, relationships, and communication—these are the stars. It’s what people appreciate the most.

Project Management MBA Coordinator

Fundação Getulio Vargas, Brazil

Make Continuous Learning a Priority

By investing in education and training, organizations can ease recruitment challenges and unlock opportunity in the region. This is especially important for hidden project professionals and those promoted into project roles internally.

What can organizations in Latin America learn from the talent management strategies of the Top 10 Percent? This high-performing group has invested in cultivating and sustaining a continuous learning culture, supported by ongoing mentoring of staff. Supporting the career paths of project professionals will not only improve their impact, but is also likely to increase employee engagement, as research by Gallup4 has demonstrated. This has the additional benefit of making the role more attractive, both internally and externally, and reducing the chance of employee attrition.

Figure 5: Creating a Learning Culture
Approach to learning and development: Global Top 10 Percent vs organizations in Latin America

Figure 5 of PMO Success in Latin America

Source: PMI and PwC Global Survey on Transformation and Project Management 2021. Responses from those who work within a PMO only.

It’s really difficult to find candidates with all the necessary skills. So, we have developed a very detailed and robust career plan in our organization. We have a lot of people at the bottom of the structure, and they are given all the opportunities to learn on the job and keep moving to the next level, according to their development and capabilities. We ensure that we do all of the training in the company and that they are coached by more senior colleagues.

CEO, Conciviles


Attract Young People into Project Management Roles

Engaging youth can be an effective solution to combating recruitment issues and developing the next generation of project talent. Latin America has a large under-25 population, and young people will continue to represent a very substantial portion of the population in coming decades.5  

Equipping youth with project skills is an opportunity for individual organizations and the region to energize The Project Economy with exciting new talent. Our conversations in Latin America reveal the key attributes that are valued in young project professionals, and the benefits these bring to organizations:  

  • Flexibility: Young project professionals are perceived as dynamic and open to new ways of working, and often are digitally confident and tech savvy. This is especially valuable in the current environment where change is a constant and organizations need to pivot and adapt. Youth are generally adept at personalizing and tailoring project management techniques and approaches for the situations at hand.
  • Outcomes-focused  mindset:  Based  on  the experience of our experts, young people in the region often bring a fresh perspective and outcomes-focused mindset to projects. While a sound fundamental understanding of methodology and practice is essential, young professionals’ focus on outcomes can be refreshing and advantageous from a strategic perspective—especially when paired with experienced colleagues’ expertise and guidance.
  • Commitment to making a difference: Our experts highlighted that youth in the region often aspire to make a positive impact. They are interested in delivering meaningful outcomes in their local regions and eager to engage with communities of young project professionals as part of their development.

So how can organizations attract and develop young talent? The research highlighted that, when recruiting for project management roles, organizations in Latin America often specify that experience and industry knowledge are required. Often young people feel they do not have the required experience to apply for these kinds of positions. Supporting youth to gain experience will enable them to demonstrate their value to recruiters and organizations, despite not having years of experience.

We give freedom to our young people to think and to come up with new ideas, and encourage people to do things differently, recognize when they do something in an innovative way. Our target since the beginning was not just to do good things inside the company but to change the whole sector. To attract talent, companies need to create a culture that fosters innovation and collaboration.

President, Método


A Call to Action

Recognizing the strategic importance and value of project management and empowering the people who execute projects can inject vitality into The Project Economy in Latin America while providing new and exciting opportunities for young project professionals to flourish. Actions to consider include:

  • Unlock the strategic impact of project management by bridging the gap between project functions and the wider organization in which they operate.
  • Align measurement to strategy and create a common project vision to deliver more value.
  • Emphasize power skills and business acumen alongside the foundations of project management knowledge and expertise to refresh the image of the profession.
  • Develop a talent strategy that offers project professionals ongoing training and career development.
  • Engage the region’s youth population and their perspectives by making space for them in organizational project functions and equipping them with key skills.


I think project management has a bright future. There is so much that needs to be done in the region and so much that can be achieved through projects—there is so much room for project management because there are so many projects that must happen. Projects are for change. If we want to change things, or create new things, then we need projects. There is a lot to deliver in this region, and I can’t imagine how else we can do it, if not through good projects.

Coordinator of Regional Activities

Latin America and Caribbean Region, UNOPS


PwC and PMI would like to thank everyone who took part in the survey and in the qualitative interviews referenced in this report.


  1. Source: PMI and PwC Global Survey on Transformation and Project Management 2021.
  2. Power skills are the behaviors that enable people to succeed. More information and resources on power skills can be found at
  3. (PwC). (2021). Who is the Modern Project Manager?
  4. Gallup. 2020. What Is Employee Engagement and How Do You Improve It?
  5. United Nations Youth: Regional Overview, Latin America and the Caribbean. (UN). (2013).