Whether it’s seizing upon a new growth opportunity, solving a current business obstacle, or implementing a companywide change, companies are never short on things to do. They do, however, often struggle to find the resources to get it all done.
Not wanting to “staff up” or disrupt ongoing business, leaders face three choices: (1) over-burden an existing functional team, (2) hire an outside consulting firm, or (3) anoint an internal task force.
Whether you form a task force, committee, project team, working group or project management office (PMO), cross-functional teams have become popular in recent years for three primary reasons: they build a collaborative culture, improve coordination and integration, and spur innovative ideas.
- People now spend about 50 percent more time engaged in collaborative work than they did 5 years ago.
- Collaborative work takes up 80 percent of the average employee’s day.
- 93 percent of companies plan to reshape their organizational structure, with most intending to flatten their organizational chart, decentralize decision making, and extend authority and control to semi-autonomous teams.
- 31 percent of leaders report that most or all work within their organizations is done by cross-functional teams.
- People are on twice as many workplace teams as they were five years ago.
In this article, we’ll cover the fifth and final core strategic marketing tool that every marketing leader needs in their management arsenal to maximize their team’s effectiveness: the Project Management Office (PMO).
I covered the communications brief, the messaging framework, the marketing playbook and the executive dashboard in previous articles. These five form the tried-and-true strategic tools marketing leaders need to save time, money, aggravation and rework.
- Communications Brief
- Messaging Framework
- Marketing Playbook
- Executive Dashboard
- Project Management Office (PMO)
The Project Management Office
PMOs are an absolute staple in large, decentralized, multinational companies in driving enterprise-scale change initiatives. But they can also benefit small and midsize organizations.
A research study by PMSolutions finds 95 percent of large firms (>$1 billion in revenue) have in place a dedicated PMO, either in specific departments or across the entire organization. But a surprising 83 percent of midsize firms ($100 million to $1 billion in revenue) and 75 percent of small firms (<$100 million in revenue) have dedicated PMOs. Why? Because they work.
There are many different PMO models, but they generally fall into one of two camps: (1) a standing PMO, or (2) an ad hoc PMO.
A standing PMO typically reports into a VP of strategy and is focused on bridging the gap between a company’s strategic vision and implementation of that vision. The standing PMO often focuses on process and operational improvements and is accountable for the resulting cost savings produced.
On the other hand, an ad hoc PMO comes together to tackle a specific challenge or defined problem, often assigned by the CEO. It could be a digital transformation, a new growth initiative, a process simplification, a companywide budget reduction, a reorganization, or any large-scale change initiative. With an ad hoc PMO, a cross-functional team is assembled then disbanded after the initiative is complete. Peter Bendor-Samuel, CEO of the Everest Group, describes the difference between the two as an “authoritative PMO” versus a “coaching PMO.”
Project Management Office: What It Is
There are almost as many models of PMOs as there are companies implementing them. I’ve been involved with several PMOs over my career. I played a lead role in three of them: One focused on building the marketing workforce of the future (roles, competencies, skills, centers of excellence), the second in transforming a distributed 5,000-person marketing contingent into an integrated powerhouse, and the third in delivering $172 million in marketing savings through smart consolidation. Additionally, I’ve led several companywide branding and rebranding initiatives.
In each instance, the mission was clear: (1) assemble a group of high-performing individuals across multiple businesses and functions, (2) solve a specific problem or drive a companywide initiative, (3) use an efficient and effective process, and (4) produce exceptional results.
Project Management Office: Why It’s Important
A project management office:
- Defines a common language, provides structure and brings standardization across the company
- Delivers economies of scale by creating consistent systems and processes
- Provides an objective and transparent source of truth from which to base decisions
- Solves an important companywide problem or challenge
- Identifies best practices that can be leveraged across the company
Project Management Office: What It Contains
Creating and leading a successful PMO requires the following key elements:
- Right participants: Ensure your PMO is staffed with empowered participants. Send a note to the senior-most person in each business unit and function outlining the goals of the PMO and requesting that an empowered individual be assigned to represent their interests. If you have a specific recommendation, state who you would ideally like to have included.
- Executive sponsorship and engagement: The best PMOs are driven by a burning initiative that is on the CEO’s radar. That doesn’t mean your CEO needs to be actively involved, but it does mean he or she needs to be visible at key milestones. It can take the form of ten minutes to set the stage at the initial kick-off meeting, an unannounced drop-in during a PMO meeting, participating in key report outs, or even a REPLY ALL to a meeting recap with encouragement, praise or additional direction.
- Clarity: A successful marketing PMO has clear goals, time horizons, deliverables and outcomes. Are participants signing up for three weeks or three years? Is this a full-time commitment or a nights-and-weekends commitment? Spell it out to eliminate any misunderstandings. This applies to participants as well as to the executive team. Make sure everyone is on the same page.
- Ground rules: At the start of a PMO, set some ground rules. One ground rule I always insisted on is having empowered decision makers in the room; another is that the meetings start and stop on time. You might choose a no delegate policy. It is sometimes useful to set these ground rules together as a team, at the inaugural PMO meeting.
- Stellar project management: Nothing makes or breaks a PMO faster than project management or lack thereof. This includes (1) a dedicated scribe, which allows the PMO leader to fully engage in the meetings, (2) a tight agenda with report outs, status updates, milestones achieved and next steps from each participant, (3) timely meeting notes that capture and track actions, decisions made, decisions needed and dependencies, and (4) periodic executive-level communications sent to all business units and functional leaders, letting them know of the PMO’s progress and thanking them for their ongoing support.
The rate of major organizational change has accelerated dramatically in this decade. Global research and advisory company Gartner reports that the typical organization today has undertaken five major enterprise changes in the past three years—and nearly 75 percent of organizations expect more change initiatives in the next three years. Yet half of change initiatives fail, and only 34 percent are a clear success.
By following the five criteria just discussed, your PMO will have a better chance of delivering real business benefit to your organization and your C-suite.
These five core marketing fundamentals are a must-have in every good marketing leader’s toolkit. These tools will save you time, energy, money, resources and stress.
Adopting these five time-tested tools will add rigor and structure to your marketing organization. Your team will appreciate established processes and tools at their disposal to get their work done. The trick is to keep the tools lightweight, flexible and simple to encourage adoption.
Once you have these vital five up and running, there are a few additional tools I would recommend implementing. They include an editorial calendar, a content map, marketing lexicon, customer journey map and agency briefing checklist.
Whether you’re rebounding from the crises of 2020, or preparing yourself for an uncertain road to recovery, enhancing your toolset and ability to adapt to change will be a key source of competitive advantage in the future. To help enhance your resiliency, I’ve developed some simple steps you can take, starting today. I call these actions power moves and I’ve summarized the top nine in a marketing agility guide which is available as a free download.
This is the fifth in a five-part series on core strategic marketing tools every marketing leader needs in their management arsenal to maximize their team’s effectiveness.