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Mad about squandered opportunities in the EPMO

Focus on the big picture
How many Portfolio or EPMOs (Enterprise Program Management Office) really do step up to their Portfolio responsibilities?
Not nearly enough, I say and I am mad about it! Why? Because most of my retirement savings are invested in major organisations and their future returns and value, which is in turn is developed and improved through their portfolio of change. I don’t want to see it squandered!

I believe that true portfolio management requires a balance between the operational part of the business (‘run the business’) and the temporary part of the business — the portfolio of change initiatives (‘change the business’).

Is your Portfolio Management PMO focused on the bigger picture or just reporting on progress?

To me, it’s a bit like a marriage. It works best when the two parties work together; sometimes counselling is needed and when that happens, it’s rarely the fault of just one party.
For example, let’s take Portfolio Risk Management. Many PMOs expend great effort and energy on aggregating and summarising the risk profile of the portfolio.
Sounds reasonable doesn’t it? But it’s only half the picture when it represents just the ‘supply side’ — the various projects, programs and change initiatives.
Let’s also consider the ‘demand side’ of the portfolio:
1) What is the risk that overall business strategy or direction changes faster than the portfolio can be adjusted to? Can the organisation ‘turn on a dime’ and what would be the consequence?
2) What is the risk that corporate strategy itself is misplaced, ineffective or downright wrong? What is the associated risk to the organisation that precious change resources, funds, and operational impacts are wasted?
3) What is the risk that organisation does not have the people capabilities to lead or support the extent of change inherent in the portfolio?
4) What if the organisational context is insufficiently stable or is trying to do too much?
5) What is the risk that there is insufficient organisational capability to enable or accept the change?
None of these risks can be laid at the feet of the various program and project leaders; they lie squarely in the hands of their Business As Usual (BAU) ‘masters’.
An effective Portfolio PMO must facilitate a fulsome understanding of these broader risks and bring about a planned response that ensures all parties to the portfolio can be held to account for their part of the relationship.
When was the last time you experienced the Portfolio PMO addressing both sides of portfolio when communicating across the organisation?
I see way too many glossy reports focusing on the various initiatives in the portfolio and whether they are stopped at a Red Light traffic indicator, or all the various other indicators of performance, progress or problems.
Surely, we can see beyond that simplistic view?
At MetaPM we take a holistic view of change portfolios and the organisational capabilities that enable them. If you would like to talk about how you set your organisation (read: your career) up for success, talk to us.
Mark Ives

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