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Organizations seeking to improve their project results should focus on five key aspects of project management:
- Project Management Offices (PMOs) and strategic Enterprise-wide Project Management Offices (EPMOs)
- Executive sponsorship
Organizations that target these key areas have higher rates of success with projects — the strategic initiatives that drive organizational change.
Recent research from our organization shows that focusing on these priorities results in more projects meeting original goals and business intent and being completed within budget. Our 2017 Pulse of the Profession: Success Rates Rise: Transforming the High Cost of Low Performance also reveals that there has been a 20 percent decline in dollars wasted due to poor project performance compared to the previous year. Organizations are now losing an average of $97 million for every $1 billion invested (figures represent a percentage that applies to any currency), the report indicates.
Having the talent to implement strategic initiatives successfully is the critical capability that gives organizations a competitive advantage to navigate through necessary change. This means developing the technical, leadership and business management skills of project professionals. When organizations focus on all three areas, 32 percent more projects meet original goals and business intent.
Benefits realization management — the collective process of identifying benefits at the outset of a project and ensuring that the benefits are realized and sustained once the project ends — is key to making sure that projects add value.
Success is too often defined strictly in terms of whether projects are completed. Completion is not a measure of value. But the discipline of benefits realization management has intimidated many organizations, because there is no single, widely-accepted benefits realization management process to follow.
Nevertheless, more organizations are taking steps to establish procedures for identifying benefits and monitoring progress toward achieving them throughout the project life cycle and beyond.
3. PMOs and Strategic EPMOs
The strategic role of the PMO and EPMO is vital. That role often includes responsibility for aligning the project portfolio to strategy, monitoring progress and optimizing delivery of strategy, navigating risk, driving benefits realization, enhancing governance and accountability and managing talent.
A PMO can bridge the chasm between high-level strategic vision and implementation. The percentage of organizations with a PMO continues an upward trend — from 61 percent in 2007 to 71 percent today. Among organizations in our survey that have a PMO, half report having an EPMO.
4. Executive sponsorship
Our research consistently shows an actively engaged executive sponsor is the top driver of a project’s ability to meet its original goal and business intent. The best executive sponsors use their position and authority to clear roadblocks, make quick and effective decisions, and influence executive leadership.
Precisely because executive sponsors are so critical to project and program success, they are often a finite resource and find themselves being overextended. Organizations can make the best use of executive sponsors by focusing their efforts only on the most business-critical initiatives and being more conscious of not over-assigning projects to sponsors.
Agile is a topic of growing importance in project management, with 71 percent of organizations now reporting they use agile approaches to projects sometimes or more frequently. In fact, over the past 12 months, one in five projects has used agile approaches, according to our research.
Organizations looking for greater success with projects — including cost savings, meeting business intent, and on-time completion — should concentrate on these key areas of project management in effort to position themselves for better business performance.