Wednesday, August 1, 2012

5 Reasons To Turn Your PMO Into An Innovation Hub

One of the half day summits at this year's PW&WCBA conference is entitled "Innovation in the PMO – What's Next?" and it's one I'm really looking forward to. Unfortunately I find that when many hear the word "innovation" they think it's just a buzzword or fluff. In fact in 2010, LinkedIn discouraged the use of the term "innovative" on profiles adding it to a list of terms that "can appear empty to a potential employer."

But what company isn't looking to innovate? "Innovate or die" is perhaps one of the most frequently tossed around phrases in today's business world. In January of 2011, President Obama even launched a "Strategy for American Innovation." I think the aspect of innovation that scares some of the project management world away is that "fluffiness" and the seeming inability to plan for or around it. With that in mind, here are some simple steps to take towards making your PMO a center for innovation in your company:

1. Your PMO can prioritize in line with changing business strategies. As this article by by Peter Mihailidis, Rad Miletich and Adel Khreich explains "Prioritisation of initiatives is rarely explicitly documented. This in itself can lead to inefficient use of resources."

2. Your PMO can smooth demands on labor, and staff innovation projects appropriately. This Forrester report expands: "Forrester is beginning to see the project management office(PMO) act as the “matchmaker” — the group that aligns innovation opportunities with resources and helps organizations remove barriers to innovation by managing the never-ending demand for labor."

3. Your PMO can create balance for risky projects. In our webinar series, Creating Value with Project Portfolio Management, Part 1 & 2 with Michael Menke (The 2011 sessions of which you can view on our resource page) we learned about balancing projects strategically - you can afford to take a risk on developing some "Pearls" as long as you have enough "Bread & Butter" projects.

4. Your PMO can get innovation projects done on time, within scope. By providing a framework and relying on traditional best practices a PMO can avoid the dangers of pursuing too many risky projects, or even just too many projects. Project management methodologies provide a framework for workflow in what may be a constantly shifting business strategy. As this Forbes Insights report found: "Speed-to-market is necessary for successful innovation. More than 80% of survey respondents agreed that getting a product or service swiftly out to market is a critical business innovation tactic."

5. Your PMO can provide cultural change. Perhaps this is the biggest opportunity for innovation coming from the PMO. If your PMO provides a framework for idea generation and systems for evaluating the feasibility of those ideas, you may be providing your company with something it has never had before: space to come up with a wild or out-there concept.

Just forming a PMO? That organizational change is going to create a cultural change, too, and with it, room for innovation. Sure, not all ideas may turn into projects and some may turn into failed projects, but when there is a general business demand for innovation having this practical, structured manner of generating it may be just what you need.

Not sure where to start? Check out one of these on-demand webinars "Assessing the State of Innovation: How Does Your Company Rate? or "PMO Prosperity: What to Know, Do and Think About."

If you're still unconvinced, I hope you'll check out the PW&WCBA workshop with me this fall to learn more.

Michelle LeBlanc is a Social Media Strategist at IIR USA and the voice behind the @Project_World twitter. She may be reached at

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