How to Bring Innovation to the PMO
New research from PMI, The Innovation Imperative (2020), says that in light of the global COVID-19 crisis and the inevitable recession, innovation is no longer optional. The study reports that three in four project leaders say their organizations will invest more to promote project management innovation over the next 10 years.
So what could that mean for you and your PMO? We’ve picked out three key takeaways from the PMI study to explain how you can bring more innovative thinking to your organization and how you can bring innovation to the PMO.
1. Become a learning organization
PMI says that organizations need to listen to be able to adapt to new ways of working and customer demands. Data-driven decision making based on the competitive landscape will help you pivot your products to meet customer expectations.
This is where robust, enterprise-grade project management tools like Primavera P6 come into play. Manage your portfolio effectively and efficiently so you can easily spot opportunities and adapt to changes.
You can also think of ways to capture customer feedback. Customers could be end users; consumers who buy your products. Or they could be your colleagues in another department, depending on what your projects deliver.
Either way, the more data you have, the better your PMO can make smart choices about the projects to invest in. You can prioritize the work based on a full understanding of the portfolio, the organization’s capacity and forecasted project benefits.
Consider allocating a percentage of the portfolio’s capacity to innovative projects that might not otherwise get funded. You never know, one of those curveball projects might be the next big thing for your business.
2. Prioritize an innovative culture
“More than half of project leaders rate their organizations as below average when it comes to facilitating innovation and motivating project professionals to pursue new ideas,” says the PMI report.
That’s surprisingly poor.
Project teams are in the business of making ideas reality and creative problem-solving. Coming up with outside-the-box solutions to project issues is what we do. So to hear that project leaders do not feel motivated to come up with new solutions in over half of businesses is disappointing.
You can’t expect your teams to innovate creatively if you don’t give them the time and the tools to do that. There are plenty of examples of large companies carving out time each month for staff to work on their own ideas.
Bringing innovation to the PMO is an easy thing to replicate in your own group. Give people half a day per month (or more) to be creative, brainstorm with colleagues, think about process improvements or anything else that facilitates an innovative culture.
Reward people for coming up with ideas, even if you aren’t in a position to practically put those ideas into action. People will stop trying to innovate if they see that management don’t really care about the output. Give people creative licence to implement their ideas where the team considers the suggestion to be a positive one.
3. Train people in emerging technologies
The PMI research calls for organizations to continue to invest in people. The authors state: “44 percent of organizations have placed a heavy focus on the development of strategic innovation skills to support project professionals.”
This is good news, but there is still a gap. Strategic innovation skills help project leaders see the trends and changes in the marketplace. However, project team members still need the skills to help them execute on that strategy. And the need for digital skills in particular is on the rise, as we have written about before.
Do your teams develop solutions in a particular way because that’s the way they were trained 10 years ago? While it could be ineffective to keep changing up the software languages you use for internal apps, there are definite advantages.
Make time for people to learn about emerging tech and trends. For example, there could be suitable new tech languages out there for your coding experts. Look at advances in user groups, usability, design thinking and so on. These are all elements that support your team to think creatively, keep their skills up to date and improve innovation across multiple teams.
Build training time into your PMO development plans for project managers too and consider a candidate’s ability to learn when recruiting new staff. Hire people who can see opportunities and who have the willingness to pick up new skills when the market shifts.
Innovation can no longer be an afterthought for business. From the way you train your teams to the software tools you use to manage the portfolio, everything needs to be approached from a perspective of embedding innovation in the fabric of the firm.
As a PMO leader, you can take responsibility for bringing innovation to the PMO and setting up your teams for success. Talk to your colleagues about the small changes you could bring in to help your project delivery teams be more innovative in their work, and put those steps on your PMO roadmap. You never know where the future is going to take you, but you’ll no doubt stumble across some innovation wins on the way.