Business Analysis – a skillset for the Strategic PMO?

I’ve often thought that business analysis comes in very useful for a PMO.

It is accepted wisdom that a good PMO leader will have a background in project management, as this gives them credibility to coach and mentor project managers plus real-world experience of applying the recommended tools and techniques required to deliver a project successfully.

But does that completely cover the role of a PMO?  I think there’s another dimension to it.

Current thinking within the field suggests that a strategic, enterprise, organisational (or just portfolio to keep things simple) office has two distinct roles to perform:

a) ensure that the strategic priorities of the organisation are translated into projects and programmes that will deliver the strategy

b) that the delivery of those projects and programmes will be successful

Historically PMOs have typically focused their efforts on the second aspect of this role – the methodology, templates, governance and assurance that underpins successful delivery – but many PMO leaders are now struggling to understand how the service offerings and skillsets of their PMO need to evolve to address the first.

“How do I become more strategic?”

Defining the skillset required to be a successful PMO is a common discussion amongst fellow practitioners in my network; its widely acknowledged that it goes beyond the typical PMO job descriptions we see, which often fail to articulate the role that the PMO plays in facilitating better collaboration between the project management function and business stakeholders. Now that the PMO is being asked to be more strategic, this challenge has increased.

P3O defines an Organisation Portfolio Office as a model “designed to centrally manage the investment process, strategic alignment, prioritisation and selection, progress tracking and monitoring, optimisation and benefits achieved by an organisation’s projects and programmes on behalf of its senior management.”  This function is sponsored by a member of the main board, someone consistently able to perceive what is important to the organisation and where its efforts are focused – its strategic priorities.

This is where I start thinking about business analysis, and how it involves understanding how organisations function to accomplish their objectives, and defining the capabilities an organisation needs to provide products and services to stakeholders.

Could we apply this approach to the PMO when looking to address the strategic alignment, prioritisation and selection aspects defined by P3O ?

Taking this thought process one step further, here is the definition of business analysis in the current version (Version 3) of the BABOK® Guide (courtesy of the IIBA UK):

“Business analysis is the practice of enabling change in an enterprise by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders. Business analysis enables an enterprise to articulate needs and the rationale for change, and to design and describe solutions that can deliver value.

Business analysis is performed on a variety of initiatives within an enterprise. Initiatives may be strategic, tactical, or operational. Business analysis may be performed within the boundaries of a project or throughout enterprise evolution and continuous improvement. It can be used to understand the current state, to define the future state, and to determine the activities required to move from the current to the future state.”

By incorporating business analysis techniques into its skillset, could the PMO play a more active, challenging role in ensuring that the organisation only invests in those projects and programmes that will best address its’ strategic priorities?

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