How transformation projects can be managed successfully

How transformation projects can be managed successfully

March 28, 2019

Optimized project management offices (PMOs) are more likely to achieve their targets

Firms embarking upon a transformation program often set
up a project management office (PMO). Its aim is to steer the program, to define the actions that need to be taken and to support their implementation. Experience shows that PMOs are indeed a crucial tool for effective organizational transformation. But sometimes they do not unleash their full potential, failing to achieve their targets within the expected time. To find out why, Roland Berger conducted a survey of almost 300 top executives and
PMO professionals working at companies across the German-speaking world. Their responses led to a series of recommendations on how PMOs can maximize their success rate.

A well planned and implemented project management office is instrumental to the success of transformation programs.
A well planned and implemented project management office is instrumental to the success of transformation programs.

The survey showed that not even one in twenty PMO-led projects achieves its targets in full. More than 40 percent of programs even fail to achieve over half of their targets. Responses indicated a wide range of reasons why this is so. The spectrum ranges from the project being accorded insufficient priority by top management to the wrong mix of people being staffed on the PMO team and the wrong IT tools being used to the PMO supporting the project for too short a period.

An optimized PMO process brings greater success

Conversely, what became clear is that it is well worth optimizing the PMO and the processes involved. Projects are also more successful where the company recognizes the importance of the PMO as a tool. Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to produce the perfect PMO setting – transformation projects are far too diverse for that. The objectives, the urgency and the scope of a project are as influential as the organizational complexity within the company. But the survey results do enable several recommendations to be made as to the best way to create a PMO that is optimally aligned with the specific needs on the ground:

With these five golden rules in mind, companies can put a structured process in place that dramatically boosts the PMO's potential. This gives them a powerful tool to effectively steer corporate transformation programs and actually achieve the targets that have been set.

  1. Tailor the PMO
    Planning for a PMO should begin early. Also, the PMO needs to be tailored to suit the transformation program. The company must align the focus of the PMO along three dimensions: the scope of the program, the urgency and the level of organizational complexity.
  2. Ensure the right team mix
    PMO teams made up of both internal and external members have a higher success rate; the most success is achieved when the external support is between 50 and 75 percent. It is also essential to balance the seniority in the PMO and the industry or functional expertise present among staff in the team, as well as talent in key areas.
  3. Go beyond defining actions
    The role of the PMO is not just to define actions but to support their implementation. Conceptual ideas need to be translated into detailed individual actions with clearly assigned responsibilities and firm deadlines. And it's important not to wind down or terminate the PMO's involvement too soon. A clear leadership structure is also essential, with adequate management attention.
  4. Track implementation
    For implementation to be successful, the PMO must follow certain rules throughout the process. Ideally, in the setup phase the company should define five quality gates for tracking measures, each with clear criteria for reaching the next stage: action identified, action effect validated, action description detailed, action implemented and action realization confirmed.
  5. Choose the right IT tool
    To track the implementation of actions, the PMO requires an effective IT tool. If selected carefully in line with the specific requirements of the program, this tool can provide structure and foster discipline – a vital role in cases where the program stretches across different functions, locations and even countries. The tool must be tailored to the scope of the program and potentially integrated with the reporting and controlling landscape.

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How transformation projects can be managed successfully


Project management offices are the key success factor in corporate transformation programs. But all too often, the success of PMOs is impacted by poor planning and a lack of resources. We show how companies can set up the optimal PMO for their transformation program.

Published March 2019. Available in