As I work with project managers in many fields, it is becoming more apparent every day that, in the future, new technology development will play a greater role in delivering “value” from project management. Of course, new technology development has been a major part of many projects. Witness the development of electrical components and controls systems in the Panama Canal project from the early 20th century, as I discussed in my Lessons Learned book. Today, we only have to look at the technology and new business fields, and such sources as CNBC TV and CNN, to hear about new “apps” and new technologies that are adding new, or replacing old, functionality in products and services.

     Look no further than Wal-Mart’s growth into e-commerce, and Amazon’s growth into more brick-and-mortar solutions to find that new technologies are at the heart of business and consumer demands.

     So. companies are struggling with the question “Do I grow this new technology by acquisition or by internal development of the skills, talents and structure to compete in the future?” The answer to this question lies in another question:

“How do I develop the ’capability’ that will enable me to deliver my desired end value?”

     This was much the same question many years ago when organizations began to concentrate their project management skills, practices, and methodologies into an internal group that became known as the “Program Management Office (PMO).” The PMO quickly became a standard and “best practice” for delivering consistency and repeatability of project results. The PMO is often referred to as a “capability based” organization because it was constructed to DELIVER projects successfully.

     CAPABILITY is the combination of people (resources, talents, leadership); processes; technologies; and organization (structure, networks), which allows an individual or organization to deliver its intended objectives. The blueprint covers all those components, but not separately. It covers how they will fit together. There is also an accompanying plan that specifies the people who will build pieces of the capability, the targets and incentives that govern their actions, and a timetable for the implementation.

     Recent studies by Booz and Company consultants have focused on “capability building” as the key to closing what they refer to as the “strategy-to-execution” gap that has plagued companies for many years. Many times in the past, a great strategy never seemed to materialize into actionable results. This was termed the “strategy-to-execution gap.” Their analysis has been documented in a 2016 book Strategy That Works: How Winning Companies Close the Strategy-to-Execution Gap by Paul Leinwand and Cesare Mainardi, with Art Kleiner. Their process for building new capability focuses on answering the following questions:

  1. What is the capability?
  2. Why is it valuable?
  3. How would it be different from what we have today?
  4. Describe a day-in-the-life of this capability; what does it look like?
  5. What is required to make it work?
  6. For the “capabilities system,” what does the business case look like?
  7. How does this capability fit with others in the capability system?

The focus of this analysis was to build meaningful and lasting capabilities and to foster cross-functional relationships between corporate competencies that complement each other. In short, their theme was “build capabilities before seeking results.”

     To summarize, PMOs in the future will need to develop new technology capabilities systems which will add to their project delivery capabilities. Of course, specialized PMOs in companies such as biopharmaceuticals or information systems will need to consider industry specific technologies to insure their “table -stakes” status. This new reality may require a “maturity curve” approach in implementation to be successful in the long term.

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