Projects which are aligned with key business initiatives, objectives and/or metrics have a much greater chance of success. It makes sense. If there is not a clear line of sight between key business strategies and objectives and your project, the project by definition is a failure before it gets started. After all, there can’t be any perceived or real business value if you can’t align it with anything that the business cares strongly about.
Perhaps, that’s behind the data point that “75% of project leaders believe their projects are doomed from the start.” [Geneca, 2017]
So, if we start with the premise that business alignment is the primary driver of project success, the questions becomes ‘what can we do to drive business alignment?’ Here are three tactics.
Make executive sponsorship a key project selection criterion
Actively engaged executive sponsors continues to be the top driver of whether projects meet their original goals and business intent and yet 38% of projects still go without actively engaged sponsors [PMI, 2017]. If a proposed project doesn’t not have active executive sponsorship consider lowering its priority until one emerges or killing it immediately. This is the tactical response.
There is also a more strategic response which supports the constructive role of executive sponsorship from a more sustainable perspective. That would be to play a role in building executive sponsorship skills. Specifically, provide training for executive sponsors to-reinforce understanding of their role throughout the project lifecycle. PMO directors are clearly underestimating the importance of this to senior executives, with only 28% of them viewing this as a high or somewhat high priority compared to 63% for senior executives in a recent study [PMI, 2017].
So, there is evidence that executives understand the importance of serving as an executive sponsor and want to do a better job in that role. It follows that there is an opportunity for PMOs to fill that gap and cultivate a project environment that nurtures collaboration between business and project teams and is built on a foundation of transparency, trust, and recognition of mutual value.
Make Business Alignment a Core Mission and Competence of Your PMO
Most PMOs (79%) see the primary role they fill as establishing and monitoring success metrics [PMI, 2017]. Meeting business goals and intent (i.e. business alignment) has become a primary project success driver, alongside on-time, on-budget delivery. The wisdom of this approach is borne out by the data. Organizations that align their EPMO to strategy report 38 percent more projects meet their original goals and business intent and 33 percent fewer projects are deemed failures.
So, if you haven’t already, make business alignment a core competence as part of the broader role of establishing and monitoring success metrics. And, formally incorporate business alignment into your statement of purpose and mission.
Further reinforce this by integrating emerging Benefits Realization Management techniques oriented to strategy delivery as the key success metric. Finally, focus project team talent management efforts on strategic and business management skills, in addition to technical and leadership skills.
Leverage Project Selection & Portfolio Management Automation
PPM tools provide demand management functionality that can be used to select and prioritize business-aligned projects as part of a standardized bottom up process. Portfolio and program management functionality can be used to evaluate and optimize strategic initiatives, programs and investments from a more top-down perspective.
As a result, we recommend, first, that you leverage demand management (project selection and approval workflow) to institutionalize business alignment as the gating criteria in project evaluation and prioritization schemes. Second, organize and manage portfolios by aligned strategic initiatives and utilize functionality to optimize investment and risk considerations.
You can learn more about Sciforma’s Solution Framework for “Optimizing Project Selection Quality by Addressing Business Alignment Challenges,” by downloading the complete eBook.
Valerie is Sciforma Chief Marketing Officer. Main interests: digital transformation, change management, strategy execution. Send your thoughts @valeriezeller