Project Management OfficeStrategic Alignment

Talking in Business Speak about PMO Value

Does it seem like the “business side” of your company speaks a different language? Are you the business side and sick of not being heard, or feeling misunderstood? We all (or at least most of us) have positive intent when it comes to getting the job done, but stars seemingly just don’t align when it comes to how we talk to each other. This is apparent in so many different areas: IT vs. “the business,” sales and marketing vs. product development, or even the PMO leaders and their various stakeholder groups.

You’ve all seen it—they don’t talk your language and you don’t talk theirs.

As I talked about in my last post, “What Is a Business-Driven PMO?,” we often focus too much on the tools and process of a PMO and not the why people care part. The people, your clients, your stakeholders, and the people that you want to engage in your PMO are the people that want to see it provide value. Talk to me in my language if you want me to understand you.

I’m guessing that part of the reason “the business” doesn’t engage in your PMO is that they haven’t seen the direct link between what it is doing and what they need in order to get the job done. Let’s assume for a moment that you read my last blog post and said, “Yes! Exactly! That’s what my PMO (or insert any other business support organization here) is here to do! We support the business! We provide business value. We help them achieve their business objectives.”

OK, awesome! We are on the right track. Do they know that? Do your business stakeholders know that you are helping them achieve their business objectives? Can they see the direct link between the tools and process you created, and the way their lives have been made easier by you doing your PMO thing? No? Not sure? Have they called you process-heavy, administrative, box-checkers or any other similar names recently? Maybe it’s how you are communicating with them.

Things “the business” needs to hear you say

We will not rest until our PMO is seen as an organization that effectively manages strategic initiatives by…

  1. Providing transparency to you so you know what’s going on with your projects.
  2. Giving you reliable information so you can make educated and informed decisions.
  3. Arming the people on your projects with the tools and resources they need to help them do your projects better/faster/more reliably/cheaper/with greater throughput, etc.
  4. Decreasing the cost of a project by removing barriers to project progress.
  5. Making sure the projects we implement are actually realizing the intended value.
  6. Supporting the project selection and prioritization process so we are utilizing our resources most effectively and getting our most important company priorities accomplished.
  7. Minimizing the need to cut projects each year because we are doing the right level of planning and maximizing project throughput.
  8. Increasing accountability across projects so that everyone understands their role and how to keep your initiatives moving forward.
  9. Giving you a centralized view of the work happening and where your projects are in that portfolio.
  10. Enabling the strategy development process and transition to project execution so that no information is lost during the process and project alignment with strategy can be maintained.

That is what they want to hear… Unfortunately, when many PMs and PMO people talk to the business about what the PMO does, they talk about the following:

  1. Project reporting
  2. Project status
  3. Templates and process
  4. Risk and issue management
  5. Project value realization (or EVM)
  6. Portfolio management
  7. Project planning and portfolio management
  8. Holding you accountable
  9. Portfolio management and dashboards
  10. Attending your business strategy sessions

Is it any wonder they aren’t listening or seeing the value? Connect the dots for them, people! Give them their WIIFM (what’s in it for me). Don’t talk at them. Don’t tell them you are doing the second list to them (and yes, I said to them—it feels like it’s being done to them when you talk in list 2 terms). Talk in list 1 terms about whatever value you are bringing to them in their terms and you have the beginnings of a conversation. They will come if you talk to them in their language and then actually deliver on the promise.

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Laura Barnard

Keynote Speaker, Consultant, Coach & Trainer. Owner, Impact by Laura. Founder and CEO, PMO Strategies. Founder and President, Project Management for Change, 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Laura Barnard has spent more than 24 years helping business leaders in a broad range of organizations, from nonprofits to global financial institutions, get the results they crave. She shares her experience and stories in her blog titled, “I wish I had me when I was you... ™” Laura runs several training and coaching programs that help organizations and individuals deliver high-impact results on their projects and drive organizational change. Laura is best known as “the PMO lady” for her extensive experience in building and running PMOs that Get. It. Done. for the business and teaching others how to do the same. You can learn more about Laura at

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