Everyone understands that it’s good for business to know how to identify correct initiatives and make them happen.

And to ensure that they happen, many companies have a Project Management Office (PMO) responsible for overseeing initiatives, making sure that they are on track and delivering results as expected.

Beyond a PMO, a Transformation Management Office (TMO), is a PMO plus strategy management.

A TMO arises as sometimes PMOs are not aligned to the strategic direction and needs of the company. TMOs align initiatives and projects to a company’s vision, mission, goals and objectives, and most importantly, they ensure that genuine business needs are identified and addressed.

This is not to say that the TMO is always the better option.

“The two are valid,” says Max Ferrin, Renoir Consulting’s Transformation Programme Director for Asia. Whether a PMO or a TMO is needed depends on the maturity of the company.

For example, an organisation may have a clear understanding of their mission and vision for a digital transformation (DX) initiative. They know what they want. They just want someone to deliver the transformation for them.

“As a result, there’s less of a need to focus on the strategy. There’s sufficient approach to move ahead with digital transformation. A PMO will be enough to focus on delivering it.”

However, there are some companies who need clearer insight on their real needs and how to align the company’s mission and vision with the DX initiative. That is when a TMO is very effective.

“The TMO is much more overarching than the PMO. It conveys and aligns the vision and mission of company with the delivery of the transformation,” he says.

The role of the TMO in digital transformation

Many DX programmes completely fail to live up to the hype that was sold to the organisation.

What often happens is that an organisation gets tied into a new digital tool, spending millions on it. However, after the implementation, the organisation ends up not getting the best return on investment because of a failure to align the DX initiative to the strategy and business needs of the organisation.

Situations like these can be avoided with a TMO, which ensures that the DX is aligned to needs and has a genuine business case.

“One of the key things that we do whenever we’re delivering DX is first to understand what an organisation’s perceived needs are and then understand and define its real needs,” says Ferrin who has set up TMOs for DX initiatives around the world.

To do that, we need to find a balance between what the organisation thinks it needs and what they truly need, he adds.

“Once we understand what initiatives are required, we start to create the transformation roadmap, where we prioritise the initiatives – we start with the ones that will deliver the biggest or most fundamental change.”

Some of the key features of our TMOs include:

  • Tried and tested strategy deployment tools.
  • Brutal honesty with regards to business needs.
  • Impartiality in the identification and sourcing of solutions.
  • An increased pace of implementation.
  • Even-handed handling of management of issues.
  • Unique change management methods – not just technical, but tactical too.
  • Transparency on the delivery of results.

“The goal of a TMO is a better understanding of what is required for the business and, if appropriate, what DX initiatives complement the efforts,” says Ferrin.

Benefits of an external TMO or PMO

Regardless of whether it is a TMO or PMO, the more profound observation is whether either one exists at all. Despite the benefits they bring, most companies lack TMOs or PMOs.

Part of the reason why internal TMOs or PMOs are so rare has to do with the nature of the department itself.

For one, the department’s function is a tactical nightmare. Compromises are often made because of internal politicking. Despite the best intentions, programmes are often watered down or weakly justified to keep all the stakeholders happy – regardless of whether the business needs are being addressed or not.

For another, knowledge within the organisation may be lacking, such as awareness of the digital solutions landscape.

And for yet another, past change initiatives may have flopped, and as a result, the most talented resources see secondment to a PMO as a risky proposition that detracts from their career path.

And of course, while change initiatives are important, many companies don’t find them urgent. Urgency always trumps importance – people can’t see the forest for all the trees in the way. The employee that speedily addresses a customer complaint gets praised, but the employee that requests better tools gets side-lined.

These are some of the reasons why an external TMO or PMO should merit consideration.

External TMOs or PMOs do not have to contend with political minefields. They bring the knowledge, energy and drive that the organisation may be missing.

A Renoir TMO or PMO engagement goes beyond just setting up for success. We partner with companies for the long term to make their dreams reality.

For more on the TMO and how it can help companies implement successful digital transformation initiatives, read our white paper Powering Successful Digital Transformation. Download it now.