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Formalizing Program Management in Shared Services

The world’s leading Shared Services organizations have a clear understanding that ongoing success requires an embedded culture where operational excellence is pursued aggressively at all levels of the organization.  It is no coincidence that the top performers are the most likely to be active participants in best practice research communities.  “Being the best” is a moving target, and unless you are keenly aware of your performance and the opportunities available (by being clearly aware of the performance of others), you won’t be able to efficiently take advantage of new opportunities.

A PeercastTM featuring a $50B+ global company in the Pharmaceutical and Health Care Services industry explored how having a dedicated Program Management Office (PMO) can be a key success factor for achieving high performance.   Following are the company’s mission, vision, and strategy statement for PMO in Shared Services:

·         Mission – To provide program leadership and executive management to key initiatives and to establish repeatable best practices.

·         Vision – To be the preferred program management provider by establishing a proven record of delivery success, and to become an extension of the business team.

·         Strategy – To drive key strategic, integration, process improvement, and transition projects.  To approach projects with key principles of collaboration, communication, and leadership.  To partner with Information Technology and to support Shared Services Information Technology projects.  And finally, to continually refine best practices for program management and apply lessons learned across all types of projects.

Since implementing in 2012 with a staff of four, the team has doubled to eight, using a combination of full-time company employees and external contractors.  Listed below are some of the benefits achieved:

·         Creating an environment of transparency and openness between all levels on a project.

·         Facilitating all project participants to work effectively as a team to come up with the best possible solutions.

·         Providing a structure and developing a plan that carefully considers each project step and the impact on employees.

·         Maintaining oversight of project financials throughout the lifecycle of the project.

Per a supporting iPolling1 question, 63% of companies have implemented a PMO structure within Shared Services, with another 12% evaluating the opportunity.  Only 22% have either not considered the opportunity, or have decided against it.

ipolling results on pmo structure within the shared services organization Formalizing Program Management

When evaluating the potential benefit, 78% report that significant benefits are possible, with only 22% indicating that having a formal PMO structure in Shared Services would have a limited or neutral benefit. 

ipolling results on overall benefit to have a PMO structure within shared services

Here are some additional comments from iPolling participants:

·         A formal PMO was implemented about two years ago, and it has been very beneficial.

·         We have a Business Optimization organization at a sector level and a PMO at a Corporate level which serves similar functions.  The benefit is significant.

·         We have a combined PMO and Continuous Improvement (CI) function. This structure helps us maintain flexibility with resourcing both smaller CI initiatives and larger projects that require more dedicated resourcing.

·         The benefit depends on the scope of operations and the team size. We leverage existing staff for project work and do not have a dedicated PMO office.

·         We have implemented and seen very significant benefits.  We have several resources fully dedicated to projects, with others who support projects who are getting their green belt certification.

·         We established a PMO as part of an overall global Shared Services initiative. It’s been a critical part of the success of the project thus far.

As reported by an experienced member, the results are the most important factor, in whether or not a Program Management Office is formalized as a part of your design.  She comments:

In my experience having a PMO does provide significant benefits to an organization. However, the level of formality must be tailored to suit the organization to avoid stifling creativity and agility. We have taken an informal approach to project management so far by training our team in Lean & Six Sigma methodologies, and by holding Managers and Team Leads responsible for driving continuous improvement and project execution.

At the Senior Management level, I see a potential gap in this approach as functional leaders often lack training in project management skills (particularly across global boundaries) and have many competing priorities. As a result, we are re-evaluating whether to formalize the PMO function to create more successful project outcomes. Another approach we are considering is to provide training to key leaders and work to free up time for them to focus more on projects.


What is your approach to driving continuous improvement in Shared Services?  Have you created a formal Program Management Office staffed with full-time resources to support Shared Service projects?

Who are your peers and how are you collaborating with them?



“PeercastsTM” are private, professionally facilitated webcasts that feature leading member company experiences on specific topics as a catalyst for broader discussion.  Access is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from attending or accessing discussion content.  Members can see who is registered to attend in advance, with discussion recordings, supporting polls, and presentation materials online and available whenever convenient for the member.  Using Peeriosity’s integrated email system, Peer MailTM, attendees can easily communicate at any time with other attending peers by selecting them from the list of registered attendees. 

 “iPollingTM” is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from participating or accessing content. Members have full visibility to all respondents and their comments. Using Peeriosity’s integrated email system, Peer MailTM, members can easily communicate at any time with others who participated in iPolling.


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