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Author  Lisa Hodges – Cornerstone Consulting

August 12, 2020 |

 3 min read

  • Blog
  • Service management

Why is a service management office (SMO) an important function today – and how should it interact with a project/programme management office (PMO)?

To operate successfully in a high-velocity IT world, organizations need to progress iteratively, collaborate and automate. Therefore, different practice areas need to integrate better for faster working.

This is why managing the SMO vs PMO dynamic is, in my view, one of the top strategic priorities for organizations today.

Whether it’s called a SMO, service management programme or centre of excellence this area is responsible for setting standards; organizations formalizing this tend to be more successful, running like a well-oiled machine to operate at speed, scale and high quality.

However, more strategic level change needs project management involvement, so the SMO and PMO can’t be working at odds.

Investing in the SMO

Starting service management best practice at grass roots level leads to inconsistent pockets of expertise across an enterprise and no strategic level capability.

Conversely, a top-down investment and support for a centre of excellence/programme approach enables better and faster integration of service management and project management, plus quicker realization of benefits.

Unless they can establish this structure and integration, companies will spend money on training and course books but often can’t see a return. Sometimes a PMO will lead the charge on both project and service management best practice, though it can become isolated; building and deploying new things but then walking away.

This is why organizational success needs service management’s broader perspective in the mix as well as project management.

Achieving a SMO/PMO win-win

As culture is critical to best practice adoption, organizations need to examine the internal relationship between the PMO and service management.

Organizations doing this well take a number of key steps:

  • Start with cross-functional training – each stepping into the other’s shoes.
  • Have people who live in and understand both “worlds”: they are a resource to help the SMO and PMO to work properly together in an ecosystem.
  • Translate the best practice languages that each function uses and adopt common vocabulary to cross domains and remove confusion.
  • Be willing to acknowledge that each party has something to offer to change and improvement initiatives.

Clearly, any time you involve people it becomes complex. However, it’s do-able if they can accept it’s impossible to do things in the same way they’ve always done them.

Within ITIL® 4, the 34 management practices can help teams to quickly and easily modify their response to change. Looking at these approaches and then considering (and certainly cross-training in) PRINCE2® and even PMBOK®, the touch points are already defined.

Working together: hitting goals and supporting strategy

As technology innovation spawns even more innovation, organizations with proper integration between PMO and SMO are better prepared to exploit these opportunities: they have the work practices ready to move at speed and scale. Their counterparts without best practice or integration risk being left behind.

Successful business strategies that transform companies from today to a future state are based on technology, projects and the ability to operate and improve through service management.

Working together effectively is what enables the principal business strategy but organizations failing to facilitate this are running out of time as the next wave of technological innovation arrives. The tools are there to help – but success depends on whether they choose to use them.