Why the PMO can be a crystal ball for corporate real estate

3 min read

Whether the future is on-site, remote or hybrid, companies are facing tough decisions about their real estate portfolios. In this new era of working, where businesses are seeking to cut office space and formalise new ways of working while balancing carbon reduction goals, the PMO can step in and be a game-changer for project delivery. 

Although the pandemic has not meant ‘the death of the office’ as was predicted by many at the start of the outbreak, it has certainly changed the landscape and accelerated pre-pandemic trends around flexible working and how office space is used.

What this means for large corporates is a major decision about future working models. According to a recent Microsoft study[1], more than 70% of Americans want to continue remote working, yet nearly 65% crave more facetime with colleagues.

Whatever the exact stats may be, it’s clear that the shift in preferences directly affects the corporate real estate sector, which now needs to deliver extensive transformation programmes to appease a workforce with often conflicting appetites.

Faced with the pressure of attracting, retaining and managing high performing teams, there is urgency to deliver to market faster and capitalise on real estate opportunities which ensure that office spaces are fit for purpose.

So, we know that big companies are confronted with big decisions that will lead to a significant amount of change in real estate. We also know that in managing the complexity of these programmes, the Programme Management Office (PMO) is a must-have.

Clarity, control and reduced risk

The PMO is an integrated solution that combines people, governance, digital strategy and performance management to ensure that programmes and projects are delivered faster, cheaper, better and safer.

Any capital investment programme needs a well-defined strategy and plans that are effectively implemented. In the era of hybrid working, this means that design and construction solutions need to be adaptable for future changes in strategy. With every new office layout comes considerations for everything from reconfigurable and multipurpose workspaces, to easy and plentiful access to IT networks and power – not to mention the balance between privacy and the need for collaboration.

Above all, the employee experience must sit at the heart of workplace planning and be improved through effective use of workplace data.

A shiny new office that caters to a partially remote workforce can enhance employee satisfaction, and reduce both absenteeism and turnover, but only if it is part of a successful business transformation. In a capital programme, a PMO can help manage dependencies and stakeholder interfaces, and support the transformation of key support functions within the organisation, such as HR, IT and corporate communications.

Moreover, the PMO provides clarity and control across the entire portfolio and helps to cut red tape while mitigating and reducing the risk. Large enterprises often have many corporate real estate projects going simultaneously and need to understand the links and connections between them.

If a mistake happens on one office location, it can be elevated and examined at programme level by the PMO team to make sure the mistake is not repeated and has a knock-on effect on subsequent projects.

Predicting the future

Crystal ball gazing is invaluable when delivering multiple projects across vast geographical territories, as priorities can be weighed against each other for the overall benefit of the programme. On balance, to ship supplies from Texas to New York for a lower cost may be unwise if the decision has a negative impact on sustainability targets.

The strategic overview provided by the PMO team at programme level, through data gathering, management and analytics, can be used to predict, understand and constructively influence the time and cost outcomes of the entire programme. Efficiency savings can then be reinvested into other projects, maximising productivity.

Making predictions about the future of the workplace, and the role of the PMO in helping deliver it, may feel premature as we still wait out the full effects of a global pandemic. However, what we do know with certainty is that there is a continuous need for projects to be delivered and that design decision that are made today are likely to change within the next few years. In this climate, it is blatantly clear that programmes need to be nimble, open-minded, and have a core team focused on both the short-term delivery of programmes and projects while keeping an eye on the crystal ball.