Build your own project management methodology
All organizations are unique with respect to strategic and operational objectives and the policies, practices and procedures that are in place to support those objectives. In today's business world, where corporate success is synonymous with project success, it is vital to implement a methodology that provides team members with a company specific set of project management practices and procedures.
The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK“Guide) defines “project management methodology” as a detailed description of the project life cycle; including the forms, charts and checklists that provide structure and consistency throughout the life of the project. Project life cycles generally define the technical work that should be done during each phase of the project and identifies the people who should do the work. Although many project life cycles have similar phase names with similar required deliverables, few are identical. To illustrate the diversity of approaches, consider the differing project life cycles for each of the following disciplines; defense acquisition, construction, pharmaceuticals and software development. The approaches are as different as the products they produce.
A project management methodology provides a structured set of procedures that are used as a discipline to guide senior management and project leaders in making the decisions that will lead to the successful development, control and completion of their projects. To effectively manage within any project management environment, project leaders require a standard set of tools, techniques and procedures, as well as a common language that can be used to communicate with project stakeholders and members of the project team concerning project plans and the progress made against those plans.
This paper describes a process for designing, developing and implementing a company-specific project management methodology that reflects the company's strategic and operational objectives. Developing and implementing a project management methodology is a nontrivial event that requires careful detailed planning and execution to be successful. The same process can be used to develop a methodology for a specific department or for several different departments within an organization.
There are many factors in a corporate environment that will influence the design of a methodology. They include the company's type of business, the way in which business is conducted, the company's culture and infrastructure, the products and services provided by the company, the size and reach of the organization, market competitiveness and the maturity of the company.
Benefits of Using a Company Specific Project Management Methodology
A company-specific project management methodology:
• Provides a common, consistent discipline for developing and implementing projects
• Includes the tools, templates and techniques that are consistent with corporate policies, practices and procedures
• Provides a common lexicon and uses the language of the organization for communicating information about the project throughout all phases of the life cycle
• Outlines how the company is organized to manage projects
• Identifies the key roles and responsibilities of project team members, project stakeholders, the project selection and review committee and the project management office
• Describes the different types of projects that are carried out by the company and provides a list of activities for each project type
• Ties project management to the company's infrastructure, values, culture and core processes
• Builds credibility with clients and rapport within the project team and with other stakeholders.
Developing and implementing a project management methodology in a company or department requires a substantial commitment in time, money and resources. Moreover, it will have a profound; albeit positive effect on the way that projects are managed; the way that members of project teams work together; and the results that they achieve. It will have an impact on the project management environment and could potentially affect the culture of the organization. For these reasons, executive support and sponsorship are critically important to success.
Executive support and sponsorship must be based on the belief that the time, cost and resource expenditure required to develop and implement a project management methodology will provide long-term benefits and success for the company. To be most effective, executive support and sponsorship must be active and highly visible. Executive management must drive the development and implementation initiative.
Building the Project Team
Because every project initiated after the implementation of the project management methodology will be managed using the new methodology, it is vitally important to select people who understand the current situation, know how the company operates, know the products and services produced by the company and who have a better than average knowledge of project management practices and procedures.
Here are the steps required for building the project team:
Identify the Project Sponsor
The project sponsor should be a member of the executive management team. Ideally, the person selected as the sponsor will be someone who has broad executive experience—a person who has a holistic perspective from both a strategic and operational perspective.
Appoint the Project Manager
The project manager should be a senior manager, preferably an employee who has an intimate knowledgeable of the company's business objectives and understands the strategies that are used to achieve them. The candidate will also have managed a number of strategically important projects for the company and will be able to use that experience to guide the project team through the development and implementation of the project management methodology.
Assemble the Project Team
With guidance from executive management, the project manager will assemble the project team, selecting people who bring differing but complementary skills and knowledge to the team. Collectively, their skills and knowledge will include product knowledge, an understanding of the strategic and operational objectives of the company, knowledge of currently used project management practices, processes and procedures and the infrastructure that supports projects.
Use External Resources as Required
Because it is often difficult to find people who have the right skills and experience to develop and implement a project management methodology, it may be necessary to find someone either as a new hire or under contract who can do so.
At a minimum, the team should include an experienced project manager, representatives who have a thorough understanding of the company's products or services and a business unit representative or client.
Designing, developing and implementing a methodology is a project in its own right and like any other project; it is progressively managed and controlled throughout each phase of the project life cycle.
Because the product of this particular project impacts all future project activity in the company, it is crucial to understand the existing project environment and how it should be changed to consistently accomplish corporate objectives. This is done using the Project Environment Audit process.
The results of the audit are used as input to the Requirements Definition process. Once the project requirements are defined, accepted and approved, the remaining phases of the project life cycle are carried out in the usual fashion.
The Project Environment Audit
The project environment audit is used to identify the strategic and operational objectives of the company and the way that the company is organized to achieve those objectives through the execution of projects. The following information will be gathered and documented through the audit process and will be used to write the specifications for the project management methodology.
Identify the products or services that the company provides, the markets it serves and the degree of market penetration that it enjoys. To a great extent, this information will determine how the project management methodology is designed to meet the needs of the company; e.g., the methodology for a sales company would focus on external client needs while a software development company might design its methodology with the objective of being first to market with new or revised products.
Strategic and Operational Planning
Document how members of the executive management team identify, define and prioritize strategic and operational initiatives and how these initiatives are selected for project development and implementation. This information will be used in the project management methodology to describe the genesis of projects within the company.
Outline the process that is used to determine project feasibility. This will depend on some or all the following factors:
• Product or service marketability
• Functional requirements
• Performance requirements
• Design constraints
• Interface requirements
• Technical capability
• Operational capability
• Resource availability
• Technology considerations
• Economic viability.
Project Review Committee
If it exists, describe the roles and responsibilities of the project review committee. What functions does it perform and what authority does it have? Is there a project portfolio process in place to select and prioritize proposed projects? Is there a project review process in place, whereby summarized project data is reviewed and used to determine project status and disposition?
Roles and Responsibilities
Define the roles and responsibilities of the members of the project team, all other project stakeholders and determine how many people are involved in project activities and in the various project roles.
Project Management Office
If it exists, describe the role, duties and functions of the project management office? This office will carry out some or all of the following functions:
• Administrative support, which could include project scheduling, project repository development and control, project workbook maintenance and meeting management
• Project management consulting and mentoring
• Development and maintenance of the project management methodology and associated standards
• Project management training
• Project management staffing.
Categorize the types of projects that the company executes. Different project types typically require different steps to complete. For example, in an information systems development environment, a beta system implementation project will be handled differently than a subsequent system implementation project. In an overall corporate environment, a marketing project will be handled differently than a training development project.
Templates can be developed that list the steps required to initiate, plan, execute, control and close each type of project.
Describe the way that the organization is structured to manage projects.
Are projects managed in a functional organization, a projectized organization, in a matrix or in a composite of these various organizational types?
The functional organization is hierarchical and is often referred to as a silo organization where project team members are grouped by functional specialty and where the lines of communication between specialty groups follow chain of command within the hierarchical structure.
Project team members in a projectized organization are collocated for the duration of the project. Project managers in a projectized organization have a great deal of independence and authority. Communication among members of the project team in a projectized organization is direct.
In a matrix organization, members of the project team report to a functional manager who provides technical direction and expertise and to a project manager who is responsible for the successful planning, execution and completion of the project.
Determine how project requirements are articulated and define how project requirements are translated into product or service specifications. Obtain copies of any templates that are used to document project requirements and specifications; e.g., project feasibility document, project charter.
Determine the criteria for assigning sponsors to projects.
Identify the basis for selecting and engaging the project manager.
Identify the activities that are employed to plan a project and the sequence of those activities.
• Is a scope statement used to define the scope of projects?
• Is a work breakdown structure and the associated work packages used to plan the detailed work of the project?
• How is the project scheduled?
• How is the project budget determined?
• How are the probability of risk and the potential impact of risk determined and quantified? Are risk response plans developed to handle risk events if they should occur?
• Are quality standards developed for each project?
• How are staff and contracted resources assigned to projects?
• Is there a standard set of communication guidelines for project teams?
Obtain copies of any templates that are used during the project planning phase; e.g., scope statement, responsibility assignment matrix.
Project Execution and Control
Identify the activities that are employed to execute and control a project.
• Is a kick-off meeting used to launch the execution phase of the project?
• Is a steering committee formed and used to provide direction and ensure that the needs of the stakeholders are being met?
• Does the project team meet on a regular basis? Do they prepare an agenda? Do they write and distribute minutes of their meetings to all project stakeholders?
• How is project progress monitored and reported?
• Is there a change management process?
• Is there an issues management process?
• Is there a risk management process?
• Are there processes for quality assurance and control?
Obtain copies of any templates that are used during the execution and control phases; e.g., standard meeting agenda, change request form, issues log, action register.
Exhibit 1. Project Success Measures
Identify the activities that are used to close a project.
• Are post implementation reviews conducted for projects?
• Are clients and users asked to assess the products and services of the project and whether or not project objectives have been met?
• Are all project files and documentation archived?
• Are lessons learned documented for future reference?
• As outlined in Exhibit 1, how is the effectiveness and success of projects measured?
Obtain copies of any templates that are used to close a project; e.g., client assessment form, post implementation review form, lesson learned register.
Project Management Training and Certification
Describe the project management training and education programs that are in place. Is the training and education program specifically developed to support company specific practices and procedures or is it generic? Is after-training support provided? Has a skills inventory system been established to determine overall resource capability and the need to upgrade skills throughout the project workforce? Is there a mentoring program in place? Are project team members encouraged to pursue project management professional certification?
Project Management Software
Describe the software used to record, schedule and control project activities. Who is responsible for project management software selection and acquisition? Does the training program include project management software training? Have project management software templates been designed to ensure consistency across all projects? Has a resource pool been established for use with the project management software? Are projects consolidated to minimize the risk of resource overallocation?
Project Management Maturity
After the project environment audit has been completed, the results can be used to determine the company's project management maturity. Project management maturity models are based on the processes that are in place in an organization and the degree to which they have been developed. They are used to determine the current level of maturity and for developing a plan and timeline for achieving a higher level of maturity.
Several project management maturity models have been developed, including one that was developed by PM Solutions. A partial view of their maturity model is shown in Exhibit 2. It provides information about the characteristics for project integration management against eight levels of project management maturity. The remainder of the table can be seen at the PM Solutions website, www.pmsolutions.com/cbp. Refer to the article at that website titled, “The Value of Project Management.”
Exhibit 2. Project Maturity Model
The results of the project environment audit and the desired level of project management maturity are used to define the requirements for the project management methodology. The requirements definition will document the findings of the audit as well as a topical outline and high-level description of the required project management methodology. It will also contain an agenda for achieving near and long-term objectives for the design, development and implementation of the methodology.
Project Management Methodology Development and Implementation
Once the sponsor and members of the executive management team approve the requirements definition, it can be used as a model for developing the required project management methodology.
After the methodology had been developed, reviewed and approved, it should be used to manage a pilot project through all phases of the project life cycle to ensure that it provides the expected level of discipline and rigor.
Once it has been proven to perform as expected, then it can be officially launched.
There are three key initiatives that will help to promote awareness and use of the project management methodology:
1. Publish it electronically. It should be available to all project management personnel through the company's network. It should also be searchable so that people can obtain the specific information they need at any given time during the life of the project.
2. Develop brief training modules on how to use the methodology. If possible, these training modules should also be available through the company's network.
3. Provide ongoing support, coaching and counseling for all project stakeholders and members of project teams.
Project Management Institute. 2000. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) - 2000 ed. Newton Square, PA: Project Management Institute.
The Value of Project Management. www.pmsolutions.com/cbp: 2000 Project Management Solutions, Inc.
Block, Thomas R., & Frame, J. Davidson. 1998. The Project Office. Menlo Park, CA: Crisp Publications.
Perry, Scott S., PMP, & Leatham, Louis, CPM. The Case for a Full-Function Project Office. www.bizform.org/whitepapers/kanbay001,htm: The Business Forum.
Proceedings of the Project Management Institute Annual Seminars & Symposium
November 1–10, 2001 • Nashville, Tenn., USA
An essential tool for project planning, a work breakdown structure organizes a project’s total scope to help practitioners track projects across disciplines and project life cycles.