Project Management Institute

Growing pains

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Best of Congress Papers

Even established project management offices have room to mature.

GROWING pains

by Janet Liao

This article is based on material in the white paper “Growing Up…The IT Project Management Office (PMO)'s Journey from Infancy to Maturity,” presented by Bruce Woerner, PMP, and Laura Aziz, Ph.D., PMP, at the PMI Global Congress 2006—North America, held in Seattle, Wash., USA.

CONGRATULATIONS! It's a brand-new project management office (PMO). Its scope is still a touch fuzzy. Its vision is still developing. But that's why you brought in project management consultants and mandated training to introduce the terms and concepts. The beginnings of a healthy, growing PMO are in place, but it can't stop there—because PMOs that don't mature may not be around for long.

The development of a PMO isn't all that different from the human life cycle. “Watching a PMO grow up is similar to watching a child grow up,” says Bruce Woerner, PMP, an IT consultant at Allstate Insurance Co., Northbrook, Ill., USA. “The nice thing about seeing the PMO maturity path in terms of growing up is that it's something each of us has gone through ourselves.”

In infancy, a PMO is not much more than a “corral around the project managers,” he says.

And a lot of PMOs are stuck there.

“Despite the rise of the PMO concept, it seems that many PMOs stay in the infancy stage, struggling with their identity and the role they need to play in an organization,” explains Laura Aziz, Ph.D., PMP, project manager for Computer Sciences Corp., Lake Bluff, Ill., USA. “Still others never develop and become defunct after a short time, spoiling an organization and its true value.”

According to Mr. Woerner and Dr. Aziz, all PMOs display the following components to varying degrees:

  1. Vision and strategy: Develop the organization's identity with a business plan for continuous improvement.
  2. Operations: Establish a clear project management methodology, including a developed communications plan and a set of standardized tools to promote knowledge transfer and support compliance activities.
  3. People: Hire, retain and grow PMO leadership by bringing in employees with a mix of education, certification, training and work experience. Establish multiple career paths for project managers to foster project management skills, resources and a team culture.
  4. Metrics: Establish success criteria with both qualitative and quantitative measures.

WATCHING A PMO GROW UP
IS SIMILAR TO WATCHING
A CHILD GROW UP.

—BRUCE WOERNER, PMP, ALLSTATE INSURANCE CO., NORTHBROOK, ILL., USA

So how do you know where your PMO is on the growth chart? “In childlike PMOs, there could be identity struggles and a lack of clarity on direction and goals,” Dr. Aziz says.

As PMOs mature, they become more consistent in how they manage the work of projects, she explains. The culture centers around goal setting, establishing solid project management methodology and continuous improvement. “In the adult PMO, issues are coordinated across portfolios of projects to generate better economies of scale and better project management competencies such as corporate risk management, vendor management, outsourcing and procurement,” Mr. Woerner says.

THE KEY TO MATURING
PROPERLY
IS ENSURING
THE PMO CULTURE IS
BLENDED INTO THE REST
OF THE ORGANIZATION.

GROWTH CHART

Recognizing where your PMO stands can help define the steps needed to grow to the next level. According to Bruce Woerner, PMP, Allstate Insurance Co., and Laura Aziz, Ph.D., PMP, Computer Sciences Corp., the four stages are:

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Simply establishing a well-defined plan for PMO development may take anywhere from six to 10 months, Dr. Aziz says. When a PMO finally reaches adolescence, it may take an additional year or more before it hits early adulthood, depending on the quality and caliber of the organization's resources.

The key to maturing properly, however, is ensuring the PMO culture is blended into the rest of the organization, she says. Cultivating a culture that rallies around a PMO begins with developing the leaders and processes to sustain the office. Companies trying to grow their PMOs often make the mistake of not having a definite leader, Dr. Aziz says. “Some organizations choose to just pick one or two people from their staff and to assign them the responsibility of establishing a PMO, leaving it to those people to start developing templates,” she says.

A PMO IS BORN

The hardest part of growing up for the project management office (PMO) at Compañía Eléctrica El Platanal S.A. (Celepsa) in Lima, Peru, was to get all team members—senior managers, project managers, consultants and contractors—on board with project management methodology.

The power producer first launched its PMO a year ago, and Victor Anyosa, PMP, was charged with coordinating the company's business processes with its project management methodologies late last year.

But resistance from project managers threatened the PMO's growth. “It is common for most project managers in the industry to want to cut some of the business processes to accelerate projects, because they don't consider these processes to be completely in line with their project needs and within project constraints,” he says.

To encourage PMO maturity, the team outlined a strategic vision. “First, I involved project managers in implementing best practices, which ultimately convinced senior management about the importance of project management,” Mr. Anyosa says.

To ensure consistency across all Celepsa operations, he provided short training sessions, tools and templates to those contractors who were not aligned with the company's methodologies.

Mr. Anyosa also developed a project health indicator system using the colors green, yellow and red, with green signaling that a project closed within time, budget and scope. Having a consistent set of metrics has improved project execution and control, he says. For next year, his goals are to implement project management metrics at the portfolio level and to measure ROI.

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When The University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago (UIMCC) in Chicago, Ill., USA, brought in Rose Ann Laureto as the new CIO in 2004, she saw the need for an IT PMO. Responsible for implementing electronic medical records, the information services department lacked a comprehensive strategic plan. The 85 full-time department members were responsible for supporting more than 70 applications, 7,500 unique active users and 3,000 desktop computing devices. Projects weren't prioritized and lacked defined budgets and ROI calculations. Many stakeholders believed the department was a barrier to getting projects done.

Members of the young PMO team first tackled strategic planning to ensure information services initiatives were aligned with the center's objectives. By conducting interviews with senior management and stakeholders, the PMO team defined a long-term strategy and process for determining which projects could be completed in the next three years. The group discovered about 30 percent of staff time was available for growth projects, while the remainder was needed to maintain existing systems. These calculations helped the PMO review its operations, exploring the feasibility of implementation timelines, staffing models, capacity planning and cost-benefit models.

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WITH THE RIGHT BUILDING BLOCKS IN PLACE, A MATURE PMO STANDS ON ITS OWN, COSTS LESS TO OPERATE, AND PROVIDES ADDED VALUE TO STAFF AND CUSTOMERS.

Because PMOs aren't always staffed with the appropriate people from the start, implementers who expect growth need to create multiple career paths for project managers and provide support for professional development. When Ms. Laureto first implemented the PMO, “who she had to work with is who she had to work with,” explains Audrius Polikaitis, Ph.D., assistant director of information services planning at UIMCC.

Despite having no formal project management training, Dr. Polikaitis was pulled out of his former role in research programming to participate in the PMO. To gain a standardized set of methodology and tools, the center's program directors attended a three-day training session, says Miriam Isola, DrPH, program manager, UIMCC. “Training gave us the same language to talk in so that we could come in with the same basic understanding of the terms,” Dr. Isola says. “Now, we're creating a culture with our own vocabulary and own ideas.”

The final driver of PMO maturity lies in measuring key performance factors—budgets, schedules, resources, change requests and lessons learned. For UIMCC, that meant deploying an enterprise project portfolio management tool to gather data on projects and help with resourcing, tracking costs and building collaboration among team members. The analytic and planning tools will help the PMO evolve beyond data-gathering activities to actually using the data. “We are continuing on the road to maturity,” Dr. Polikaitis says.

During organizational changes, a PMO that lacks maturity will remain in a cycle justifying its existence. “Until children learn to tie their shoes or to brush their teeth on their own, they will have trouble getting going without help from others,” Mr. Woerner explains. Once those operations are mastered, “the child will be able to focus on higher-order activities of growing up,” he says.

And so it goes with the PMO. With the right building blocks in place, a mature PMO stands on its own, costs less to operate, and provides added value to staff and customers. “A mature PMO delivers projects on time, on budget and within scope, meaning happy customers, more predictable delivery and more satisfaction on the project management staff,” Dr. Aziz says. PM

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

PM NETWORK | FEBRUARY 2007 | WWW.PMI.ORG

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