Integrating the IT PMO with enterprise architecture for better government
Troy Barker, Vice President, ICF International, Inc.
Both the Information Technology (IT) Project Management Office (PMO) and Enterprise Architecture (EA) are gaining influence and responsibility in public sector organizations. Both entities offer methodologies, standards, and guidelines aimed at improving the success rate of IT projects. But why are both an IT PMO and EA necessary? This paper discusses the roles and responsibilities of each entity, demonstrating how the IT PMO and EA work together to improve IT project planning, execution, and control. This paper also describes the various types and models of IT PMOs, as well as the breadth and depth of services that an IT PMO can provide its public sector organization in an effort to reduce the risk of IT project failure.
“To err is human but to really foul things up requires a computer.” – Anonymous (IT Cortex, nd, ¶1)
If you are an IT project manager, the numbers are stacked against you. In fact, the data overwhelmingly indicate you are unlikely to succeed in executing your IT project and achieving the intended outcomes. The landmark study of IT project management – called the CHAOS Report – found the following (The Standish Group, 1995):
31.1% of projects will be cancelled before they are completed;
52.7% of projects will cost 189% of the original budget estimate; and
16.2% of projects will be completed on time and on budget.
Of the 16.2% of projects that reached their end, many projects were “no more than a mere shadow of their original specification requirements” (The Standish Group, 1995). Based on this research, The Standish Group estimated in 1995 that American companies and government agencies would spend US$81 billion for cancelled software projects, and another US$59 billion for software projects that will be completed but will exceed their original schedule estimates; that is, US$140 billion – or 56% – of the estimated US$250 billion in project spending that year.
In 2009 – 16 years and many IT project management processes later – The Standish Group found only a slightly better situation for IT projects (The Standish Group, 2009):
24% of projects failed, meaning the project is cancelled before it is completed, before its outcome is delivered, or its outcome will never be used;
44% of projects were challenged, meaning they were late, over budget and/or delivered less than the required features and functions;
32% of projects were completed on time and on budget with required features and functions.
While the percentage of “successful” projects doubled between 1995 and 2009, the key takeaway is that only one third of IT projects succeed. The data go on to demonstrate that the likelihood of IT project success decreases exponentially as the project grows in scope and complexity.
Because the risk of failure is so great, it is critical that an IT project follow established standards and guidelines, and for an IT project, especially one in the public sector, those guidelines come from both the IT PMO and the Enterprise Architecture.
What is an IT PMO?
An IT PMO is the organizational unit responsible for the coordinated management of programs and projects within an IT organization. The responsibilities of the IT PMO range from providing project management support, to performing all the project management functions and having ultimate responsibility for the successful execution of each IT project. (See the next section for more details on the various styles of an IT PMO.)
A primary function of the IT PMO is to define and maintain a project management methodology for all IT projects in the organization to follow. The project management methodology should include policies, procedures, and templates for initiating, planning, executing, controlling and closing out projects, as well as measures, criteria, and guidelines for reviewing IT projects and helping correct IT projects that are not performing as expected. Providing this common, repeatable framework standardizes the IT project management process and increases the likelihood of success for each IT project in the organization.
Another primary function of the IT PMO is to support IT project managers as they initiate, plan, execute, control, and close out their projects. Similar to other types of PMOs, this support may include, but is not limited to (Project Management Institute, 2008, p 11):
Providing coaching and training to IT project managers on the enterprise project management methodology;
Overseeing IT projects and monitoring their compliance with project management standards, policies, procedures, and templates via project assessments and audits;
Managing shared resources across all IT projects; and
Coordinating communication across projects.
What is Enterprise Architecture?
Enterprise architecture (EA) is defined as “the organizing logic for business processes and IT infrastructure reflecting the integration and standardization requirements of the [organization's] operating model” (Ross, 2006, р 47). To be more specific, EA is a recognized methodology used to describe an organization in terms of the business functions or processes it performs, the data necessary to support those business processes, the services required to carry out the processes, the technologies necessary to enable those services, and the corresponding performance measures. It communicates how performance, business processes, data, service components, and technology are linked – in short, drawing a line of sight from the organization's IT resources to its strategic objectives.
As a result, EA facilitates management decisions, helping business and technology stakeholders plan IT projects to achieve strategic initiatives. EA may also establish a modernization roadmap for the IT organization based on the business strategy, and this roadmap drives IT investment and resource decisions. EA may also evaluate and recommend improvements to business and systems processes, in an effort to achieve an efficient workflow and optimal system performance, maintain segregation and separation of duties, and maintain adherence to industry best practices and/
Public Sector Nuances
In the public sector, organizations often impose additional standards and best practices on IT projects, especially those IT projects supported heavily by contractors. Such best practices include, but are not limited to, those listed below. Because of the IT PMO's role in supporting and overseeing each IT project, the IT PMO is often responsible for ensuring adherence to these standards as IT projects are executed.
An enterprise-approved system development life cycle (SDLC), which prescribes a process for designing, developing, testing and deploying software and systems;
Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), which provides an IT management framework for identifying, planning, delivering, and supporting IT services to the business;
Control Objectives for Information and related Technology (COBIT), which is an IT governance framework that allows managers to bridge the gap between control requirements, technical issues, and business risks; and
Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI), which is a process improvement approach aimed at improving organizational performance at both the project level and division level.
Similarly, in the Federal Government, the Office of E-Government and Information Technology (E-Gov), which is part of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), has defined guidelines and reference models for EA. The intent of these guidelines is to help mitigate against federal IT projects “costing hundreds of millions of dollars more than they should, taking years longer than necessary to deploy, and delivering technologies that are obsolete by the time they are completed” (Office of Management and Budget, Office of E-Government, nd, ¶1). Examples of EA guidelines and reference models include:
Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA), which defines a common methodology for IT acquisition, use and disposal (Federal Enterprise Architecture, 2011, ¶1); includes five reference models (Performance, Business, Service Component, Data Reference, and Technical Reference) and three architecture layers (Enterprise, Segment, and Solution);
Federal Segment Architecture Methodology (FSAM), which provides templates for architecture development and maximizes its use (Office of Management and Budget, Federal Segment Architecture Methodology, nd, ¶1)
Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), which requires agencies to integrate security into their EA processes; and
National Information Exchange Model (NIEM), which focuses on information and data sharing across agencies.
Not surprisingly, the addition of these influences on the IT PMO and EA, respectively, increases the complexity of operating each entity. Yet, it is these guidelines, frameworks, and influences that ensure integration and collaboration between the IT PMO and EA within the public sector, and ultimately result in stronger management practices and better strategic outcomes.
Deeper Dive into the IT PMO
IT PMO Types – From Lite to Enterprise
The responsibilities of the IT PMO range from providing project management guidance, to performing all the project management functions and having ultimate responsibility for execution of each IT project. Exhibit 1 below depicts the three basic IT PMO types, and describes the attributes of each.
Exhibit 1 - Spectrum of IT PMO Types
It is important to note that an IT PMO may live at any point along the spectrum, depending on the number of IT projects, resource availability, organizational maturity, and strategic goals. For example, if an organization has few, low-risk IT projects and engaged business stakeholders, an “IT PMO Lite” may be sufficient. If an organization is embarking upon a major system modernization effort but it does not have enough IT project managers to create a matrix organization, it may need an “IT PMO Coach” plus select attributes of the “Enterprise IT PMO.”
IT PMO Models – Service versus Compliance
In addition to the spectrum of types, there is a continuum for the amount of rigor the IT PMO applies to IT projects. On one end of the spectrum is the IT PMO “Service” Model; on the other end is the IT PMO “Compliance” Model. Exhibit 2 below describes the characteristics of each.
Exhibit 2 - Spectrum of IT PMO Models
An IT organization with immature IT project management practices is likely to start with a service orientation, and then migrate toward enforcement where compliance with certain standards is expected. A mature IT organization – especially one in the public sector where reporting requirements are high – is likely to utilize the “Compliance” Model. Also, an IT organization with a high volume of contractor-led IT projects is likely to utilize the “Compliance” Model as a means to ensuring the value promised is the value delivered.
IT PMO Services
The services provided by an IT PMO depend on the type and model required by the IT organization. The available services fall into three layers – Enterprise Planning and Governance, Enterprise Program Management, and Project Management Support. The breadth and depth of services within each domain are customizable, depending on the IT organization's needs, maturity level, and resources.
Enterprise Planning and Governance – At this layer, the IT PMO provides critical support to the IT organization on planning, general management, and IT project oversight. Services may include support for IT strategy and budget formulation, implementation and support of the IT governance process, support of portfolio management and budget management activities, support of all acquisitions, policy development, and establishment and tracking of enterprise performance measures.
Enterprise Program Management – The IT PMO performs the critical coordination function for all IT programs and IT projects within the organization. The IT PMO defines and implements the project management methodology, providing project management training to the IT project managers, project sponsors, and project resources. The IT PMO coordinates resources across all projects, as well as identifies and communicates enterprise risks that may not be recognized by any single IT project. The IT PMO supports business relationship management at the enterprise level, ensuring the IT organization has established collaborative relationships and maintains a continuing dialogue with the business units. Without solid business relationships, the IT organization will not get credible input on business requirements and thus an IT project risks delivering less than the required features and functions.
Project Management Support – This layer encompasses the services the IT PMO provides directly to each IT project. Ideally, one or more resources from the IT PMO will be assigned to assist the IT project team with project planning, stakeholder communications, and management of scope, schedule, cost, risks/issues, resources and quality throughout the life cycle of the project. The IT PMO's ability to provide this level of support to each IT project largely depends on the number of IT projects in the organization, the number of IT PMO resources, and the maturity of the IT organization itself.
IT PMO versus EA
The IT PMO and EA are both interested in the successful execution of IT projects. Both entities grew out of the need to improve the success of IT projects and have gained significant influence in the public sector within the last 15 years. Both attempt to influence IT project management through their respective versions of standardized processes, best practice methodologies, and more oversight, and both the IT PMO and EA act as if their solution is the single path to success. But the truth is that both the IT PMO and EA serve different but complimentary roles in IT projects, and both are necessary to ensuring effective IT project execution.
Roles and Responsibilities
The IT PMO serves primarily as a support mechanism for the IT project manager. It coaches, mentors, and aids the IT project manager as he or she plans, executes, and controls the project. The IT PMO focuses on managing scope, cost, schedule, and communication with stakeholders. In addition, the IT PMO supports key IT management activities, such as strategic planning and investment reviews.
EA serves a more authoritative role. EA evaluates – both at the project outset and then throughout the project management methodology – whether the IT project adds strategic value to the business, offers positive return on the investment, and aligns technically with the existing organization. EA is a key stakeholder in strategy, architecture, and investment decisions.
Exhibit 3 below elaborates on the differences above, explaining the roles of both entities in key IT project management activities and IT project oversight.
Exhibit 3 - Responsibilities of the IT PMO and EA in Key IT Management Activities
This distinction between the IT PMO and EA described in Exhibit 3 does not mean the IT PMO lacks authority or that EA is not supportive in its role. As previously explained, the IT PMO may take on the compliance model, in which case the IT PMO has the authority to enforce, require, direct and even halt an IT project. Similarly, EA is available as a resource to guide and support an IT project on its implementation, in the same manner that the IT PMO does. The key takeaway is that the IT PMO and EA view the IT project from different but complimentary perspectives, and thus both are critical to executing the IT project.
With their different roles come different artifacts. The key deliverable – the product or service that results from the IT project – is of course the most important outcome. The IT PMO also captures unanswered requirements, new enterprise risks and issues, lessons learned, and opportunities for improvement to the IT project management methodology, IT processes and IT operations. Meanwhile, EA updates its reference models (e.g., Technical Reference Model) and architecture layers (e.g., Segment Architecture) to reflect any changes in business functions or processes, data, services, technologies, and/or performance measures.
The IT PMO and EA are both critical to the execution of IT projects, especially in the public sector. Each has a different yet complimentary role in ensuring each IT project is effectively managed throughout its life cycle, reaches its intended outcome in a timely, cost-efficient manner, and provides strategic business value. Therefore, the IT PMO and EA must work together in providing support and oversight to each IT project, ensuring that all guidance is well coordinated and communicated to the IT project team. Although this collaborative approach between the IT PMO and EA will not absolutely guarantee every IT project is a complete success, it will further mitigate against the high risk of IT project failure.
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© 2011, Kelly Schomburg, Troy Barker
Originally published as a part of 2011 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX