Project management office

a framework to understand organizational project management


Monique Aubry
University of Quebec, Montreal, Canada

Brian Hobbs
University of Quebec, Montreal, Canada

Denis Thuillier
University of Quebec, Montreal, Canada

This paper proposes a theoretical framework for understanding organizational project management (OPM). It is based on the assumption that the field currently lacks the theoretical foundations necessary to understand the overall picture. PMI—by publishing its maturity model OPM3® (Project Management Institute, 2003) and its standards on program and portfolio management (Project Management Institute 2006a and 2006b)—is helping expand the field of project management beyond its focus on the management of projects to include the management of programs, portfolios, and organizations as a means for helping organizations achieve their strategic objectives through projects, programs, and portfolios as well as OPM. The goal of OPM is not just to deliver projects on time, on budget, and in conformance with technical and quality specifications. The goal is to also create value for the business.

The literature currently lacks a clear conceptualization or definition of OPM. Globally, the present project management literature suffers from two missing elements: theoretical foundations and valid verified empirical models. These are related. The current literature focuses on a major professional tendency: Project management aimed at short-term results. Quite a few models exist, but the majority of these have not been examined through a solid empirical validation process. This paper aims to develop a conceptual framework for OPM that uses the project management office (PMO) as the organization's point of entry.

This framework draws from two theoretical fields: innovation and organization. Innovation theories build on the concepts of social innovation systems and coevolution theory, concepts that consider the history and the context of PMOs, at both the organizational and the micro levels. From innovation also comes network structure and Actor Network Theory (ANT): Both depict the PMO as a network. The former in its structural aspect, the latter in the relationship between actors. The competing values model is the concept of performance that is used in the framework. This model, drawn from the field of organizational theory, allows a plurality of perspectives to coexist. Together, these concepts open up new avenues in the study of OPM.

Although the field has not yet proven or measured the value of practicing project management, the project management community does believe that its value is not currently based on a solid theoretical foundation (Thomas & Mullaly, 2005). This is even more evident regarding the value of PMOs: The theoretical foundations for PMOs are almost nonexistent. The aim of this present research is to develop a theoretical framework that enables the field to understand a PMO's organizational performance and more broadly, OPM. We believe this is a prerequisite for any further work in formulating standards and prescriptions. Because of this, we address in this paper three specific questions:

  1. What is the current state of OPM?
  2. How should the PMO be structured, what role should it play?
  3. How can we understand organizational performance in an OPM context?

The paper is organized in three parts: a review of the literature, a discussion on the conceptual framework, and an overview of the proposed methodology to obtain empirical findings.

Literature Review

This literature review aims to build an understanding of the three founding fields informing this framework, fields that include organizational project management (OPM), project management office (PMO), and organizational performance. In doing so, it identifies the literature's lack of satisfactory answers to current issues.

Organizational Project Management (OPM)

Innovation is essential to an organization's survival (Schumpeter, 1950). Through strategy, organizations develop new products, new services, and new processes (Leonard-Barton, 1992). As a result, projects are increasingly important in an organization's quest to reach ambitious strategic objectives (Jamieson & Morris, 2004). But the organizational structures to execute regular business operations are unable to deliver project results within turbulent contexts (Hagstrom & Hedlund, 1999; Turner & Keegan, 2001). During the 1990s, new forms of organization emerged to support project implementation, forms such as the project-based organization (Pettigrew, 2003). In these new forms, organizations have found that project-oriented organizational forms comprise dynamic processes for organizing and strategizing (Pettigrew, 2003). As a result, a new order is emerging—OPM. Although the field lacks a clear definition of OPM, project professionals can draw an approximate definition from the literature, one that views project management from the perspectives of strategic alignment, program and portfolio management, and project-oriented organizations. These are the subjects we explore in the next three subsections. In the fourth subsection, we propose a preliminary definition of OPM.

Strategic Alignment: A need that becomes a function

Strategic alignment is associated with the prescription of harnessing the portfolios of disparate, proliferating projects into an efficient, coherent whole (Benko & McFarlan, 2003). Thus the need for strategic alignment serves an organizational function. Benko and McFarlan identified three facets of alignment; each affects business performance.

  • Matching more effectively the portfolio's objectives and the company's strategies to the realities of today's business environment;
  • Creating greater value and efficiency by managing the relationships between projects;
  • Building the organizational capacity for whatever future conditions emerge.

The recent literature depicts the first facet as one approached, either directly or indirectly, through the concepts of program and project portfolio management. (Both of which are the subject of the next subsection.) When facing environmental changes, organizations should adapt their strategic processes and adjust themselves quickly (Van den broecke, De Hertogh, & Vereecke, 2005). At the strategic level, project management—including program and project portfolio—serves as a means for implementing corporate strategy (Jamieson & Morris, 2004). In their work, Jamieson and Morris developed a hierarchy of strategic plans—from the corporate to portfolios, programs and finally, projects. This explains why—and how—project strategy is translated from business strategy through cascading activities supported by processes, practices, and people. Jamieson and Morris studied four cases to better understand the translation process. Their survey results show that project and program management are widely used to implement corporate strategy and that translating strategy into programs and projects is recognized as a core process. Despite the recognition of this core process, Jamieson and Morris concluded that a knowledge gap exists: “Project strategy management is an unexplored and insufficiently described subject in the business and project literature” (p. 204). It therefore seems as if a paradox exists: Between the organizational desirability of linking strategy and projects and the concrete organizational actions of realizing such alignment (Van den broecke et al., 2005). Recent empirical research shows that not all organizations succeed in linking projects and strategy. To implement strategies successfully, organizations must include projects and groups of projects—such as portfolios and programs—as a part of the strategy process (Dietrich & Lehtonen, 2005).

The second facet of strategic alignment, as proposed by Benko and McFarlan (2003), focuses on synergy created from managing the relationships between projects. In other words, the performance related to the management of the whole group of projects goes beyond the sum of the performance of the individual projects. The literature on programs and project portfolios identifies the benefits of managing these relationships. (Kendall & Rollins, 2003; Thiry & Matthey, 2005; Van den broecke et al., 2005). At present, however, these benefits are but wishful thoughts: Researchers have not yet validated these relationships through solid empirical studies.

The third facet, which focuses on preparing for the future, rarely appears—at least in a specific way—in the literature on strategic project management. The future is envisioned from an operational viewpoint rather than a strategic one, in relation to the evolution towards project management maturity (Cooke-Davies, 2004) and the development of resource competencies in project management (Crawford, L., 2002). In summary, the current project management literature only partially covers the full breadth of strategic alignment.

Program and Portfolio Management

It is not surprising to find some confusion in definitions for new concepts. This is the case in the literature on program and project portfolio management: It contains a semantic gap between the meanings attributed to program and project portfolio management (Van den broecke et al., 2005). In considering strategic alignment as a function within the organization, one can understand that this confusion stems from identifying the processes responsible for this function, and the differences between program and portfolio processes. Consequently, the differences in these functions depends upon the definition an author adopts.

Authors who adopt program management as the major process to link strategy and individual projects will attribute a secondary role to project portfolio management, one comprising project selection and support (Pellegrinelli, 1997; Thiry, 2004). Other authors consider project portfolio the major interface, where corporate strategy—at the top—cascades downwards to programs and then, to individual projects (Benko & McFarlan, 2003; Cooper, Scott, & Kleinschmidt, 1997a, 1997b; Gareis, 2004; Jamieson & Morris, 2004). In this sense, programs are at the heart of the project portfolio. There is also an essential structural component existing in the project portfolio context. This is the project priority board whose members are also members of the corporate board (Benko & McFarlen 2003).

Cooper et al. (1997a; 1997b) have studied these issues strictly from the perspective of portfolio management. They do not use the concept of program. Among the three facets of alignment, Cooper et al. have predominantly addressed the issue of aligning portfolio objectives and company objectives. They propose using several methodologies to balance a portfolio of projects; they also propose using a dynamic portfolio management process, one based on a continuous interaction between the stage-gate model that frames the project's progress and the portfolio review process.

Thiry (2004), however, views program management as a strategic process: “Program management […] is mainly a purposeful strategic decision management process, grounded in change and aimed at the effectiveness of solutions. It can include projects and non-project actions” (p. 262). Pellegrinelli (1997) reinforces the strategic role of programs in implementing strategy, one that goes beyond the Project Management Institute's (2004) more generalized definition of program management as “a group of related projects managed in a coordinated way to obtain benefits and control not available from managing them individually” (p. 16).

In referring to the three facets of alignment, the view of strategic program management addresses all three facets: Strategic project management matches program objectives to strategy, it looks at value creation, and it proposes organization capabilities. Both Thiry (2004) and Pellegrinelli (1997) propose a dynamic pattern of program evolution in relation to the time dimension. As far as both authors are concerned, however, there is a quasi-absence of portfolio management since programs are directly linked with strategy.

Project-based or Project-oriented organization

The terms project-oriented or project-based—and the more generic term managing by projects—are applicable to organizations that rely on the results of projects and programs to accomplish their strategic business objectives (Gareis, 2004). This approach goes beyond the classic view of project management structures, the view that answers such questions as: “How should we manage this project within our organization?” (Hobbs & Ménard, 1993; Larson, 2004). The classic project organization literature proposes that organizations select the most appropriate project organizational model based on the project's characteristics and the authority of the project manager (Hobbs & Ménard, 1993). The three models most typically selected are functional organization, matrix organization, and organization by project (Larson, 2004; Project Management Institute, 2004). More recently, Larson (2004) has identified a fourth model, the network structure, a model that is formed with external partners.

The question most often asked in the project-oriented organization focuses on organizational change: “How should we structure the organization for more effective project delivery?” This question goes beyond the examination of the strict project structure; it focuses on the position of one project in relation to the organization. It attempts to address the project structural problem at the organizational level by advocating for a different perspective. It results in research agendas from different schools. Among others, Turner and Keegan (1999) initiated a research program at Rotterdam's Erasmus University, a program that took a transaction cost perspective. They proposed looking at the versatile project-oriented firm as a dual set of functions: one that uses governance to set the strategic direction and one that implements operational control to manage clients, inputs, processes, and outputs.

More recently, Lampel and Jha (2004) explored the relationship between projects and the corporate environment through the construct of project orientation. From their initial findings, they concluded that this interface is a locus of tension between projects and the organization, one that leads to friction and sometimes failure. This insight confirms that it is necessary to understand global organizations that realize projects—in dynamic environments—while concurrently performing general operations.

The literature on strategic alignment, program and portfolio management, and project-oriented organizations identifies clues to help approximate what is OPM. What we need now is to go further and propose a more formal definition.

A Preliminary Definition for Organizational Project Management (OPM)

From what has been said, none of the preceding themes brings a global approach to the nature of OPM, one that is comparable to the scope of literature on organizational management. If project management is present at all levels in the organization, then the definition of OPM should reflect this fact. We therefore propose this definition:

Organizational project management of the firm is a configuration in which dynamic structures are articulated as means to implement corporate strategy through projects in order to get maximum value.

Configuration is a way to describe organizations without having to delve into a great number of variables where only a few are of importance. Variables tend to gain value through harmonization (Mintzberg, 1989). Configuration is a way to reduce complexity and to consider only the combination of values that are of interest. In this perspective, the focus is on the mixture of variables rather than one variable that would explain all others. Structures are, therefore, the result of a dynamic strategizing/structuring process (Pettigrew, 2003). Whenever organizational strategy is one of development (through new products, new services, or new process), projects are initiated to meet strategic objectives. Projects are managed within flexible structures put in place in order to deliver results. Those results represent value that can be assessed in terms of organizational performance.

This definition encompasses all the levels of the overall organization. It is also flexible, so that organizations can adapt it to different project management contexts. Such configurations can generate different structural forms and may include additional components, such as programs and portfolios as well as PMOs, which comprise a major component of OPM.

Project Management Office (PMO)

The professional literature on PMOs is relatively plentiful. But in the scientific literature, PMOs are relatively absent (Benko & McFarlen, 2003; Bridges & Crawford, 2001; Crawford, K., 2002; Dinsmore, 1999; Duggal, 2001; Kendall & Rollins, 2003). The professional literature on PMOs deals principally with three themes: the justification of the PMO's existence, its roles and functions, and its implementation steps.

Although PMOs date back to the 1950s (Wells, 1999), it was only in the 1990s that this concept emerged and expanded. This emergence of—and the need for—PMOs is associated with the evolution of project management, with the increased number and complexity of projects, both of which led to the field's developing a certain form of management centralization (Marsh, 2000). However, the reality of PMOs is highly divergent (Crawford, 2004; Hobbs & Aubry, 2005 & 2006). Its presence in organizations challenges the established power balance that existed between project management on one side and business units and functional units on the other (Lampel & Jha, 2004). As a result, the PMO's legitimacy is often questioned; its performance expectations, however are very high, particularly in regards to the level of importance that its functions should assume in its mandate (Hobbs & Aubry, 2005).

Because of this, the definition of PMO must cover a broad range of many organizational realties. The definition of the PMO outlined by the Project Management Institute (2004) recognizes this diversity:

“An organizational body or entity assigned various responsibilities related to the centralized and coordinated management of those projects under its domain. The responsibilities of the PMO can range from providing project management support functions to actually being responsible for the direct management of a project” (p. 17).

fulfills, functions that emphasize tools, processes, and more generally, efficiency in relation to budget and time (Duggal, 2001).

Another approach to defining the PMO is to focus on the functions it fulfills. The traditional functions that emphasize tools, processes and more generally PMO efficiency in terms of budget and time are present in almost all PMOs (Duggal, 2001). But a new generation of PMOs also exists, one that includes more diverse functions, one more fully reflects the PMOs evolution. In this lineage, Duggal proposed an innovative PMO that achieves a balance between efficiency and creativity, one that promotes continual innovation and adapts to the changing needs of project management. Crawford (2004) identified nearly seventy-five unique PMO functions. Some authors had already suggested intuitive groupings (Kwak & Dai, 2000). Hobbs and Aubry (2005, 2006) have identified statistical groupings of functions of a large sample of PMOs. This research identifies five groups of functions and three unique functions that are all statistically independent. The description and analysis of PMOs is greatly simplified by using a shorter list of groups of functions.

PMO literature outlines steps for successfully implementing PMOs. These steps vary according to PMO type. These steps are divided into two classifications. The first comprises two types; it is based on the fact that the PMO is responsible or not for operational results of projects (staff or line) (Hobbs, Ménard, Laliberté, & Coulombe, 1999). The second classification, from Bridges and Crawford (2001), proposes a more complete representation: It integrates two dimensions—the where and the what. The where corresponds to the PMO's organizational position; the what relates to the PMO's real authority.

In sum, the PMO is multifarious. It can take on numerous structural configurations. This raises several questions: What functions? Where in the organization? Under what authority? Current theoretical foundations have failed to answer these questions. More important, most studies of PMOs consider the world to be at a standstill. These studies are based on snap-shots frozen in time. Researchers should develop new theoretical approaches using a longitudinal perspective, one that provides a better understanding of the evolution of PMOs and global OPM.

Organizational Performance

Performance is nearly always the ultimate dependent variable in the literature on organizations, in general and on the specific subject of multi-project management. The problem facing researchers is establishing a reliable relationship between performance and other variables at a comparable level of analysis. It is therefore essential that researchers clarify the level of analysis between projects and project management as well as between each level in the organizational structure.

The first question worth exploring is the difference between projects and project management. In the context of performance, project success is measured by the project team's realization of the project's business objectives; project management success is instead evaluated by using traditional criteria related to project costs, schedule, and quality (Cooke-Davies, 2002). Cooke-Davis also distinguishes the overall organizational level of performance. The strategic alignment literature additionally introduces the concept of cascading levels of performance, levels that descend from the corporate level down to the portfolio and program levels before reaching the project level (Dietrich & Lehtonen, 2005; Jamieson & Morris, 2004). The concept of performance has its origin in the old French parfournir; a work that is now commonly associated with accomplishment. This etymology brings up a key concern: What is accomplished by project management and how should we evaluate it?

The literature on the subject is classifiable into two types: economic and pragmatic. The economic relates to researchers who try to demonstrate how project management contributes to the sponsoring organization's bottom line (Dai & Wells, 2004; Ibbs, Reginato, & Kwak, 2004). Interestingly, these researchers have failed to convincingly demonstrate the economic value of investing in project management. Research by Ibbs et al. (2004) shows findings that are not statistically significant (Thomas & Mullaly, 2005). Clearly demonstrating the direct influence of project management on ROI is not easily accomplished. In addition, reducing project management value to financial indicators underestimates project management's major contributions to organizational success, particularly in relation to such areas as innovation (Turner & Keegan, 2004), process (Winch, 2004), and people (Thamhain, 2004). Many researchers have, however, often acknowledged the multifaceted concept of project success (Dietrich & Lehtonen, 2005; Shenhar, Dvir, Levy, & Maltz, 2001).

The second type of literature, the pragmatic, relies on the global propositions issued by consultants, propositions indicating the way to succeed in implementing and managing the PMO (Benko & McFarlan, 2003; Crawford, K., 2002; Kendall & Rollins, 2003). Many professional publications suggest that rapid economic results are possible through PMOs; one such publication is “Advanced Project Portfolio Management and the PMO: Multiplying ROI at Warp Speed” (Kendall & Rollins 2003). Despite such propositions, demonstrating the value of a PMO remains a difficult task to accomplish.

The balanced scorecard approach has been proposed to assess project management performance (Norrie & Walker 2004; Stewart 2001). This approach has an advantage over the traditional economic vision in that it encompasses four complementary perspectives. Its foundations, however, rest on ROI: It structures the creation of value hierarchically towards financial value (Kaplan & Norton, 1996; Savoie & Morin, 2002).

Several authors have addressed the problem of performance by attempting to identify success factors. Cooke-Davies (2002, 2004) proposes a system of success factors derived largely from empirical data; this system comprises a set of twelve factors related to the three distinct ways of looking at performance: project management success (schedule and cost), project success (benefits), and corporate success (processes and decisions to translate strategy into programs and projects). Furthermore, Cooke-Davies (2004) argues that these three groups are intimately linked: Corporate project and program practices create the context for individual project and program practices. While success factors allow us to understand the theoretical reasoning behind OPM, these do not allow researcher to appreciate concrete results, in other words, the performance.

There is no consensus regarding the way the field should assess the value of project management performance. The financial approach alone cannot correctly measure the value of OPM. And project success is an approximation that is a rather imperfect system for measuring results. Researchers could examine new approaches in order to extricate ourselves from what looks like a dead-end: After all, project management is a multidisciplinary field with a variety of ways for evaluating project management value.

In the three areas that the current project management literature explores, we have found a need to renew our understanding of OPM. The traditional positivist approach and the limited concentration of research on project management tools and practices take us down a path from which we must veer. We must integrate the few good theoretical initiatives that do exist on the subject with a more holistic view of the organization. We must find new paths that we can adopt from other theoretical fields. We propose using this method to integrate the conceptual framework outlined below.

A Conceptual Framework

The aim of this conceptual framework is to formalize concepts that are essential and parsimonious to accomplishing the objectives of this theoretical contribution. Our literature review has identified a research space within which this theoretical framework can fit. In Figure 1, we illustrate this framework's three key concepts: social innovation system, PMO, and organizational performance. In the following subsections, we discuss these concepts.

Social Innovation System

Organizations do not exist in isolation. This is why our framework positions organizations within the innovation system. Organizations are comprised of numerous interrelated systems—social, economic, political—through which history plays a dynamic role. Projects have existed since the beginning of time; and large organizations, as we know them today, have existed for more than 100 years. Because of this, we must look at systems of innovation from three complementary perspectives: the historical, the coevolutionary, and the typological. The boundaries between these perspectives are permeable and illustrate—as dotted lines—the exchanges between concepts and environment.

The historical perspective involves three levels of analysis: business context, organization practices, and project management practices. The business context provides information on an organization's industry, such as the key institutional actors and competitors as well as their industry's level of technological innovation. Organizational history provides information about the organization's origin and evolution (both economically and structurally). The organization's history provides information on how an organization adapted to meet changes and challenges in its business environment. And knowing the history of an organization's project management practices yields precious information for understanding the situation of PMOs today. Likewise, knowing how project management historically transitioned from the defense and the aeronautics sectors—where modern project management was created—to the services sectors, where the practice of project management is more recent (Kerzner, 2003), might shed new light on the PMO's role.

The coevolution perspective is the one that will help us to understand the PMO's evolution within an organization. This perspective applies to study at a micro level (as opposed to the organizational community level), where periods are punctuated by major events (Van de Ven & Garud, 1994). This perspective classifies events into three types: technological, rule-making. and rule-following. These events occur and coevolve over time to facilitate and to constrain an innovation's development. In the PMO context, technological events are related to the project management information system (planning software, networking, enterprise database, monitoring system). Rule-making can give rise to situations of tension between the PMO and other functional units as well as between the PMO and the project and program managers. The issue in this perspective is to determine who will impose the rules of the game. Rule-following events confirm process standardization: Rules are followed if the group accepts the rules, and if they do, there exists a relatively stable environment until a new technological event shatter this stability. This process continues over and over again, alternating as it does between periods of initiation, expansion, and stabilization.

The conceptual framework for PMO research

Figure 1. The conceptual framework for PMO research

Innovations are classified using two typologies: scope and source. Classifying innovations under scope is based on a 1934 proposal developed by Schumpeter (Drejer, 2004) and includes five areas: product, process, market, input, and organization. This first classification, however, is incomplete: It is incapable of distinguishing between the particularities of the service and the manufacturing industries. The everyday reality of each industry's PMOs may differ. For example, in the service industries, innovation is usually external (Tether, 2005); in manufacturing, innovation is typically internal and often linked to research and development (R&D). It is the second classification that identifies innovation as internal versus external.

All changes are not necessarily innovations. As proposed by Tether (2005), innovation differs from change in three ways:

  1. Innovation involves non-routine activities that intentionally aimed at improvements, in what is provided or at the efficiency of a future provision;
  2. Innovation includes a certain degree of uncertainty with the perspective of sunk costs if the effort is abandoned;
  3. Innovation could involve the integration of many small changes.

Our conceptual framework uses these three characteristics to bring rigor to PMO analysis because innovation can occur everywhere and our emerging theory might suffer from a looseness of specificity. The concept of a social system of innovation influences choices in the methodological strategy. A longitudinal study will better encompass the history of the organization and the PMO.

The PMO in the Conceptual Framework

As described above, organizations are continually transforming. When considering how organizations have evolved since the Second World War, the balance between organizational exploitation and organizational exploration has tipped toward the latter. Today, project management is associated with exploration and is distinct from exploitation. Innovation that gives rise to new organizational components—the PMO is one of these components—that are then organized in networks challenges the configurations proposed by Mintzberg (1989). Today, organizations implement both exploitation and exploration activities (Hedlund, 1994). This partly explains the PMO's complexity. It is a complexity that mirrors the complexity inherent in its sponsoring organization. Because of this, project management professionals need a new conceptual approach that better reflects this complexity.

The PMO is treated here as a concept that enables us to break down the barriers and boundaries existing in the field's perception of the PMO's reality and to propose new avenues for looking at this component within OPM. The PMO is the point of entry into the organization; it is, therefore, the focus of this investigation on project management and its contribution to organizational performance. When implemented in a context lacking predetermined models and types of configurations for OPM, the PMO formalizes project management's roles and processes. Conceptually speaking, the PMO doesn't refer to a unique structural entity within an organization; instead, it encompasses all the management activities an organization undertakes in order to develop new products, services, or processes.

To better understand the PMO, we adopted two theoretical fields that we found in the innovation literature. Both fields are based on the concept of a network. The first one is from Hagstrom and Hedlund (1999). It uses a three-dimensional framework (position, knowledge, action) to understand PMO structure. It formalizes the PMO's multidimensional typology; it can potentially capture the dynamic and non-hierarchical way in which the PMO works. This framework's first dimension—position—refers to the structural organization of people and units in terms of formal status, situation, and authority. The second dimension, knowledge, consists of knowledge and competencies that are distributed among organizational networks. And the third dimension—action—refers to the way that organizations accomplish their activities. Do they work through hierarchies or in teams? Because the PMO's roles and functions are subject to different set-ups, it is often designed to ensure that the PMO's organization transmits knowledge and realizes actions. This part of the framework sheds light on the PMO's structural side by breaking down the complexity into three dimensions. The PMO builds relationships between numerous actors (some, non-human), all of which are involved in project management.

The second theoretical field brings this relationship to the forefront through the Actor Network Theory (ANT) (Callon & Law, 1989). In this perspective, the PMO functions as a translation center that gathers project information from different sources and integrates it with intermediary deliverables that are then disseminated through the organization's different levels. These translation activities encourage debates between actors, debates that successively strengthen some networks to the detriment of others. This theory enables researchers to identify different actor networks and to understand the purpose of these networks in relation to the PMO. This implies that the structural dimensions and the ANT are two sides of the same coin: Both are tightly interwoven, with one complementing the other. And together, these provide new insight for understanding the PMO's key concepts.

Organizational Performance

In the framework, organizational performance has been called the competing values approach. It is an approach that views organizational performance as a subjective construct rooted in stakeholder values and preferences (Cameron & Quinn, 1999). Contrary to the concept that performance is measurable through concrete universal indicators, organizational performance—or organizational effectiveness—refers to perceptions: It is a judgment of an organization, individual, or group, and more specifically, of their activities, products, results, and effects with respect to expectations (Morin, Savoie, & Beaudin, 1994).

The organizational performance model underlying this approach is based on the importance of what is valued and by whom it is valued. It recognizes the presence of multiple competing representations of performance (Pettigrew, 2003). In this approach, it is important to acknowledge the presence of these values and to build on them. Knowing the performance representations allows managers to elaborate on action plans so as to correct any deviation from an organization's intended goal; it uses a holistic approach in planning for success (Cameron & Quinn, 1999). None of the approaches to organizational performance discussed here is entirely satisfactory. Each brings important contributions, but as a whole, these are missing the organizational glue necessary to deliver results. The competing values model has the potential to integrate the financial view of performance with other dimensions, and in doing so, to form a multifaceted view. The model's four dimensions give an overall representation of OPM performance. The rational goals dimension integrates economics value to measure profit, project management efficiency, and return on investment (ROI). The open system dimension contains variables that measure growth and consider project benefits. The human relations dimension considers human resource development, cohesion, and morale, areas that are almost invisible in corporate evaluations. The internal process dimension captures the results of measures related to those corporate processes linked to project management, processes such as program and portfolio management as well as knowledge management. This approach looks directly at the performance issue instead of approximating it with success factors.

A unique and static organizational model does not exist. Organizing is an ongoing job and researchers and managers must use reliable indicators that can translate the multiple and competing values found in organizations. The flexible organization, for example, requires flexible monitoring. With this model in place, organizations can implement actions with the assurance that they are obtaining results identified as successful. Implementing such practices is what constitutes a world-class organization. Organizations must examine their performance using different and clearly defined levels. Using the PMO as the point of entry facilitates multiple levels of analysis. The PMO is in contact with projects, programs, portfolios, corporate strategy, and many functional units. It is ideally placed to encompass multiple perspectives on performance.

This model identifies these paradoxes and sheds light on competing values. It makes it possible to recognize each stakeholder's predominant value in the context of the PMO network and the different phases of the PMO life cycle. The model includes 17 criteria distributed in each of the four quadrants.

The relationship between the PMO concept and the organizational concept is of major importance. We have observed that the PMO is a dynamic organizational component that evolves over time. Its structural changes affect the way an organization assesses its performance. It is important to note that different PMO configurations should have different configurations of organizational performance. Is there any pattern in this coevolution? The three-concept framework could potentially discover such a pattern and inform a theory for understanding PMO organization performance.

Overview of the Proposed Methodology

The aim of this paper is to make a theoretical contribution to the field of project management. we will have empirical results proving the value of this contribution by the end of 2006, following our analysis of four case studies. In this paper we have discussed the essentials of our methodological model. Our methodological strategy is based upon a constructivist epistemology that represents an enhancement of the more traditional and positivist approach in project management research (Bredillet 2004). Because organizations are complex social entities, we have designed a methodological strategy that will enable us to capture knowledge and to understand organizational complexity. We will following the qualitative approach of grounded theorizing to create new theoretical foundations. We have developed data collection strategies using a phenomenological approach to investigate the internal logic through which project management contributes to organizational performance. Using this, we will gather both quantitative and qualitative data from organizational documents, systems, and interviews. We will codify the qualitative data using software by ATLAS.ti. This will facilitate our systematic analysis. By using a grounded theorizing approach (Patton, 2002; Strauss & Corbin, 1998), we can analyze the data as we collected it and compared it with the preliminary framework. Throughout our research, we will continually modify the framework. From this, we expect significant additional variables to emerge. We will adjust our data collection strategy so as to validate and complete the evolving framework. This will require an intensive and interactive process. Once we complete our analysis of the case studies, we will more systematically and completely analyze the data and develop and enrich the framework.

The strength of this approach is that it captures contextual richness and encourages understanding, two elements required when extricating—from the complexity—the main thread that links OPM to organizational performance. However, there are weaknesses in the qualitative approach that could bring the legitimacy of its results into question. The methodological answer stands on rigor. Therefore, triangulation is the best strategy to guarantee a high level of rigor. We suggest using four types of triangulation so as to reach higher levels of rigor: data, investigator, theory, and methodology.

As mentioned, we will investigate four case studies. In doing so, we will examine homogeneity along with heterogeneity so as to obtain the richest data collection possible. We will base homogeneity on the internal customer, on the intensity of innovation and criteria, such as size of the organization. We will base heterogeneity on the industrial sector. We expect to complement our empirical study by the end of 2006.



This paper outlined a theoretical contribution to project management research. It proposes that by revisiting organizational and innovation theories, researchers can develop fresh concepts that mirror the complexity of organizations where projects are an important structuring component. This paper seeks to establish a relationship between configuration and organizational performance; it discussed models of successful OPM, not as a one size fits all but rather as a set of configuration principles or rules that produce certain performance results in certain contexts.

We close by reviewing our initial three questions. First, the field currently lacks a cohesive and pervasive definition of OPM. We have already provided such a definition that encompasses all the roles and functions from the strategic apex to the operational base. Through our framework, we suggest that OPM should be understood in a social system of innovation where history plays a decisive role. Second, our framework suggests understanding the PMO as a network and not as a hierarchy. This approach will enable researchers and practitioners to tackle internal organizational complexity. From this may emerge new configurations of OPM. Third, plurality fits well with project management and the competing value model represents a promising path to overcome the actual dead end in assessing organizational performance.

Both researchers and professionals should benefit from this study: They can acquire a common language that will help them more reliability study configuration and performance. It will then be possible to elaborate specific standards for the PMO.

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