Project Management Methodology in the Smaller PMO
Gerard M. Hill
Even the smallest PMO needs to focus on project management methodology development and implementation activities. There is a three-step approach that the smaller PMO can follow to ease the possible conditions of limited influence (authority) and staffing.
Establish Simple, Critical Processes for Project Management
Identify the standards to be referenced and initially build simple processes for a few of the more critical project management activities within the relevant organization. Such processes and associated practice areas that warrant attention include:
- Defining the project
- Preparing the business plan
- Preparing the project work plan (by using a work breakdown structure with estimates of cost, schedule, and resource utilization)
- Assessing and managing project risks
- Managing project quality and customer acceptance
- Assigning and managing project resources
- Acquiring and managing vendors/contractors
- Tracking and controlling project progress
- Reporting project status
- Conducting project close out
Processes for these or any other critical activities in the project management environment should be developed and implemented for use across multiple projectsby most if not all of the project managers in the relevant organization.
When success is achieved through implementation of initial processes, the process development effort then can be expanded for more comprehensive process and practice coverage across the project management life cycle.
Gain Increased Support for Process Expansion
The PMOs best intentions can be undermined by a lack of support for process (methodology) implementation by key project management participants. Therefore, it is essential for the PMO to elicit the support of project managers and senior management during this effort.
The smaller PMO can pursue the support of individual project managers in several ways:
- Solicit input of project managers in developing practices and techniques that are used to fulfill process steps
- Make the initial processes and practices reasonably understandable and easy to use
- Incorporate forms, templates, and checklists as tools that accompany process guidance, and solicit project manager input for their development
- Give project managers flexibility and leeway in scaling and determining process use for each project
- Introduce and formalize existing methods and procedures that currently work well for individuals and would benefit other project managers when used more widely within the relevant organization.
The smaller PMO can pursue senior management buy-in by demonstrating how a standard approach to project management, applied across all projects, provides business value. These means identifying business benefits that can be derived from introducing an effective series of processes or complete methodology, which can include the following:
- Improves business operating efficiency when tools and techniques are not being devised or "reinvented" by each project manager for every new project
- Enables roll-up (aggregation) of project information to senior managers on a prescribed regular basis for timely reviews that facilitate business decisions
- Ensures conformance to customer requirements and achievement of project objectives, providing better predictability for project and associated business performance indicators
- Provides for increased capability to achieve planned project schedules, and to effectively manage and control project costs
- Improves resource planning, acquisition, and management, and contributes to more effective team member interactions
- Conveys a common understanding of project responsibilities across the organization.
These are just a few of the many benefits an effective project management methodology can bring to the business environment. The smaller PMO should carefully examine its project management and business environments to identify those methodology benefits that would be of greatest interest to executives and senior managers in the relevant organization.
Expand and Incorporate Technical and Business Processes
The smaller PMO has presumably started with development and implementation of a small series of processes, practices and tools that are introduced for use by project managers that have been either convinced or coerced in their use. The PMO can now look at areas to expand those processes as a means to provide more complete life cycle coverage of project management in the relevant organization. Along with process expansion, the PMO should also continue its efforts to obtain the broader buy-in of all project managers, as well as executives and senior management. This is best accomplished by showing them the benefits already achieved by current methodology process users. So, even the smaller PMO will have to monitor and analyze methodology performance to some extent.
In turn, as the methodology is completed, technical performance activities can be linked to the process. It's likely that the smaller PMO will initially have just one prominent technical focus area to consider. It's also likely that the technical staff will already be using some form of technical process in the performance of their work. It will fall on the smaller PMO, then, to find ways in which to consolidate the two methods, preferably the technical methods will be integrated into the project management methodology. This linking model will allow other technical areas (of the relevant organization or across the enterprise) to similarly integrate a different set of technical methods to the same standard project management methodology, and that provides for consistent methodology use across the various types of technical-based projects within the relevant organization or the enterprise.
Likewise, the smaller PMO should look at business processes that interface with the project management environment. Very often the same business processes are used to support projects and project management, as are used to conduct routine business. The PMO can examine areas of project management in which such processes intersect, and make efforts to coordinate, collaborate and develop a common business process that can be incorporated into the project management methodology.
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