Although the Clinger-Cohen act was passed in 1996 that mandated a capital planning and investment control process, PPM as it’s found in the private sector is only just making its way to the federal government. As a recent memorandum from the Executive Office of the President notes, ‘the stove-piped and complex nature of the Federal enterprise has led over the years to a proliferation of duplicative and low priority investments in information technology (IT).’
The Federal Government is now focusing on maximizing the return on American taxpayers’ investment in government IT by instituting a new IT portfolio management process. Their goal is to root out waste across the Federal IT portfolio and avoid investment in low priority and duplicative ITinvestments.
As the Federal Chief Information Officer mentions in a blog post, over the next year agencies are required to lead agency-wide IT portfolio reviews within their respective organizations. This will lead totargets for IT spending reductions, illustrate how investments within the ITportfolio align with the agency’s mission and business functions, establishcriteria for identifying wasteful, “low-value,” or duplicative investments and improve governance and program management.
As election seasonstarts, it will be interesting to see how the different candidates discuss costreduction for the federal government. For our part, Daptiv recently partnered up with Winvale to help the government agencies with thiseffort. We hope over the next few years we can share some of our experience tohelp the US government’s IT portfolio reduce costs and improve business
Organize to fit the work.
This seems like a simple concept, but whether you’re setting up a new PMO, or expanding/re-organizing an existing PMO, getting the right organization can be daunting. Not only do you need to define the right roles, you also need to think about getting the right people with the best knowledge, skills and abilities to fill those roles. Here are some thoughts about how you can go about building an optimal PMO organization.
While there seems to be general agreement that a PMO provides a focal point for projects and project-related processes, practices and tools, there is no cookie-cutter definition of what is PMO is, what it does or who is needed to run it. PMOs are by nature highly situational; they reflect the unique needs and challenges of their client or parent organization. Needless to say understanding and articulating your PMO’s value proposition and business objects are the critical starting point. A critical point to remember is that when you start the discussion about organizing, you really need to focus on what you do.
What your PMO does, or needs to do, to meet its objectives and provide value is the key step in translating those too often broad, lofty strategic statements into the tactical, assignable activities that real people need to execute. It’s very similar to the way we define projects - we start with strategies and business objectives and we end up with defined deliverables, tasks and assignments.
So assuming that you’ve been diligent about defining what you do, here are some thoughts about who you might need to do it.
PMO Administrators: Most PMOs are heavily tasked with collecting data, distributing information and coordinating review and governance activities. In a perfect world all of these things would be auto-magical but in the real world someone needs to make them happen. From sending ‘gentle reminders’ to managers that their reports are due to coordinating calendars and distributing meeting materials, the PMO administrator plays a key role in making sure that the internal processes run smoothly. The best administrators also play a role in creating and communicating those internal processes across the PMO stakeholder community. Superior organizational skills, patience, persistence and good people skills are all a must!
PMO Analysts: There are potentially several different analytical positions and job titles appropriate to a PMO; process analyst, information analyst, tools analyst, business analyst, etc.. So what does an analyst do? In the PMO context, the analysts are the people who dive into the details:
Great analysts – of any kind – are excellent at open listening and are exceptional critical-thinkers. They use details, but they don’t get bogged down in them and can explain their methods and thinking to others.
Project Managers: The great debate is not about what project managers do, but whether they should be centralized in the PMO. One side argues that because the PMO is responsible for the practice of project management, all project managers should report and/or be accountable to the PMO. The decentralization side argues that project managers should have a strong working knowledge of the business or technical aspects of projects and should thus report into the functional area executing or sponsoring the project. PMO’s are concerned about adherence to project management standards, and mitigate risk by having deploying professional project managers. Functional areas are concerned with the quality of the project deliverables and the need to understand the project’s business and technical issues.
The answer is that both sides are right and wrong. In practice, most successful organizations are those that recognize the need for a mixed model. Large, complex, cross-functional Programs and Projects require a dedicated manager who can effectively oversee the project across the enterprise. As a ‘center of practice’ the PMO is the appropriate ‘home’ for these project (or program) managers. Conversely, a smaller, intra-functional project may not require the same level of project management rigor and could be effectively managed by a functional resource – a ‘project leader’ as opposed to a ‘project manager’. Using a mixed approach is not without its challenges, but there are also some compensating benefits.
A key challenge is determining the criteria for which projects require ‘project managers’ vs. ‘project leaders’ , which then need to be applied to during the project intake process. Those criteria should be focused on risk mitigation, not availability of qualified project managers. Assigning a project leader to a mission-critical project because all the PMO’s project managers are busy invites disaster. There must also be clear expectations and accountability for things like status reporting – as information generated by project leader is needed by the PMO to provide enterprise-level visibility into projects and portfolios.
Key benefits of centralized project managers include ensuring an adequate level of management for large complex projects, and providing the enterprise as a whole with subject matter experts in project management. These expert PMs can assist in establishing project management processes, educating or assisting others in their use, and increasing the overall project management maturity of the organization.
The PMO Manager/Leader: Last, but not least, we come to the head of the PMO. In his 1990 Harvard Business Review article, ‘What Leaders Really Do,’ John Kotter asserts that management is fundamentally different from leadership. According to Kotter good managers deal with complexity by planning and budgeting, organizing and staffing, and controlling and problem solving. By contrast, leaders cope with change; setting direction, aligning people to that direction, and motivating and inspiring people to keep in the right direction.
The effective PMO manager is both manager and leader. This individual establishes the plan for what the PMO will do, manages the work and the staff and ensures tactical objectives are met. At the same time the head of the PMO fills the pivotal leadership role for the PMO team and for the practice of project and portfolio management across the organization. While the PMO manager spearheads efforts for creating and maintaining processes to ensure consistent predictable project performance, the PMO leader is continually working across the enterprise to encourage the adoption of those processes and the use of the information they provide. The effective PMO leader is continuously adapting themselves and the PMO to support the needs of the organization.
In conclusion, setting up and organizing a PMO requires forethought and preparation. Some things to keep in mind:
And, of course, organize to fit the work.