Saturday, January 13, 2007

Week 19 (Building a PMO)

Distributed v Centralized PMOs

Yeah, I’ve skipped a few weeks. My official excuse is that those were the holidays and not much was happening. Since you all know it’s because it was the holidays and I got lazy, let’s just pretend.

A comment I got a few weeks ago about staffing has had me thinking about PMO models. There are a lot, but the two extremes that come to mind are the highly-centralized versus the distributed. Let me just set my definitions of these two and then talk about where I see the problems and possible solutions.

Centralized PMO – this PMO would contain almost all the project management work, knowledge and oversight for a single group or organization. Within this department would be all the project managers, PM trainers, methodology and tool experts, mentors, and PM specialists. If you want project management, this is where you come.

Distributed PMO – in this model, the PMO is very small and probably contains no more than a few people who have primary responsibility for the tools, methodology and maybe reporting. The PMs and specialists are distributed in the teams, and PM training would be part of corporate training.

There are a lot of advantages and disadvantages to these models. I still hold that the centralized model is more effective to the larger organization overall, but that is not the point of this post. What I have been thinking about is how to use the best of these models in a more effective manner, so here are my thoughts on a hybrid model.

First we start with the model of a centralized PMO, but we limit the involvement of PMs from this area to only certain types of projects (strategic, cross-department, high profile…). Or – and I think this is one of the key benefits of a centralized PMO – these PMs would be available to help departments that do not have their own PM. All other projects are handled at different levels of the organization by “imbedded” PMs. This removes some of the staffing and inequality issues related to a central model.

Next we need to address the tendency of distributed models to move toward entropy with the PMO becoming ineffective methodology police. I have a real personal bias towards this, because I did not get into this career to run around telling others that they needed to run a phase-gate review using forms 21 – 36 before they could go on with their project. I believe that this creates an atmosphere of compliance and that is not what we are about.

So, how to move from compliance to integration where all PMs regardless of location use the same practices and procedures because they are the right ones, not because they are the only ones? I don’t have a full answer, but I think there are several steps in the right direction.

  1. Project Manager Rotation. This can be pretty tricky, but I think we should look at having this as part of a PM’s career path. The project manager would serve a certain period of time in the PMO (as a mentor, trainer, strategic PM, portfolio manager…) and another period as an imbedded PM. In fact moving from group to group would also work well. With the addition of timeframes such as no less than 6 months and no more than 2 years, we can keep up the circulation without constantly upsetting workflow.

Cross pollination of team members will create a group of project managers who have worked in multiple areas of the company. They have shared their knowledge, and learned about the business. This is consistent with the value of integrating project management within the organization. This also creates a cadre of professionals who have a wide understanding of the business and of management – not bad for any organization.

  1. A simple, flexible methodology. I know I harp on this a lot, but complicated methodologies are difficult to sustain, manage and follow. The truly useful and efficient methodology will be very simple, flexible and will not change often. Maybe methodology is the wrong term, maybe better a set of guidelines, practices, values and a framework. Trying to integrate a methodology with hundreds of forms and process steps is irrational in almost all cases.

Some other ideas come to mind, more on those later. I have to go move a refrigerator.

1 comment:

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