Forget about building the PMO, build the project management system!

A large percent of organizations – at least in the “West” – have project management offices (PMO), so why are we saying “forget about building the PMO”? Well for once to grab your attention:).

The PMO PoliceOn a serious notes, some organizations that are implementing a PMO, they implement with it the project management system and this is good – we can learn from these organizations. On the other hand, some organizations implement a PMO – supposedly to improve project management in the organization – but what they end up implementing is a reporting (spy) agency or a police force.

The communication gap

We think many will agree that project management is still an emerging domain in some regions, countries, and organizations. Not all executives do have a good understanding of what project management, PMO, PM certifications, or PM Maturity are all about. These executives might not know the difference between a PMO and the organizational PM System. If these executives learn about the strategic value of project management then it is natural to expect that if they build a PMO in their organization they would realize significant benefits.

The reality is – we have a gap between expectations and requirements. What happen, often, is that executive hire consultants to build a PMO for them thinking that will meet their expectations of enhancing organizational performance. When consultants, or internal staff, implement the PMO they are likely to focus on reporting; or maybe a bit more. In other words, they might implement the functions from the first two or three boxes from the following image.

The SUKAD PMO Continuum

General background

In the past, we have published a few articles about project management office, and failure in implementing project management. These five articles build on each others and serve as a proper background for this article. This is a link to one of those articles.

In addition, the last three articles focused on similar topics, but with emphasis on implementing project management in NGO environment. This specific article builds on the first of those three articles by presenting our model for organizational project management.

In one of those past articles we stated:

“Project management maturity is about implementing (Building) the project management system … … we mean the organizational system starting with the strategic aspects and including other elements; such as: methodology for managing projects and programs, processes, competence and performance management, leadership and professional development, etc. Then the question would be: how to build the project management system, leading to a higher level of project management maturity with the ultimate purpose of reaching toward a Project Management Center of Excellence?

How to build the project management system?

There are many ways and not sure if there is a single BEST way. Based on our experience, we would prefer a staged approach that is built on The SUKAD Way; our approach for managing ‘single’ projects and managing the organizational projects. This approach we brand as: The 7Es™: The SUKAD Seven Elements of Project Management Maturity™. At this time, we did not design our model (The 7Es™) to use for performing a maturity assessment that gives us a score from 1 to 5. Our model is for building a sustainable project management system, FIRST AND FOREMOST. Once a system is in place and in use, the organization can use our model for a high level qualitative assessment … or chose to go with more quantitative assessment in line with other models.

The SUKAD 7Es – Seven Elements of Project Management Maturity™

We represent the model graphically in this following figure, and below the figure we will explain each element, briefly. SUKAD offers this as a service for organizations.

The SUKAD 7Es™ (Seven Elements of Project Management Maturity)

The SUKAD 7Es™ (Seven Elements of Project Management Maturity™) – a Model for Building the Organizational Project Management System

To download a full size image, please click here.

The strategic element

Organizational and Strategic Aspects

—This is the outer element (ring) and ideally, organizations should start and end here. What does this means? In any initial system set up we need to understand the current state, define the desired outcome to understand the gaps. At the start, we need to charter the program (building the PM system is a program – with multiple projects – in our opinion) and with the strategic objectives. Once the organizational stakeholders reach alignment one can move ahead with the rest of the elements.

During the program, we will refer to the charter for guidance and to ensure continuing on the right track.

At the end, we need to verify that we have addressed all matters and to measure success.

The fundamental elements

Methodology

—This elements is mostly about:

  • —To adopt a simplified project management methodology,
  • Methodology should be project life span based that cover projects from idea to closure; and beyond,
  • Organization should customize/adapt the methodology to organizational environment,
  • Organization should decide on stages, key deliverables, and approval points—,
  • Organization personnel must exercise discipline in the use of the methodology,
  • Some options for a methodology (function of application area/industry): PRINCE2, SDLC, Agile, SUKAD CAM2P™ Model; or build your own.

Process and Functions

For this element we suggest implementing the PMI Framework.

  • Project Management —Functions is what PMBOK® Guide calls Knowledge Areas,
  • PMBOK® Guide offers us five process groups,
  • The process groups are: initiating, planning, executing, monitoring & controlling, and closing,
  • Processes and process groups repeat during a project life span; applicable in each phase.

Tools and Technology

  • —Touches on all core elements,
  • Include templates, checklists, process maps/flowcharts,
  • Include spreadsheet, mind maps …,
  • Include software tools and applications,
  • Tools and technology is important for maximizing efficiency not effectiveness,
  • Common pitfalls: some organizations start here when they want to build PM System!

Professional Development

The major components are:

  • —Structured professional development for all organizational levels,
  • —Project management and PM system awareness program for all impacted personnel
  • More in depth learning for champions; certification is not a must but diversification is important,
  • Mentoring and coaching program.

The differentiating elements

Leadership and Competence Framework

  • Career management; including a framework, career path approach, and professional ladder,
  • —Competence/competency are about proven abilities,
  • Require knowledge, skills, and attitude/behaviors,
  • It is difficult to assess and require evidence of performance,
  • Should be implement for project managers & team members,
  • IPMA Competence Baseline and GAPPS offer good resources.

Knowledge Management & Organizational Learning

The main components of this aspect are:

  • —Organizational learning and knowledge sharing,
  • Lessons learned system (to capture and use),
  • Historical projects information and databases,
  • —Can be quite simple for most small and medium organizations,
  • For larger organization this could be quite sophisticated,
  • The key is to be organized and systematic.

—Conclusion and summary

What we offer here is one approach and we briefly mentioned the components of the various elements. We also mentioned that we prefer an extended approach to implementing a sustainable project management system. We did not elaborate much on this last point (maybe a future case study).

In the past, we have discussed various topics related to PMO and PM System and even PMO failure. To achieve success, we need to avoid some of the mistakes that we had discussed, go with the extended approach, and separate PMO implementation from PM System implementation; they are different things!

Have you tried something similar or is your approach is different? Please share!