Is Your PMO “Being Switzerland?”

How do you pick a project management methodology in an organization with diverse lines of business?  Some time ago, I was asked to consult as a company made such a decision.  Early in the process I cautioned that forcing the selection of a single project management methodology was similar to demanding that a parent choose a favorite child.  Regardless of how hard you force the issues, it just can’t be done.  It was clear, however, that the company needed a solution that would work for everyone.

Project management was needed to address three distinct business problems:

  1. External customer management. Customer service faced ever-increasing pressure to improve relationships.  They needed to deliver accurate and timely results; provide reliable and consistent status updates; and ensure that customers were satisfied financially with the service.
  1. Internal infrastructure projects. Support teams bore the burden of making sure downtime did not occur.  Availability and system performance were paramount.  Upgrades and changes to systems simply could not be disruptive and had to be inconspicuous to customers.
  1. Internal software and application development. The company’s foundation was built on the delivery of technology solutions, often on the leading-edge of innovation.  Being “first-to-market” meant that any process applied to developers was flexible and fast.

As you might expect, the organization was structured around those three core competencies.  The corporate culture and business model granted each division the freedom to establish their own project management office (PMO) and choose the standards that best fit their need.  While that approach felt judicious at implementation, it eventually widened the gap between departments and hindered efficiency.  It wasn’t long until camps were formed and battle lines were drawn.  The good of the company was being sacrificed as the debate raged on.

My recommendation was simple: a missing organizational layer desperately needed to be added.  I suggested the formation of a Program Management Office under the oversight of an officer of the company, as illustrated below:

PMO_1

This approach provides a number of advantages.  It gives project management the visibility that it deserves at the corporate level.  Metrics can be developed to ensure profitability and efficiency.

Perhaps most importantly, this approach allows someone to be Switzerland.  No single methodology wins at the expense of all others.  Departmental PMOs continue to exist using the methods they choose, but they also understand that there are certain things which must be provided to the Program Management Office.  Some of these are listed in the illustration below:

PMO_2

While the company in question was obviously a large one, my recommendations can be just as easily applied to a small business.  This can be accomplished by simply assigning individual project managers, all of whom report to a single manager, to functional areas within the business.  In a day and age when “compromise” seems to be a dirty word and the need to win is everything, give this some consideration.

As always, folks, make it a great day!

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