Academic journal article SAM Advanced Management Journal

Bridge over Troubled Water: Implementation of a Program Management Office

Academic journal article SAM Advanced Management Journal

Bridge over Troubled Water: Implementation of a Program Management Office

Article excerpt

Organizations and businesses of all sizes across all industries increasingly find themselves confronted with the need to implement substantial projects essential to company growth. The need may be reactive, arising from competitive and operational necessity, or proactive, to obtain a competitive advantage. This need for projects is particularly true in the information systems arena, where return on investment (ROI) has taken on significant importance and visibility. (Return on Innovation, 2003) Regardless of the impetus, the need for projects in an organization has grown in recent years, as has their scope and difficulty.

Unfortunately, research has shown that the track record of effective management, control, and outcome of these projects has not been overwhelmingly favorable. Based on a wide variety of reports and studies across the entire spectrum of commerce and organizational activity, but with specific reference to information systems (see, for example, Field, 2001 or Johnson, 2002), organizations generally had the following experience over the past 20 years with their projects:

* An average of 25% have succeeded in terms of staying within scope, being on time, remaining within budgeted cost, and meeting expected performance requirements.

* Another 25% have failed, were canceled, or never fully implemented.

* The remaining 50% were "challenged" in that they were eventually implemented, but with definite (and often expensive) variances in scope, schedule, expense, and performance.

It has become increasingly apparent that project waters have become wide, deep, and turbulent, and the need to bridge them has never been greater.

Effective Project Management

In addition to the project manager's Book of Knowledge compiled by the Program Management Institute (2000), a body of best practices known as the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) is one of most commonly accepted standards and measures of effective project management. Developed by the Carnegie-Mellon University (CMU) Software Engineering Institute (SEI) under the auspices of the Department of Defense (2002), the CMM describes the key elements of an effective software development and project management process, providing a foundation for continuous process improvement. The CMM details an evolutionary improvement path for organizational development from a set of ad hoc, immature procedures to a consistent, mature, disciplined process. It describes five levels of progressive process maturity (Initial, Repeatable, Defined, Managed, and Optimizing) with recommended Process Areas (PA) addressed at each level. Level 2 (Repeatable) explicitly focuses on project management and stresses the ability to establish and follow consistent processes.

These experiences and accepted standards have led many organizations to emphasize the need for effective project management and control through multiple avenues, but two of the primary concerns have focused on the profession of project management and its inherent processes. Increasingly, employers expect project managers to have a professional accreditation such as that offered through the Project Management Institute. The concern over process is reflected in the development of professionalism and consistency, as promoted by such standards as the Capability Maturity Model.

To meet these concerns, organizations have initiated a variety of measures with varying degrees of success, ranging from the "simple" application of metrics to measure and record performance to the more ambitious establishment of a program management office (PMO) to act as a repository of expertise and guidance for both individual project support and overall organizational benefit. However, efforts to bridge what has increasingly become recognized as "troubled project and organizational waters" have not always met with success.

There are many reasons for this, but the primary ones can be summarized as follows:

* Project metrics are not always viewed constructively by the project offices. …

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