As information technology (IT) organizations struggle to deliver applications to their business customers, they are increasingly more open to implementing new approaches to project management. One such approach is using an IT project management office (PMO). A strong PMO can benefit an organization in many ways. The primary benefit is an environment that improves the structure of project management as well as the design, development, and implementation of IT projects.

A PMO is structured to provide a clear path to senior management, whose support for a project can be solicited as needed. A direct track to senior management can quickly and effectively solve disputes that may arise within a project team. A PMO also creates opportunities to introduce new project management tools, concepts, and methods.

A well-managed PMO can help systems developers to:

■ Capture and resolve project issues as they appear during the life of the project

■ Consider and test out new project management techniques and approaches

Although these activities are not key to successfully delivering a project, they are key in improving project control and quality.

On many IT projects, management is fragmented. As a result, the assigned project manager cannot exercise sufficient control to ensure project success. Although lines of authority and responsibility are clearly defined, real power over a project resides with someone other than the project manager, the decisions concerning the project may be made on the basis of political or emotional considerations rather than on business ones.

For example, a large order entry project has been approved for an organization. The assigned project manager is a member of the IT department, and it is agreed that the project manager, for the duration of the project, reports to the project sponsor, who is the manager of the order entry department. The project sponsor in turn reports to the vice president of marketing. In this situation, the project sponsor is naturally influenced by the vice president, who has a different agenda than the one agreed upon for the project. As the project moves forward, the vice president pushes for systems features outside the original scope of the project (i.e., "scope creep"). This causes considerable difficulties and threatens failure.

The vice president is not totally committed to the project, although it is important to the marketing department. It is consuming the complete attention of the order entry manager. Over time, the order entry manger understands that the project is second priority to managing the order entry department. To a considerable extent, the project depends on the interests and attitude of the vice president of marketing, and neither the project sponsor nor the project manager is really in charge. In this scenario, which is common for many IT projects, the project manager has limited authority but still carries responsibility for the project. When the project manager tries to shift responsibility, the project sponsor and marketing vice president take umbrage by saying, "We do not understand all the technology-related issues and therefore you cannot expect us to take responsibility."

Project managers charged with a responsibility must have sufficient authority to manage that responsibility. A PMO can ensure a project manager's authority.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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