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PMO – You Need These to Deliver in 2018 and Beyond

Information Technology (IT) projects are crushing it in 2018! To the tune of US$3.7 Trillion. ZDNet and TechRepublic teamed up to develop a special report that extracted Gartner’s statistics regarding IT spend.  Check out the infographic further down in this post.  With 39% of corporate respondents (worldwide) indicating an increase in IT budgets it is vital that the technology project management field rapidly develop capabilities that allow for continuous improvement, maximum efficiency, and speed to delivery. That means making strategic and tactical decisions to deliver now and beyond.

The PMO budget may be slashed, and project managers will have to execute as many projects with fewer resources to manage them.  Undercutting the team with underutilized resources will never show itself until the organization can see the bottlenecks in the project execution process.  Leadership views the team as a bottleneck itself, and no matter what PMO has done, the same number of projects are executed, and the same amount of issues come up day after day.  Even if the team complete more projects this year PMO still has no way to understand how the dynamics of project execution, project resources, benefits realization, and risk, affect delivery.  PMO has project managers who manage multiple low budgets seemingly less complicated projects and other program or project managers who have extensive high-risk projects or programs.  The projects rely on decisions made by financial analysts, technical team members, executive leadership, and controls such as Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) or government procurement policy.

If you research project execution you know there have been many discussions, research articles, and organizational knowledge that show a consistent failure rate of tech projects.  In a previous blog post, we demonstrated two CIO articles about reasons for failure. (You can find the 2013 article here and the 2016 article here.) We could never cover the myriad of methodologies applicable to technology projects in one article, but there seems to be a commonality amongst predictive, hybrid, or agile approaches as captured by a Project Management Institute (PMI) survey. The survey clearly demonstrated that improvement for better delivery, based on project characteristics, allowed them to be tuned to the most efficient means to delivery.

“It is not necessary to use only one approach for an entire project. Often, projects will combine elements of different life cycles to achieve certain goals.”

High Cost, Low Performance

In PMI‘s 2014 Pulse of the Profession article, The High Cost of Low Performance, they stated: “organizations are losing an average of US$109 million for every US$1 billion spent on projects”.  One of the key drivers was alignment to strategic objectives.  High-performing companies complete 89% of their projects while low-performing only 36% and this meant significant savings for the high performers.  The survey that needs to take place is asking how many project managers or their teams understand how their projects align with strategic goals.  How often does PMO believe many project managers understand this connection let alone how other projects may be aligned?  You might say well my project managers just want to manage…they don’t care about strategic alignment.  As long as you are okay with remaining status quo in project execution, then having project resources who just want to step through a project will probably work.

“Understanding what practices—both strategic and tactical—highperforming organizations have in place is crucial to improving an organization’s success. Along with high alignment of their projects to organizational strategy and organizational agility, high-performing organizations succeed through a strategic focus on people, processes, and outcomes.”

There were some commonalities in high performing project teams including ongoing training and formal processes.  This supported a smooth evolution of a formal knowledge management capability.  From a process standpoint, PMI found that although maturity leads to success, many organizations aren’t taking sufficient action to mature it.  If nearly one-half of organizations don’t even understand the value of project management, they won’t invest fully in maturing the processes that support it.  The PMO role in this perspective is a defining one because it is inherently critical for that group to define, measure, and monitor that value for their organization.  The project management leadership team must drive process maturity, change management, and leverage talent management.  The third factor of high performing project organizations is benefits realization maturity as the relationship between strategic objectives and alignment of projects.  Still, benefits realization did not have as much impact as alignment and strategic focus.

So how do you achieve all of that?  How do you put people, process, and outcome at the forefront and make significant changes to your landscape so that you can begin to see the potential for rapid delivery?  You cannot achieve success by enforcing standards or driving governance in any methodology.   No amount of evangelizing or transformation will push your team to victory without building the necessary structure in the process because while the human landscape and methods will always change the framework you instantiate will allow you the flexibility in capability!  That’s delivery!  And in this case, PROJECT DELIVERY that aligns with your strategic goals.

Project Process Focus

To be a process-focused culture, you need to set up the framework that is described by authors Tristan Boutros and Tim Purdie in their book, The Process Improvement Handbook: A Blueprint for Managing Change and Increasing Organizational Performance. While you can find many other resources, websites, and texts on process improvement, nowhere has the process-oriented architecture built for an enterprise been more clearly demonstrated.  Many Information Systems (IS) organizations within global manufacturers have structures built with an Enterprise Architecture (EA) domain.  One potential path is charging the EA domain with the instantiation of the framework and allow project supporting domains to exact the process landscape.  To that end, as an example, the PMO would drive process development from program, project, and portfolio areas while supporting units such as financial ones would play a significant part.

“It is, first and foremost, an architecture approach used to describe the overall structure of an enterprise or a business unit. Second, it is about transforming business and assisting organizations in making better decisions. This is accomplished when an organization gains an understanding of how complex their structures and processes are and ensures that proper business architecture and change management principles exist.”

All of the components that go into executing and driving a project to completion are more than likely repeatable ones that can be reused or recycled.  If PMO projects have been executing over time, they may even have a set of standardized documentation or standard operating procedures that are sometimes utilized but over time have become bloated and ignored.  In fact, the processes are probably gathering dust because project execution has become project manager standard on its own.  The problem is now that delivery is still underperforming, CIO’s are still demanding alignment, IS domains still complain about execution, speed to delivery is compromised, and no one in the organization has any transparency into exactly what is happening at that level!  I’ll refer you back to PMI’s quote, “understanding what practices—both strategic and tactictal—is crucial to improving.”

Developing a process landscape that supports both strategic and tactical constructs to support technology projects has to occur in any organization that wants to move towards high performance.  Once PMO begin developing a process landscape the first reward is transparency.  Stakeholders start to understand relationships between work packages and can see where the bottlenecks are.  Consider project risk: inherently, many development projects similar risks that are rarely monitored.  Many small projects that have higher values of risk are often ignored because the assumption is rapidly executing small projects with no issue.  The process framework will allow the organizations to apply risk at both strategic and tactical levels.  There have been many studies done to standardize the application of risk according to the project’s deliverables.  Once a project leadership team understands the equation, a process landscape will allow PMO to apply those risks and drive risk transparency.

Make these your goals:

Technology Project Execution that delivers:

  • 100% process transparency – everyone in the organization knows exactly what it takes for a project to execute
  • The project teams know what exactly is needed for any project end-to-end
  • PMO or technology leadership can identify what are unused processes and get rid of them quickly
  • Project and program leadership can predict future state process and technology needs
  • PMO and stakeholders can define gaps in process ownership
  • Process improvement activities don’t require extensive teams and are rapidly executed
  • Continuous improvement teams can see and understand areas that require consolidation, retirement, or improvement
  • PMO can see performance and transparency improvements
  • Transformation or change management teams can easily see what a change will do to your process landscape

If PMO can’t consistently show these results, your team need to define performance expectations and decide if a process-oriented architecture will satisfy those goals.

Has your team implemented a process-oriented landscape or something similar?  Please comment and let us know!  Does your team need help with justifying a process-oriented project?  Let Technology Project Excellence understand how we can help you!


Infographic 2018 Corporate IT Budgets


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