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Project Management Offices

The single biggest way to impact an organisation is to focus on leadership development. There is almost no limit to the potential of an organisation that recruits good people, raises them up as leaders and continually develops them. —John C Maxwell: the 17th Irrefutable Laws of Teamwork (2001, 185)

A significant transformation in the last several years has been in senior management support of project management. Project management is now viewed as a strategic competence necessary for survival of organisations. Time and cost used to drive all decisions, according to Dr. Kerzner, Senior Executive Director, Project Management at the International Institute for Learning Inc. “Now we are saying, ‘wait a minute, are we providing value?’”
Public and private enterprises establish project offices using varying names for different purposes. Depending on the level at which a project office is established within the organisation, it will generally perform different functions. These functions are defined by powers vested in the project office by the organisation to set and enforce policies and procedures.
I. Program Office
A program office is usually established to support a large program, which is a group of projects managed together to provide more efficiency to the organisation. It is most often called a Program Management Office (PMO). The PMO includes the program manager and support staff, who establish common processes to control the complex data of projects in the program. On occasion, an extremely large project is treated as a program and a PMO is established for its support as well.
Typical responsibilities include:
• Establishing common processes and tools for the subsidiary projects to ensure consistent data collection, coordination and reporting.
• Collecting and disseminating project data at the program level. This usually involves setting up a Project Management Information System (PMIS) and ensuring it is used correctly and consistently.
• Coordinating interdependencies among the projects in the program, and integrating project schedules into a program schedule.
• Overseeing program-level communications, setting, communicating and monitoring priorities among projects within the program.
• Coordinating shared resource usage among projects in the program.
• Providing other support to the program manager and to the subsidiary project managers such as facilitating planning sessions and meetings, keeping aggregate issue and risk databases, and overseeing the change control process.

II. Project Support Office
A Project Support Office (PSO) is very similar to a Program Management Office, except its purview is a department or division within a large corporation. PSO’s provide all of the services of the Program Management Office described above. It may provide additional services as well. These may include:
• Establishing and enforcing project management practices and policies for the assigned organisation. If chartered with enforcing these policies and practices, the PSO may perform project reviews or audits to ensure compliance with the project management policies.
• Providing project management facilitation, coaching or training services, or any combination of the above. In this capacity, the PSO is staffed with seasoned project management professionals who can guide or even assist project managers and their teams in using project management best practices.
• Overseeing the related product development or other quality processes used in the organisation. The PSO may have responsibility to develop, document, implement, and enforce the use of these practices. In other cases, the project support office may have a partnership with a procedures or quality department and participate in a process to ensure the required quality steps are included in the project plans and executed appropriately.
Project Support Offices may also be vested with the authority to enforce project prioritisation through oversight of resource allocation. At times, PSO’s perform portfolio assessments and make recommendations about project selection. At the least, they oversee the selection process, ensuring candidate projects comply with the portfolio submission process and keep the archives of submission details.
PSO’s are usually the keepers of project archives for the related organisation, and provide historic information to support planning and estimating on projects and risk management. They may also establish and track quality metrics, not only for current reporting, but for trend analysis. In mature organisations, PSO’s may also participate in product evaluation and analysis to understand the relationship between product acceptability and development in the project stage. The presiding person for a PSO is often an officer of the firm, such as a Director.
III. Project Management Center of Excellence
A Project Management Center of Excellence (PMCOE) is a group of project management experts that do not assume responsibility for project results. This group is instead charged with raising the organisation’s project management competence and increasing its maturity level. PMCOE’s task is to spread the word, gathering best practices, and providing a channel of communications between and among the projects and those outside the project management community.
Services may include:
• Performing organisational project management capability assessments for groups within the organisation.
• Recommending best practices, training processes, and other techniques to improve overall organisational project management capacity.
• Liaising with other organisations through forums, professional organisations,
benchmarking exercises, etc. to increase organisational project management knowledge.
• Developing project manager competency models on behalf of the organisation.

 Strategic Project Management Office
These offices oversee project management strategy. This type of project office may be headed by a Chief Project Officer (CPO) or other officer of the organisation with a direct reporting relationship and access to the CEO. It performs strategic management functions related to projects in a structured process. The Strategic Project Management Office may oversee divisional project management offices in large organisations where a multi-tiered structure is necessary. This office sets project management policy for the organisation and ensures compliance with that policy.

Specific services may include:
• Developing and overseeing the portfolio selection process and criteria.
• Involvement in business decisions that result in new projects.
• Identifying and implementing an enterprise-wide project management system.
• Ensuring top-level stakeholder management.
• Oversight of strategic projects.
• Overseeing the career path and development strategy for project and program managers.
• Developing and reporting portfolio performance metrics based on project management data gathered through standardised processes.
The concept of using a project office results from increased project management maturity, resulting in the need to impose consistent application of processes and data to monitor and improve project performance. The ability and need to structure project offices is very closely tied to the organisation’s overall capability in project management.

It is critical to understand and accept that implementation of a project office means changing the organisation’s management model. Like any organisational change, this involves a dedicated process of understanding the changes, developing and championing a new vision, communicating that vision, dealing with resistance and problems, implementing the changes in manageable steps, and anchoring the change in the organisational culture. Project office implementations must be treated as strategic organisational transformation projects to be successful.

The world has immense diversity, yet as we sit in a global recession, we recognise that no one is immune. Society, the planet and our economy are all linked. The future of our world depends on a strong and prosperous global economy. What is critical is action. Not achieving our goals, at this time in history, would be tragic. More then ever, today’s leaders need to be held accountable for value driven project results.

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