The Project Management Institute, (PMI®), “Project Management Body of Knowledge”, (PMBOK®), describes the various work environments and rates the level of control project managers get in each. At the bottom is the matrix organization and at the top, “Projecticized”. These provide low to high control to the project manager. Industry has now coined the phrase, “Project Management Office”, (PMO), to indicate the highest level of project control. This is the organizational model that you should work towards.
The PMO offers companies the ability to control projects due to the authority given to project managers. The project manager is given complete command of his resources as they are needed. The resources are unavailable for other assignments without the express consent of the project manager. If a project experiences any threats, the project manager can be empowered to bring the required resources of the whole organization to the aid of the project. As well, all projects are required to completely document their results which are stored in a repository. An individual acts as a librarian to safeguard the repository which forms an intellectual asset of the company. All future projects are reviewed by the office prior to the project start up date. Similarities with existing projects are examined to take advantage of expertise in the organization. Resourcing issues are discussed with the whole organization in mind. Expert staff and critical equipment are engaged as necessary to complete strategic work for the whole organization. The library of project knowledge becomes increasingly valuable as it documents more specifics of successful projects and mitigation steps taken to correct faults. The PMO establishes mandatory documentation protocols to be followed by all project staff at each stage of project execution. This ensures that knowledge is captured and protected. Future projects gain a time advantage by reviewing the library for stored issue resolutions. The negative effects of staff departures is lessened since the PMO has documentation of all work performed by such staff.
Conversely, a lot of organizations continue to use the “Matrix” organizational model. This gives project managers very little control and dooms many projects to failure. In this model, the project manager is given part-time use of resources. In the case of an busy, expert staff member, the project might require 10 days of work but only get the person for 1 day a week. This causes a 10 week schedule for the project. The project manager doesn’t have the authority to negotiate an improvement in the staff allocation. Instead, the manager’s supervisor must be advised and negotiate with the supervisor of the expert staff member. This might lead to a slight increase in resources for the matrix project manager but the project may still suffer. Gaining 1 more day per week of the expert’s time will still require 5 weeks for a two week job. As well, the matrix organization allows project resources to be pulled back to their regular assignments as their supervisor sees fit. The effect on the project is not considered. What should be of particular concern to the organization is that often expert resources are removed from project work before they have documented their experiences. With the expert gone, the matrix project manager is forced to provide second-hand documentation of the work without intimate knowledge of the completed activities. Often it is impossible for the project manager to create any useful information for the departed expert. Subsequent projects will have no way to leverage the work performed unless they happen to receive the same expert as a part-time resource on their project. No library of lessons learned is maintained and any information repository is likely to be incomplete, if it exists at all. No person acts as a librarian and projects are free to incorporate whatever documentation protocols that they wish. In short, valuable knowledge is lost to the organization forcing it to repurchase it again.
In order to gain control of project spending, organizations should implement a strong Project Management Office and give it major project authority. Staff should be directly assigned to the project manager on a full-time basis. The authority of the project manager should be complete for all of the resources assigned. Re-deployment of resources should be at the approval of the project manager, not company officials regardless of their position. All projects should implement a common documentation standard that ensures that all project work is captured as it is performed. Such documentation would form a repository of lessons learned to be controlled by a competent librarian. It is only by incorporating a strong PMO that a company can hope to complete very large projects in a cost effective manner. Efficiencies can increase which will directly improve the corporate value.