Total CIO – PMO becomes cornerstone of IT executive leadership

Linda Tucci wrote an interesting article on Total CIO titled “PMO becomes cornerstone of IT executive leadership” that got my attention. The title is a great one…and after reading the article, I’m intrigued.

The article discusses how Ogilvy & Mather‘s Worldwide CTO Yuri Aguiar is using the Project Management Office (PMO) to drive business and IT alignment.  Linda writes:

The power is not in the PMO, per se, Aguiar said, but in a fundamental change in how projects are funded and managed at Ogilvy. All projects are reviewed by three architects and subjected to a risk mitigation and management (dubbed RM2) metric before approval. Top priority is given to revenue-generating projects. Urgent projects trump “important” projects, and timelines run about 12 to 14 months max. Also, all project managers report directly to Aguiar. “If somebody is running one day late, he or she is knocking on my door,” he said. ”

Interesting concepts here.  In many of the PMO’s I’ve seen / worked with, they’ve had a senior leadership team that made decisions on which projects to fund. Aguiar’s approach seems to be based around a lower level decision making process (which is good) which determines the viability of the project from a usefulness, risk and priority of projects.

Looks like Aguiar might be on to something here with this approach to a Project Management Office.  I do have some questions that might be answered by a more detailed article by Tucci (as she states she’s planning on writing one), but until I see more, I’ll voice my questions here for discussion.

Question – PMO and PM’s reporting directly to the CTO/CIO?

I don’t really have an issue with this if the PMO handles only IT issues. That said,, I have to wonder if this is a viable, long-term approach.  The article says that the Projects Managers report directly to the CIO.  Managing a PMO and PM’s is a full-time gig…does today’s CIO have time for this? Maybe they have to make time? Is this the best method for a CIO to align IT projects with the business?  It might be.

Question – How are project priorities determined?

This isn’t really answered in the article but if the project priority is assigned by the CIO, is there a large voice of users and stakeholder’s being missed?  Does the organization have a Project Committee that reviews projects to assign priorities?  How should priorities for projects be assigned to ensure proper IT / Business Alignment.

Question – Who “approves” the Projects?

The article states that each project is reviewed by architects and a risk mitigation and management metric is assigned prior to approval but no real description of the approval process.  I’m just curious as to what the process is here.

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Organizational Alignment and Project Success

Organization Alignment seems like one of those ‘touchy feely’ things that most technical folks would rather not discuss but it’s actually quite relevant to success in todays technology and project driven organizations.

Note: For books on organizational alignement, check out these amazon books: Books on Organizational Alignment.

Organizational alignment is the practice of aligning an organization’s strategy and culture. In other words, organizational alignment helps to ensure that ‘what gets done’ is in line with ‘how things get done’ and vice versa. For a more detailed description of organizational alignment, take a look at the article on Organizational Alignment on Vanguard Consulting’s website.

As mentioned, Organizational Alignment is the act (or art?) of aligning strategy and culture. The field of strategic planning and organizational strategy is a very well researched and fairly well covered in academia (and blogosphere) so I won’t go into the ‘strategy’ aspect but I will cover the ‘culture’ side here.What does organizational alignment have to do with project success? In my opinion, everything.

For a project to be successful, an organization must have its strategic goals aligned with its cultural values…and projects must also be aligned with the organizations’ culture and strategy. Consider the following brief example (paraphrased from Vanguard Consulting’s website):

Assume that the goal of your organization is to create a flexible service delivery model to allow you to be flexible for your clients. You’d want to make sure that the organization is aligned to meet these goals by having flexibility as a core value. You wouldn’t want to implement a ‘command and control’ structure that requires everyone to get approval before acting. The command and control structure would completely counteract the stated goal of flexibility for your clients.

The cultural aspect of organizational alignment covers ‘how things get done’ (while the strategic aspect covers ‘what gets done’). The ‘how’ covers the values, behaviors and processes for getting things done, which are things that can be addressed across the organization using various methods, such as the implementation of a Project Management Office (PMO).

Many organizations have implemented PMO’s to standardize project management methodologies, align projects with corporate strategy and act as a central point of management for all things projects. The majority of these PMO’s usually don’t address the values and behaviors across the organization. In fact, most definitions of a PMO only describe the use of a PMO to standardize project processes and align projects with strategy but values are usually overlooked.

A PMO is a good thing for most organizations but its doesn’t go far enough to ensure alignment. Standardizing project methodologies can be a good thing but standardization doesn’t go far enough to address the issues of values and behaviors. The PMO, by definition, isn’t setup to address values and behaviors but could easily be converted into an office to help align values, behaviors and process and perhaps it could be renamed the ‘Project & Alignment Office’ (PAO).

So….after all of that (and my creating the PAO!), how do we ensure project success by organizational alignment? We don’t…you can never ‘ensure success’…but we can help set projects on the path towards success by working to align the ‘how’ with the ‘what’ and the ‘why’.

Look for more to come on organizational alignment and projects…and maybe even more on the newly created PAO 🙂

[tags] Project Management, organization, Strategy, Projects, Project, Strategic Planning, culture [/tags]

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