At a time when resource prioritization for IT can be a matter of survival, life is not getting any easier in the politically charged environments of corporate Program Management Offices (PMOs) and Enterprise Program Management Offices (EPMOs). These organizations – when well run – help to create effective criteria for resource and project portfolio decision-making. At their best, PMOs enable collaboration across disparate business units, IT and executive decision-makers and can help to promote e
Disputes over who gets which resource can be resolved in the context of a functional, communicative PMO environment (with CXOs only coming in as arbiters as a last resort). On the other hand, we have seen PMOs that range from anemic and ineffectual (often) to arbitrary and overbearing (occasionally). Generally speaking, those seeking to avoid project accountability and wanting to be left alone to hoard resources as they desire for their own pet projects will tend to view PMOs as tyrannical, even when they are weak and ineffective. Yet we have typically found that global enterprises with strong IT approaches also have thriving, healthy, underlying PMOs and EPMOs.
Last winter and spring 2009, we engaged around 40 users of IT project portfolio management (ITPPM) solutions in a series of in-depth interviews. These were primarily larger, enterprise organizations, and those with whom we spoke typically either ran a PMO or EPMO.
Over the past month, we reached out again to see how those ITPPM deployments had fared over the intervening timeframe. Out of around forty companies, two of the individuals with whom we had spoken 6-8 months ago had been laid off. Two of the other companies had outsourced nearly all (if not all) of their IT projects so the responsibilities for those individuals were shifting as well -- although it appeared that they were retaining their positions, in other capacities for now. In all four cases, the PMOs had largely been dismantled. In three of the them, the ITPPM solution that was in place last spring was either being changed/replaced when the sponsor had been let go, or it was no longer "relevant" since the outsourcer or offshore provider would be using their own ITPPM solutions to manage the engagements.
This number represents only 10% of a small sample, and the vast majority of the ITPPM users with whom we spoke over the past few weeks retained a passionate commitment to both their PMOs and the project and portfolio automation solutions that have enabled them to survive savage staff shortages and the rattling sound of empty offices and one individual trying to do the work of 5 or more.
Some of those organizations took the opportunity of layoffs to cull those from the organization who were most resistant to change and took radical steps to increase discipline in the wake of their departures. One company that used their ITPPM solution to manage IT initiatives during better economic times used it to manage compliance needs during bankruptcy proceedings. Others used both the organizational construct of the PMO and EPMO as a vehicle for ever closer communication, as dwindling resources necessitated a tighter, narrower focus on what to do with the few people left to accomplish core projects.
We begin each day prioritizing what tasks we will and will not do – or just "doing it" -- diving in without proactive planning. How do your teams create order out of the chaos of decision-making with constrained resources? Do you have a PMO and how is it faring? Did you and is it gone? If you still do, is your PMO a force for order and focus? Is it a toothless, "paper tiger"? Or is it populated by aggressive, uncommunicative egoists who run rough-shod over the input from key business and IT stakeholders with regards to criteria for prioritization? We're moving from project planning timeframes into early project execution now. How is your organization focusing its initiatives, its money and its people into the IT project arena moving into 2010?