PM Network                 August 1997                 p. 18

Up and Down the Organization

"O Give Me a Home"
Roaming Buffalo and Other Restless Creatures...

by Paul C. Dinsmore, PMP; Contributing Editor

Project management sprang up as an ad hoc discipline and can be found inhabiting many different niches in the "ecology" of a company. But to maximize its benefits, it needs a stable home base.

You'd think it would be easy but tracking down where project management lives within an organization is not always a simple task. Like the buffalo that roam, project management may be found at specific spots within an organization, as well as at alternative grazing grounds depending on the seasons and the times: within an engineering group; in the information technology area; in a centralized group to which all projects report, in a group that concentrates management of high-priority projects; on a specific project; in a support area that provides scheduling and control assistance; or in a staff group charged with "spreading the word" on project management.

Ideally it can be argued that project management should permeate the whole organization, as proposed in previous columns about Managing Organizations By Projects. This view calls for across-the-board buy-in of the concept as a management philosophy implying that project management should be just about everywhere: everything should be translated into projects, from classic capital undertakings and IT ventures to marketing continuous improvement, annual operations targets and organizational change. The MOBP approach calls for big-time training and development investment, and also requires a "home" for project management to keep things up and running.

MOBP is not a prerequisite, however, to seeing that project management has a home. Any organization with a project backlog needs to support its projects from some coherent base. A project management "home" is just such a vantage point from which to support, influence and direct project management endeavors.

In my June PM Network column, "Eighteen Wheelers, Sports Wagons and Bikes: They're All The Same," I pleaded the project-management- needs-a-home case and plotted out general guidelines for establishing a healthy and fruitful homestead. In encounters since then with colleagues in the profession-through e-mail, the Internet and on intercontinental travels-I find that the topic keeps jumping up and demanding attention. In May during the Fortune 500 Project Management Benchmarking Forum in Dallas, the topic of where and how to organize and spread the word on project management practice kept sneaking into the discussions, even though it wasn't on the agenda.

Here are three classic "homes" for project management:

Project Office

Project Offices support several projects simultaneously although in some cases they provide services exclusively to a given project. They furnish support, tools and services for planning, scheduling, scope changes and cost. The resources involved (hardware, software, peopleware) are billed to the projects, either internally or externally depending on the nature and contractual structure of the projects. Sometimes people are loaned out from the Project Office for kick-off or an extended stint on a project. Here are the key points for a successful Project Office:

  •  Technical resources

     Up-to-snuff hardware and software. Quality equipment and packaged
     intelligence are a must for a Project Office to be effective.

  •  Methodology

     Coherent procedures spelling out how to do projects. This methodology
     needs to be tied to an overall project management competency model
     understood and respected by the other project players.

  •  Interface

     Organization premises and across-the-lines communication.  Since the
     Project Office often works in matrix relationships, interfacing becomes a
     highly relevant issue.

  •  Competence

     People versed in doing and managing technical support. The essence of the
     Project Office lies in developing support people who help supply the tools
     and information, getting the project done on time and within budget.

Project Offices are particularly applicable for organizations where projects are led by strong project managers, where project management awareness exists within the organization, and where there are lots of projects going on.

Center of Excellence for Project Management (CEPM)

The Center of Excellence for Project Management is the gathering point for expertise, but does not assume responsibility for project results. Other terms may be used to denote this idea, such as "Center of Competence" used at Sprint. Sue Guthrie, who spearheads IBM "Center of Excellence" sees the challenge as "raising organizational competence and changing the maturity level of the entity." The CEPMs task is largely missionary: getting out the word, transforming believers into practitioners and converting the nonbelievers. The CEPM is charged as the carekeeper of methodologies and for keeping communications channels open between projects and with the outside project management community. For the CEPM to work requires:

  •  Sponsorship:

     Big-time support from upstairs. CEPMs are most effective when there is
     resonance from upper management.

  •  Leadership:

     Politically articulate, CEPM leadership is not based on power, but rather
     on knowledge and the ability to manage and influence affected

  •  Added value

     What's in it for the practitioners? CEPMs must be able to demonstrate the
     benefit of buying in to the project management practices they are

  •  Professional development

     Outside training, on-thejob programs, benchmarking. CEPMs make their marks
     on organizations to the extent that they develop competent project man-
     agers, leaders and team members

  •  State of the art expertise,

     Information sources, resources. techniques. To maintain credibility, the
     CEPM must be on the leading edge of project management practice and

The CEPM approach is particularly suitable for corporations with global responsibilities, companies with projects of differing natures (such as information systems, marketing, engineering and organization change), and organizations that prefer the "soft" approach to influencing its culture.

Program Office
Project Management Program office (PMPO)

Ray Powers, who directed the Program Office at US West, categorically states, "The responsibility for successfully running company projects rests with the Program Office." Consequently the PMPO "manages the project managers." The PMPO head might sport titles like Vice President, or Director of Projects, or Head of Project Management. In major corporations, the PMPO often concentrates its efforts on prioritized projects. Other projects are managed by departments or units and are given support by the PMPO as needed. At the U.S. Department of Energy there are 260 projects being handled from the Program Office, according to Pete Devlin, DOE director of project management. The PMPO, by nature. ac- cumulates the function of Center of Excellence and in some cases of the Project Office. So, the PMPO incorporates the items listed above, and calls for a few more. Here are additional requirements for a successful Program Office:

  •  Power

     Authority within the company power structure. PMPOs have to be a part of
     the organization's power structure if they are going to be effective.

  •  Corporate priority

     From corporate strategy to project implementation. Part of the PMPOs
     function is to determine which projects are to be handled by the PMPO
     directly which are to be farmed out to third parties and which are to be
     handled at a unit level.

  •  Enterprisewide control

     Reporting of pertinent project information on a multiple-project basis.
     The PMPO is expected to have an overview of aggregate project results as
     well as trends on individual projects, which may call for sophisticated

PMPOs are normally applicable when corporate management has committed to man- aging priority ventures by projects. when not managing by projects will result in strong neg- ative consequences; when there is adequate organizational maturity for a Program Office to operate effectively

Hybrid Stuff

In real life, roads to project management wander outside the boxes described. There are complementary things that enhance the performance of these standard approaches. For instance, at Allied Signal, Tom Booth, who supports management for major projects, involved a panel of upper management and outside experts to size up the quality of Allied's project management practices. American Airlines' Susan Garcia reports that priority projects undergo a detailed review by upper management when they show signs of criticality. At EDS, Carl Isenberg, whose project management group provides people and expertise to projects under the responsibility of other units, helps boost corporate performance by giving a list of "pointers" for upper managers to ask while conducting project per- formance reviews. At Nortwestern Mutual, Marge Combe's support group is taking "hands-on" responsibility for a couple of critical projects in order to showcase the advantages of using project management techniques.

HOME, SWEET HOME . . Theres a reason for this kaleidoscope of approaches at running projects within organizations. Project management appeared in companies as an ad hoc discipline. Rarely was it an across-the-board kind of thing. But as change has brought projects into virtually every area of the company pressure has grown to establish a backdrop, or a home, for project management.

Home for project management is akin to "home, home on the range" from the lyrics of old. Project managements home too needs to be all-encompassing, spacious and "roamable." The three views outlined here portray contrasting yet complementary pathways for dealing with the challenge. The Project Office, the Center of Excellence for Project Management and the Project Management Program Office are all neat solutions, yet they're not built-to-order fixes. Issues of organization culture, project management maturity and project mix need to be taken into account before a final design can be approved. Hopefully once designed and put into place, that project management dwelling will prove a solid, productive and harmonious home. M

Paul C Dinsrnore is a PMI Fellow and author of six bouts, includingthe AMA Handbookof Project Management (Amacom, NY, 1993) He is president of Dinsmore Associates, affiliated with Management Consultants International Group with world headquarters in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Fax 011 5521 2521200, or e-mail