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Improving portfolio management: A business case for Enterprise Project Management Office

As Capco practitioners, no matter which practice we reside in, the majority of us are, ultimately, delivery resources engaged by our clients to deliver projects. These projects provide us with revenue and, more often than not, how we perform on them drives our clients’ decisions about whether or not to engage us again. Some may even argue that the long-term strategic outcomes of a project’s success or failure are more important than the revenue generated by a single project.

As project practitioners, we’re continually working within the reality of the project management Triple Constraint of schedule, budget and scope, which states that you cannot adjust any of these three items without materially affecting one or both of the others.

The Triple Constraint is omnipresent in every project manager’s mind throughout the life of any project. Client management, communications management and all other disciplines within the scope of project delivery are derived from the need to manage these three items.

One key problem that this creates is that, over the years, the Triple Constraint has become one of, if not the, key measure of project success. In reality, while it may be a single metric in measuring project success, the ability to deliver a certain scope on time and on budget is actually a measure of delivery capability and not necessarily a comprehensive measure of project success.

Every properly managed project has a project charter endorsed by a project sponsor. That sponsor has endorsed, funded and accepted ultimate accountability for a project based on a business case. To truly measure project success, one must go back to the original business case to determine if the project delivered on the business case in question.

There in lies the problem.

A project, by definition, is a finite entity that typically terminates once scope has been delivered and closeout activities are complete. Often, no one is around to measure whether the project met the critical success factors outlined in the business case. More importantly, frequently, the infrastructure does not exist in an organization to support such measurement, nor do the people or the processes. Furthermore, from a political perspective, quite often authors of business cases don’t necessarily want the merits of their business case validated against actual results.

So how can organizations truly measure project results against the promises made in business cases? The simple answer is through the implementation and institutionalization of an Enterprise Project Management Office (EPMO).

Often, when organizations look at a project management office, they view it as a body of project subject matter experts who oversee general project quality assurance and provide guidance around industry and organizational project management best practices. General project quality assurance is designed to keep projects on track, help them adhere to reporting standards, manage quality of project management artifacts and help troubled projects through remediation efforts.

The problem with this approach is that it does not factor in the enterprise as a whole and the impact of the project’s existence and implementation on the organization. In the context of this article, there is still no facility to measure project success.

An EPMO must factor in much more than project quality assurance and best practices. An EPMO really begins with portfolio management. This is the process by which an organization determines what projects should be done in the first place and ensures that projects have strategic alignment with the organization as a whole.

Portfolio management isn’t possible without fully integrated resource management. Organizations have a finite complement of resources. Having a view of the work ahead of an organization and the forecasted demands of discretionary and nondiscretionary projects provides insight to the staffing needs from both a headcount and skill set perspective.

Measurement is also a key pillar of the EPMO. The measurement aspect of the EPMO is all about continuous improvement and refining best practices. The refinement of best practices is not only related to improving project delivery capability but also to tracking true project success based on the assumed results detailed in the business case. This type of measurement helps organizations improve on the business cases that they’re writing as well as break down political fiefdoms by holding project sponsors accountable for expected versus actual results of a project. In an ideal world, this proverbial “pulling back of the curtain” helps ensure that the right projects are being done for the right reasons instead of business cases being “tuned” to fit a strategic direction or need as opposed to simply stating their own reality.

So what does this mean to companies like Capco? Projects focused on helping our clients build out EPMO organizations and the underlying support, best practices, processes and tools do not necessarily provide much opportunity to build a highly leveraged, long-term team. The amount of expertise required often involves more senior resources to both drive and deliver such endeavors. The true benefit for firms like Capco is in the strategic positioning of such projects.

For an EPMO to have the authority it needs for success, it has to be positioned at the highest levels of an organization. Being engaged in projects like these provide key leadership with a full view into the enterprise and all projects being performed across an organization. The relationships and insight that an EPMO would provide can be a powerful tool for growth.

Comments

In today's Enterprise World of Project/Program Management it is imperativew to employ Portfolio Management Software to monitor and manage Scope, Time and Cost. Those, I am most familiar with and have direct experience are HP Portfolio Manager, IBM Rational Portfolio Manager and Mirosoft Project Portfolio Server.

I also believe Oracle has a product out there of which I have not used as of yet it is called Primavera spanish for Springtime. I agree entirely with this article that companies big or small need to have a mechanism in place to manage their existing Portfolios. As with most Projects after they have been completed many just get the old proverbial get checked off the list as being completed.

I personally have managed 3 recent very Large High Profile and Highly Visible Infrastructure Projects most recently and can tell you that my biggest hurdle was not PM Software and Tools but several Incompetent Players that knew nothing about Network Technology and are learning on the Job as they go These Folks typically come from PM Backgrounds but do not have enough Technical Skill to meet the role of Infrastructure PM.

They tend to inspire fear and insecurity due to their immature Lack of Confidence which normally goes around the round table unless if you have an Experienced Leader who can put a stop to their Negative Energy. Organizations need to do a better job at plaing the right skill set for the right Project. If you do not have a Networking or Security Background as a PM. You have no reason to be placed in such a position with the mpore seasoned Technical PMs that an get the job done on time, budget and within Scope.

Sincerly,
Christian Ruiz
Senior Network Architect/Program Manager
www.visualcv.com/christianruiz

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