Project Management

Defining and supporting project management methodology

A Project Management Office needs a methodology to carry out its tasks for your clients. Here's a look at your first steps to developing and supporting a project management methodology.


Editor’s note:This article originally appeared on our sister site, TechRepublic.com.

Organizations that have a project management office (PMO) usually make the PMO responsible for methodology—the processes, procedures, templates, best practices, standards, guidelines, and policies that you use to manage projects. The methodology must be adaptable to meet the changing needs of the business, and it must add value to the projects that use it. As new technologies and methods emerge, the methodology should evolve to reflect those improvements.

All projects create deliverables/products. At the end of many projects, the deliverable needs to be supported and maintained, sometimes indefinitely.

Project management methodology should be viewed in this light, as an ongoing product: The methodology is deployed into the organization through one or more projects, and the processes, templates, and training that make up the methodology are some of the deliverables.

The support for these deliverables and the methodology could be very simple. For example, your PMO may decide to redesign a template based on feedback from members of your organization, or implement processes in new areas. After a basic project management rollout, your client may ask that you help the PMO to implement a metrics program within the organization.

The point is that coming up with the holistic approach to implementation, and then having a successful rollout, is only part of the long-term focus of the PMO. The PMO must continue to support and update the methodology, and make sure it is relevant in the organization. Initial development and subsequent support of the project management processes are known as methodology management.

Let’s examine three major areas of methodology management:
  • Development
  • Support
  • Enhancement

Methodology development
In the past, most companies that wanted a project management methodology developed one from scratch. This wasn’t necessarily difficult, since most basic project management processes have been known for some time. However, it could be very time-consuming, especially if the methodology was built at a detailed level.

With the Internet, other options are available. New methodologies have been developed and introduced into the marketplace. Now, just as with a software package, there are three ways to obtain a project management process.
  1. Build: Companies still have the option to build a custom methodology from scratch.
  2. Buy: Alternatives can be purchased and brought in-house. Consultants tend to have methodologies, some of which are strictly for internal use, and some of which are for sale to client companies. If you can sell a methodology to your client, you might be ready to start training and rollout within 30 days.
  3. Buy and customize: The third alternative is to purchase a methodology and then customize it based on clients’ needs. Clients spend only the time required to develop or integrate their organizational standards, templates, and processes.

Methodology support
There’s an adage about deliverables: The day you begin to deploy your product is the day you need to be prepared to support it. This is true with project management methodology, as well. When you provide templates and training to the people in your client’s organization, you must be prepared to support the people and the products.

Examples of support include:
  • Answering questions about the methodology and how best to apply it on individual projects.
  • Helping people find documents and templates.
  • Maintaining the document repository if hardware, software, or linkage problems occur.
  • Providing ongoing training classes for new and current employees.

Methodology enhancement
The last category of methodology management is the enhancement of the methodology. This includes areas such as:
  • Expanding and extending the current processes. You may initially deploy a basic quality management process, then extend and expand the processes to raise the quality bar.
  • Creating new training classes and extending the entire project management curriculum.
  • Enhancing processes and templates to make them more valuable and easier to use.

Enhancements don't necessarily imply more processes and templates. It’s possible that you could be reducing, as well. For example, you may have two status report templates for two stakeholder audiences that could be consolidated into one.

One caution for PMOs is that you don’t want to “over-engineer” the project management process. If you do too much extending and have too many methodology requirements, you’ll start meeting resistance from project managers who think the methodology is getting in the way of delivering projects faster and cheaper.

A well-oiled machine
Too many companies make the mistake of developing a project management process, training the staff, and then never providing any long-term support and follow-up. Project management methodology should be thought of as a tangible product that is developed, supported, and enhanced.

The PMO is the place where all this happens. The PMO itself must be seen as a long-term entity to make sure your client’s project management practices live and are strengthened over time.

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