Project management can be defined as a field in which various activities such as “planning, organizing, managing, leading, securing, and controlling resources are carried out in order to achieve a specific goal” (Phillips, 2003, p. 5). A project management office (PMO) is described as a department within an organization that is responsible for defining and maintaining standards in project management activities within the organization (Copeland, 2008). In common practice, PMOs aim at providing standardized project management and execution practices by providing the required documentation, guidance and metrics (Dinsmore, 2005). PMOs can achieve success or incur losses depending on leadership and other organizational factors. This paper seeks to review the story of A.G. Edwards PMO and provide the following: provide overview explaining the project management office, its functions and values; and detail the steps that were taken by A.G. Edwards and the results that were achieved (Copeland, 2008).
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Description of project management office as shown in the article
Case summary and Analysis
John Parker joined A.G. Edwards as the Chief Technology officer (CTO) in 2001 (Levinson, 2006). His responsibilities were clearly outlined by the management, and he was expected to change the dwindling fortunes of the Company’s IT department. The Company had previously incurred massive losses due to delayed or poorly completed IT projects. Upon joining, Parker recognized the scope of work that awaited him. He found that most of the earlier done projects were late and priced higher than the budgetary allocations (Huffman, 2008). Indeed, most projects “cost 54% more and took 54% longer” to be completed (Levinson, 2006).
From 2002 to 2006, the success rates of projects completed by the Company had increased from 54% to 88%. Improvement in project management activities had positively impacted on the company’s financial position. The net profit had more than doubled, jumping from “$71 million in 2002 to $186 in 2005” (Levinson, 2006).
This success was attributed to the changes that were effected by Parker on the operations of the IT department. There was a complete overhaul the department’s structure and how it interacted with business.
Several strategies and tactics were used to achieve success. He began by involving the Company’s top managers to identify the projects that needed to be prioritized. He then provided IT managers with training in leadership skills so as to positively impact on their credibility with the business. A project management expert (ED Pilewski) was brought on board in order to inject professionalism and discipline into the entire process. Pilewski avoided the traditional route to project management, and instead worked on a more acceptable standard framework that measures, monitors, and reports on the progress of the project to foster transparency and accountability (Levinson, 2006).
The setup of the project management office (PMO) was changed, and reporting was now directed to a different functional groups rather than a centralized location. The PMOs office had a bureaucratic mission initially, but the new one focused on helping project managers to plan while providing them with reports they need to keep projects on track (Levinson, 2006).
The Company adopted a holistic approach to project management, signaling a departure from standard operating procedures. The success achieved as a result of the change in project management approach led to positive comments from field specialists who observed that the approach was worth emulating.
Indeed,.lessons from the past had shown the Company how poor project management can result into dire consequences. Companies like Nestle and Nike can testify on how organizations are negatively impacted by failed IT project implementations. Data collected on project completion in 2004 showed that a dismissal 29 percent of all projects done that year were completed on time.
Good IT project management is vital to ensure that companies move forward in the face of increased scope of services offered. Lessons learned from the current case and other companies show that a formal project management methodology may not be enough to solve project management issues faced by different organizations (Phillips, 2003). This is especially due to the fact that formal methodologies require change management not only in the affected department but the entire business (Kropf & Scalzi, 2008). The formal methodologies also turn project management activities into small bureaucracies that do not address problems that are observed during project implementation.
Effecting project management from the Top
Successful project management activities require a complete change that should start from the Top. For instance, in the current case Parker knew that changing the mentality and perceptions of the entire business towards the IT staff was a crucial move in achieving success with IT projects. Members of the affected department must be motivated well to develop credibility with the business (Huffman, 2008). As per the current case, the first thing to do is to provide leadership training to all employees and managers of the affected department. The training must make them understand the role they play to facilitate the achievement of their organization’s goals (Levinson, 2006). Parkers successfully showed that by positioning IT managers as leaders, their opinions could be taken more seriously and, as a result, increase collaboration between members of the group.
Approaching project management from the top enables managers to set standards on the desired standards of the level of efficiency, discipline and the required performance (Levinson, 2006). For instance, by involving the Company CEO and the senior management, Parker was able to align IT with the overall business strategy (Copeland, 2008). His goal was to come up with a plan that will strengthen and streamline operations of the company and identify the necessary technology required to achieve growth (Phillips, 2003). Initial implementation of such a goal works well if the issue is approached in a subtle way. Compliance and success levels are reduced by direct attacks.
If changes are not being taken up at the desired rate, then the project management office can use the services of a consultant group to dictate what is required in no uncertain terms (Copeland, 2008). However, as CIO, Parker was sometimes required to play hard when other departments deliberately attacked the IT department.
Implementation of Tactical plan
Tactical plans are successfully implemented by setting up a governance committee that prioritizes projects and develops leadership skills. For instance, at the A.G. Edwards, Pilewski introduced positive change when developed a standard plan framework to monitor and report on the progress of projects (Levinson, 2006). Such a framework consists of specific activities that are used to track various aspects of the project life cycle. For instance, the model approached by A.G. Edwards included the following: development of specifications; analyzing requirements; developing test plans (Levinson, 2006). Everything was documented for quick reference. Such frameworks also specify the groups that will work on different areas of the project and the particular time of the month that the work will be done.
The framework used by the Company did not specify how functional and project managers should conduct each of the 25 steps (Levinson, 2006). As opposed to formal methodologies, the Pilewski kind of framework recognizes the difficulties that are witnessed when standard procedures are applied to large firms (Copeland, 2008).
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Using persuasion to effect change in project management
Firms that are accustomed poor project management practices require persuasive tactics to initiate change. For instance, Pilewski employed various tactics to win the IT department staff at A.G. Edwards (Levinson, 2006). This included using the team’s professionalism, identifying managers that are ready to change and using them as ambassadors to bring change, and providing planning services to all project managers (Huffman, 2008). This was emphasized by assessing success rates in project management and publishing the information in quarterly reports (Dinsmore, 2005).
Redefining project success
In normal practice, project success is defined by stating that projects should be completed on time within the provided resources (Copeland, 2008). However, the A.G. Edwards case shows us that the business value should also be weighed to achieve a proper definition of project success (Dinsmore, 2005).
This paper sought to review the story of A.G. Edwards PMO and provide the following: offer an overview explaining the project management office, its functions and values; and detail the steps that were taken by A.G. Edwards and the results that were achieved (Copeland, 2008). The evaluation has shown that successful project management requires proper frameworks that are based on company needs rather than normal practice.
Copeland, S. (2008). The Success of a PMO in an Organization. Web.
Dinsmore, P. (2005). The right projects done right! New York: John Wiley and Sons.
Huffman, L. (2008). Project managers discuss success. Journal of Protective Coatings & Linings, 8-12.
Kropf, R., & Scalzi, G. ( 2008). Great project management = IT success. Physicians Executive, 30(3). 38 – 40.
Levinson, M. (2006). Project management – When Failure is not an option. Web.
Phillips, J. (2003). PMP Project Management Professional Study Guide. London: McGraw-Hill Professional.