Process Comparison

You have been given the opportunity to manage a large project organization in your company. Your mandate: Improve its performance record. Of the 100 projects scheduled to complete last year, 5 completed on time and within budget, 30 have been canceled and written off due to excessive cost or schedule overruns, and the remaining 65 are expected to miss their target completion dates by at least 25% of planned duration with a combined budget overrun to date of 30%.

Expensive Methodology

Looking for outside assistance you hire a large reputable project management consulting firm. They explain that you need a methodology. They will help you define your project management process and establish a project office (PO) that will roll out new documentation, standards, guidelines, and tools. Each project manager will be given a binder containing guidelines, documents, forms, and reports to be produced at each step of the process.   They implement a training program for project managers to improve project management skills. A project management software tool license will be purchased for every project manager, and a training program established that teaches them not only tool features and functions but how it will be used here to ensure consistency. Project plan templates will be created to ensure that planning is consistent across the organization.

You are encouraged to create an in house project management competency certification program or have your project managers acquire certification from an outside organization such as the Project Management Institute's PMP (Project Management Professional) certification.

This is an expensive and time consuming process. Hundreds of decisions about how the process will work need to be made and/or negotiated. Materials have to be purchased or created in house. A support staff and an ongoing training program must be established to provide guidance and ensure compliance. By now you may be aware that after months or even years the promised result of well trained project professionals following a uniform process producing high quality results on time and within budget remains elusive.

You are not alone. Many companies today are implementing similar programs to improve their project management efficiency with similar results.

A Practical Alternative

Another option is to adopt the methodology of the project mature companies that do projects for a living (i.e. construction, engineering, defense). They must do project management efficiently to survive. Every dollar or day of overrun affects their bottom line. They cannot afford the program described above. What are the essential differences in approach that enable these companies to achieve their level of control at lower cost?

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Project Managers: They use only experienced professional project managers, either grown in house through an apprenticeship program, or hired from the outside. This eliminates the need for an elaborate training program, detailed guidelines, and monitoring.

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Process: They are not obsessed with uniformity. They have skeleton (as opposed to detailed) processes, documentation, standards, and guidelines evolved from lessons learned over time and consistent with industry standards. Their experienced project managers and PO staff determine what is appropriate for each project and client.

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Project Office: Their PO operates in service mode rather than support mode. Instead of providing project teams with documentation, standards, guidelines, and tools, and then checking to ensure compliance, they provide PO specialists who do as much of the administrative work as possible for their project teams.

bulletProject Administration Service: Their project office provides project management software tool specialists, Project Administrators (PA's), that help project managers build their project plans, provide tracking services, and reports for both project teams and management. For a summary of the benefits of the planning, tracking, and reporting project management tool service visit the Summary of Benefits page.

The Project Administration Service alone can replace or eliminate most of the program requirements outlined in the "Expensive Methodology" above resulting in operational improvement and significant cost savings much earlier. For more information on the Project Administration Service visit our Project Administration Service page.

Updated 11/20/07