The Phased Approach to Project Management Implementation

Implementing a PMO can present significant challenges. For that reason, a phased approach to PMO implementation is not only crucial but also a distinguishing characteristic of successful project management consulting firms. Experienced project management consultants know that a phased approach:

(1) helps to overcome resistance to change,
(2) allows for lessons learned in early phases to be incorporated in systems installed in later phases and
(3) establishes a solid foundation of available project-level data prior to rolling-up enterprise-level information. Second, successful project management consultants also know that, when it comes to designing a PMO, there is no such thing as a “universal solution.” To be effective, a PMO must be tailored to your organization’s project types, management/staff capabilities, and organizational culture. A phased approach to implementation allows the necessary time (in the initial phases) to gather first-hand information about project characteristics, personnel, and cultural nuances so that the delivered solution can be tailored appropriately.

The Four Phases of Project Management Implementation

I. Initiation Phase: Throughout the Initiation Phase, project management consultants use pilot projects to build process momentum, overcome natural resistance to change, and gain first-hand knowledge of your organization. This goal of this phase is to successfully mobilize your organization, remediate any current at-risk projects, and set the stage for the next two Installation phases. During this phase, the project management methodology is introduced and software training is conducted; but only for those individuals who will be specifically associated with pilot project teams. Also, a plan for the Project-Level Installation phase is developed and key tools are created that will be utilized during the remaining Installation phases.

II. Project-Level Installation Phase: The second phase utilizes information gathered from pilot projects in the Initiation phase to roll-out structured project planning and control processes for all remaining projects, as well as to formally establish the Project Management Office. This phase can include the creation of PMO job descriptions, formal guidelines for project planning/control, a project web site, and a web-based activity update system – basically the necessary infrastructure to support the consistent, successful application of project management techniques by the PMO. Project Management Training is also rolled-out to the entire organization during the Project-Level Installation Phase. By the conclusion of this phase, the nucleus of a Project management Office is in-place, all project team members have been trained, and the project management consultants are ready to begin transitioning from their role of supporting project team requirements to supporting the PMO staff.

III. Enterprise-Level Installation Phase: During the Enterprise-Level Installation phase, tools are implemented that are focused on managing an organization’s entire portfolio of projects. Examples of these tools include; enterprise performance metrics, a management “dashboard” to gain summary-level visibility to project status, and project scheduling based on limited resources and project priority (enterprise resource leveling). The intent of these types of tools is to (1) provide management with timely and accurate information about the status of the all the projects being undertaken by the organization and (2) support business decision-making that impacts the successful completion of projects such as: changes to staffing, funding, project prioritization, and workload.

During the Enterprise-Level Installation Phase, the Project Management Office staff has already begun to assume some of the day-to-day responsibilities for developing and maintaining ongoing project plans. In doing so, the PMO staff is able to free-up the project management consulting firm to focus on the design and implementation of the enterprise-level tools. By the end of this phase, all responsibility for developing and updating individual project plans have been transitioned from the Project Management Consultants to the PMO staff.

IV. Maintenance Phase: The final phase marks the important transition of the Project Management Office from the project management consultants back to the organization. In addition to supporting the day-to-day responsibilities for planning and controlling individual projects, the PMO staff will now become the focal point for providing the enterprise-level information and analysis required by management. At this point in the project management implementation process, the organization has been well trained, numerous success stories have been created and communicated, virtually all projects have well-developed project plans, and there is widespread support for investing in a formal project planning and control process. Also, the Project Management Office infrastructure is in place, the PMO staff has been trained, and management has necessary visibility to the key project portfolio-level information. Successful completion of this phase creates long-term continuity by implementing the necessary policies and incentives to permanently inculcate project management into the culture of the organization. Ideally, formal project planning and control processes will become recognized as a required core competency and an essential function within the organization.

Deliverables to Expect From Your Project Management Consulting Company Phase 1 – Initiation Phase

  • Initial communication(s) to management and assistance in the identification of pilot projects
  • Project Management methodology and software training for identified pilot team members
  • Project plans and formal control processes in place for all identified pilot projects
  • A library of project “templates” for use during the Installation phases
  • Standardized project coding structures and project-level report formats
  • Finalized requirements and a plan for the Project-Level Installation phase

Phase II – Project-Level Installation Phase

  • Network-based, structured project plans and formal control process for all targeted projects
  • Rollout of PM/software training to all project leaders and team members
  • Training and mentoring of PMO personnel
  • Implementation of the initial PMO infrastructure
  • Finalized requirements and a plan for the Enterprise-Level Implementation phase

Phase III – Enterprise-Level Installation Phase

  • Implementation of the enterprise-level PMO infrastructure
  • Turnover to PMO staff of the day-to-day responsibility for developing and maintaining individual project plans
  • Finalized requirements and a plan for the Maintenance phase

Phase IV – Maintenance Phase

  • Turnover to Project Management Office staff the responsibility for supporting all of the project management requirements of the organization
  • Recommendations to management for policies and incentives required to permanently establish project management as a core competency and essential function


Without a doubt, the design of a Project Management Office must be tailored to the specific needs of its organization in order to be effective. A universal “cookie cutter” approach does not recognize differences in project types, management, or staff capabilities. As a result, standardized solutions tend to have a low probability of success. A phased approach not only maximizes the effectiveness of the project management consulting firm, but also of the organizations that they serve. It allows time in the initial phases to gather crucial, first-hand information, overcomes resistance to change, and leads to a well defined and successful Project Management Office at the end.

CMM and Project Management – Tracking and Oversight

The goal of the Software Project Tracking and Oversight Key Process Area (KPA) is to provide sufficient insight into project performance so that the project manager can detect variances between performance and the plan and take preventive or corrective action. This KPA influences all PMBOK knowledge areas and is most closely associated with the Monitoring and Controlling group of processes. As with the other KPAs Software Project Tracking and Oversight is organized into goals, commitments, abilities, activities, measurements, and verifications.

The goals of this KPA relate to and support project oversight and corrective actions. The goals are that results are tracked against project plans, that corrective actions are taken when there is a variance between planned results and actual results, and that corrective actions that change the project plan are agreed to by the affected groups. The abilities and activities all support the achievement of these goals.

Commitment to Perform
Commitments to this KPA are required at the executive level. The first commitment is that a software project manager be assigned to the project. This commitment will be made by default for most IT projects. The project manager responsible for the entire project is likely to be someone who is considered a “software project manager”, or at least has experience managing software projects. When larger projects require a sub-project for the creation of a software system or application to be defined, this commitment requires a project manager to be assigned to manage the sub-project. This is an organizational commitment, but might require you to identify and assign a project manager to manage the software sub-project if you are the overall project manager.

The second commitment is also at the organizational level and it is that project management follows a written organizational policy for managing software projects. PMs working out of a PMO or PMC should have such a policy to follow. If you are a project manager leading the charge for CMM/CMMI certification you should undertake the writing of this policy to govern your project and future projects for your organization.

Ability to Perform
There are 5 abilities required to meet CMM/CMMI level 2 criteria. The first ability is that software project has a project plan. The second is that the software project manager assigns work to the project team. This means not only that the project manager defines, organizes, and schedules the work in their plan, but that they direct individual team members to do the work. I believe that meeting the criteria for this ability requires the software project manager to be given the authority to direct the project resources work for the duration of the project. The best way for this authority to be officially granted is through the Project Charter which governs the project.

The third ability calls for adequate resources to be provided for tracking and oversight activities. Planning of the activities will be supported by the project’s plans and schedule. Adequate funding will be demonstrated by the budget for resources to perform oversight and tracking activities being part of the approved project budget. Ability 4 requires the software project manager to be trained in managing the “technical and personnel aspects” of the software project. I would argue that there is no better way of demonstrating this ability than by the certification of the software project manager as a Project Management Professional (PMP®). The Project Management Institute oversee this certification and are recognized globally as the leaders in the area of project management certification and project management best practices. Certification of your software project manager is straight forward, providing PMI’s criteria for project management experience are met. Providing they are, the project manager can choose from a host of quality PMP® courses or PMP® exam preparation training products to prepare them for the certification exam. These courses will train project managers in Project Management best practices and their implementation, as well as helping the project manager pass their exam.

The final ability calls for first-line software managers to receive “orientation in the technical aspects of the software project”. CMMI defines a first-line software manager as someone who has direct management responsibility, including responsibility for providing technical direction, for staffing and activities of a single organizational unit. This definition matches the PMBOK®’s definition of a functional manager. The first-line manager should be educated in the tools, processes, procedures, and standards used for the project.

Activities called for by CMM include:

  1. Use the project plan for tracking activities and communicating project status. The plan should be updated with information for work completed and made available to project stakeholders. Your MS Project file will satisfy this criterion and will convert your WBS/schedule to several formats that can be accessed by stakeholders who do not have MS Project on their desktop.
  2. The project plans are revised according to a documented procedure. This procedure will be your Change Management plan, or Integrated Change Control System (ICCS). The various components of the project plan specify how changes approved by the ICCS/Change Management plan are to be implemented. The activity also calls for a review of the revised project plan.
  3. Commitments made to external groups, and any changes to those commitments, are reviewed with senior management according to a documented procedure. In the context of tracking and oversight this activity will be described in the project’s Change Management plan.
  4. Approved changes to the software project are communicated to the members of the software engineering group and other software-related groups. Your Change Management plan, or Communications Management plan, should describe this.
  5. The sizes of work products, or changes to the work products are tracked and corrective actions taken as necessary. CMM uses the word “size” to refer to the number of lines of code,.html pages, or pages of documentation produced. The idea is to compare the actual size with the estimates for the purpose of identifying actions required to correct the estimation procedure and future estimates.
  6. Effort and costs are tracked and corrective actions taken when necessary. The cost management portion of the project plan will govern monitoring and controlling expenditures and identify how corrective actions are to be identified. The Change Management plan governs how changes to the cost estimates are to be made. Since software development projects frequently aren’t governed directly by budgets, this may be accomplished in the Time Management plan for the project.
  7. Critical computer resources are tracked and corrective actions taken when necessary. These will be tracked, along with other project resources, in the resource management plan.
  8. The schedule is tracked and corrective actions taken when necessary. The Time Management portion of the project plan will describe how this happens, including the analysis of late and early delivery dates on the plan.
  9. Technical activities are tracked and corrective action taken when necessary. Technical activities refer to the methods, procedures, and processes used to develop and test the software. Testing activities will be described in the Quality Management plan. Most of the methods, procedures, and processes associated with development of the software should be captured in the Configuration Management plan. Activities not covered by the Configuration Management or Quality Management plans should be described in a separate plan.
  10. Project risks are tracked. This is accomplished by the Risk Management plan
  11. Measurement data and re-planning data are recorded. This includes estimates and data associated with the estimates, plus data measuring completed work. Estimates will be captured in the WBS and schedule. Estimating tools and methods such as Function Point Analysis (FPA) will be described elsewhere.
  12. The software engineering group conducts periodic internal reviews to track technical progress, plans, performance, and issues against the plan. The software engineering group includes the first-line managers and software project manager. This activity is covered by your weekly status review meetings.
  13. Formal reviews to address accomplishments and results are conducted at selected project milestones. These formal reviews will correspond to your Gate Reviews.

Measurement and Analysis
The effort required to perform the tracking activities is measured

Verification is performed by senior management who review the tracking and oversight activities periodically. This will be satisfied with the Gate Reviews planned for the project and by any Steering Committee or Project Sponsor reviews scheduled. Verification is also done by the project manager. This requirement can be satisfied with regular status review meetings in addition to the Gate Meetings. These two verifications also require you to produce a status report after each meeting.

The 3rd verification calls for reviews or audits of the project by a Quality Assurance group. Since CMM regards the Quality Assurance group as an entity outside of the control of the project, the senior management of your organization should be responsible for this verification. If you are assigned to manage the project by a PMO or PMC this group may provide the audits or reviews required by CMM.

The tips and tricks described in this article implement some of the best practices promoted by the PMI (Project Management Institute). These are taught in most PMP® courses and other PMP® exam preparation training products. Visit the three O web site for a sampling of some of the products available in this area, including AceIt©, our downloadable software training tool:

Small Business Project Management: Six Pros and Cons

Growth hungry small businesses today in the UK and indeed throughout the world face the challenge of balancing two competing objectives. Firstly, businesses must maintain and standardise current business processes in order to give your business the chance to get really good at what it does through experience curve effects. Greater business efficiency normally translates into a better customer experience and higher profits. Secondly, businesses must transform business operations in order to survive and compete in the future. How well we are able to achieve the right balance for our business will ultimately determine if we survive and go on to thrive or go the way of so many small businesses into market irrelevancy and insolvency.

You may well be thinking right now what has this got to do with project management? To understand that we first need to understand the fundamental differences between projects and day to day business operations. Whilst many of the skills required to manage your “business as usual” activities are the same as those needed to manage projects, there are some crucial differences. Amongst the most significant differences are that project work tends to be at least cross functional and often cross organisational and every project will be unique in some way rather than following the predictable pattern of business as usual. These characteristics of projects introduce opportunities and risks over and above those encountered in business as usual. In short, projects are riskier than day to day business, and therefore need a different management approach.

Projects are the means by which we introduce change in organisations. All businesses that are making any attempt to adapt to face future challenges have projects. Common examples of projects in small businesses may include setting up a company website, establishing the office in a new location, or implementing a new product but it can be any temporary activity or set of activities that have a specific output associated with it. Businesses increase their productive capacity one project at a time. Indeed, for ambitious small companies looking to grow and expand, the need to initiate the right projects and achieve the desired results is even more vital l than it is for huge national and multi-national businesses

Despite the obvious need for a project management (PM) approach, most small businesses don’t bother. This constitutes a huge missed opportunity as effective project management impacts the bottom line. For example, research by the CBP shows that project management improvement initiatives improve project performance by up to 50% for the first project and can continue for each new project if the business offers ongoing project management tools and support. We could emphasise this point further by citing the Standish Group, who in their CHAOS Report conservatively estimates that 20% of money spent on projects is wasted because companies don’t have a consistent approach to project management.

Let’s take a look at six reasons I often hear from small business owners that choose not to bother with project management and then critically address the misconceptions behind these reasons.

1. Project management practices take more time

Having a process to follow may add time to the duration of an activity. Doing something properly will almost always take a little bit more time than adopting a slapdash approach. However, if you where building a house, would you rather have a quality end result that took a little longer, or would you prefer to have it done quickly but with lots of problems? Given that poorly executed projects can be completely de-rail a small business if they go badly, doing it well is essential, and PM processes help ensure things are done well.

2. Project management eats into the cash that I need to grow my business

A common misconception is that it is hugely expensive to implement PM process. The reality is that there are many free or low-cost sources of advice, techniques, tools, templates and project management services readily available and accessible through the Internet. If done correctly, any small business can implement PM processes, techniques and tools with very little cost. The likelihood is that small business owners are already using software and other tools that can be used for project management. For example, certain email software, spreadsheets, and other common software applications offer good templates for project management, especially if used in collaboration with some of the low cost project management services available for small businesses

3. Project management requires skills that I don’t have and cannot afford to hire

Although it does require specialised skills and experience to be an accomplished project manager, these are skills that can be learned over time. To move further up the learning curve faster, it is possible to take a PM course in as little as four or five days. Most small business owners tend to possess the knowledge needed for project management, and courses such as the Prince 2 Practitioner course would build on these skills while introducing the specific theories, tools, and processes essential for project management. Whilst business owners might not emerge from a course as a project expert, they would certainly learn valuable skills to apply to their small business.

4. I don’t need the hassle or paperwork of project management.

Every entrepreneur that starts their own business will, at some point, need to do a risk assessment, a marketing campaign or apply for finance. Being knowledgeable in project management and applying associated tools such as stakeholder analysis, communication planning and risk management will not only assist in many of these tasks, but will provide your small business with a competitive edge over competitors who do not approach.

5. Project management will slow me down and I need to stay agile.

Modern PM methodologies all acknowledge the importance of a tailored approach to project management. If your project requires speed, the right methodology can enable you to move quickly. Just as important, however, it will provide you with techniques to understand whether some proposed projects are worth pursuing at all. Rushing into situations without thoroughly understanding your environment is hazardous to the health of any project and potentially to the health of the business as a whole

6. I am an expert in my industry, I don’t need project management.

Most small businesses are started by a person who already has some expertise in their industry. This is unquestionably an advantage; however, project management should still be used to convert plans into reality. The main reasons for project failure tends to be poor planning, lack of capital, and lack of management. Project management, while not a cast-iron guarantee of success, will assist the small business in mitigating some of the common risks that so often cause project failure amongst small businesses.

Even a brief look at the reasons often posited by small business owners for failing to approach projects in a systematic and different way that recognises their inherent riskiness and addresses some of the more challenging aspects of project work shows them to be of dubious merit. Without question, the quality of project outputs would be greatly enhanced and the cost of and time taken in delivering project benefits using a project methodology appropriate to the scale of the project.