Successful strategic planning requires project managers

When you read papers, magazines or listen to the news today, do you wonder what happened to Business Strategy or Strategic Planning?  Strategic plans deal with reaching your organization’s future goals within a two to five year time frame. It should be the touchstone in making decisions about the allocation of resources necessary to achieve an organization’s vision. The importance of a strategic planning roadmap is well stated in this dialogue between Alice and the Cheshire Cat (Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, Chapter 6).

"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
"I don’t much care where–" said Alice.
"Then it doesn’t matter which way you go," said the Cat.
"–so long as I get SOMEWHERE," Alice added as an explanation.
"Oh, you’re sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."

So, if strategic plans are so important to business success, why is it that completed plans so often only sacrifice trees and collect dust?  I believe this disconnect between strategic planning and day-to-day execution (called Project Management) is the direct result of how the strategic plan is built. When project managers are not part of the strategic planning process, there tends to be a lack of grounding in what can be done and how it should be accomplished.

If you are interested in my thoughts on this subject, I have recently written an article on The New Face of Strategic Planning—Bridging it with Project Management is the Key to Success.  Two web sites have been kind enough to publish my article.


And the original article is avialble at the Cognitive Library.

As always, I would welcome your thoughts and comments on this post.


Do you need a PMO (Project Management Office)?

I am often asked by CEOs and senior managers, “Does our organization need a PMO?” Like all yes/no questions about complex topics that involve a cost– benefit trade, the answer to this question is, “It depends.”  Let me elaborate…..

What is a PMO?
Software development projects, especially complex ones, have a notoriously high failure rate—some estimates are as high as 60%–70% of software projects fail to deliver on their requirements and cost estimates.

A PMO, often reporting directly to the CIO, provides guidance and support to projects in implementing best practices, complying with standards and using tools to help keep projects on track. PMOs may conduct project reviews and increasingly are being expected to be directly accountable for project results. In some organizations, the PMO is staffed with experienced personnel who are loaned out to manage IT projects.

T.D. Jainendrukumar writing in PM World Today (January 2008) provides an overview of the duties of a PMO. He sees the PMO as responsible for: Practice Management, Infrastructure management, Resource Integration Management, Technical Support Management, and Business Alignment and his article describes these functions in detail.

What are the benefits of a PMO?
In an article by Megan Santosus for CIO, titled Why You Need a Project Management Office (PMO), she reported that her research found that more than 50% of those organizations with a PMO claimed improved project success rates.

At Cognitive Technologies, we encourage establishing an organizational PMO when projects are of strategic importance to the company’s future or projects are to be executed over multiple years, multiple business units or in coordination with outside organizations. We have found that a PMO helps organizations execute complex software development projects by providing increased:

  • Control
  • Collaboration
  • Communication

If you want to dig deeper, check out Cognitive Technologies white paper about our experience and recommendations regarding PMOs: “Why do you need a PMO”

Does your organization need a PMO?
Here are 5 yes/no questions that will help your organization decide if a PMO will help you do a better job managing your software development projects:

  • Is the level of complexity within the organization’s environment high—i.e., the effort may involve multiple departments (each of which has different stakeholders) within the client organization?
  • Is the project for an outside client who is likely to assign an Independent Validation (IV&V) consultant or auditor to the program?
  • Are specialized requirements involved? (For example, HIPPA information security requirements, financial security requirements, EV reporting, CMMI compliant process or execution levels, PMI best practices, or specialized time reporting and charge codes.)
  • Will a single methodology be enforced across the different projects or program team, requiring cultural and behavior changes for the individual contributors?
  • Will there be a large number of staff/people to be managed, assigned, and tracked (i.e., 100-150) across the projects or program?

One other good source for PMO thoughts is the 2003 article in CIO magazine on Why do you need a Project Management Office.

If you have worked with a PMO in your organization, please leave a comment and share your observations. In a near-future post, I will talk about the Do’s and Dont’s of setting up a PMO.


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