Harvard Business School

The AtekPC Company found in 1984 has grown in size and scope to become a mid-sized technology PC manufacturer. The company now boasts 2100 fulltime employees with an additional 200 part time workers and revenues of $1. 9 billion. AtekPC finds itself, like all other PC manufacturers facing a changing industry, one that is transitioning from a growth market industry to a maturing market industry and like all competitors in the marketplace, AtekPC is experiencing tremendous cost pressure and demands from management to adapt.

In order for the company to survive must less thrive, company CIO John Strider believes a PMO implementation is very necessary but he is conflicted about the best way to implement said PMO office. Does he implement a PMO–heavy or PMO-light model? Can the PMO implementation change the organizational culture for the better and deal with the pressure AtekPC is facing or would the PMO implementation be disruptive to the organizational culture and as such become more of a problem than a solution.

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Questions about the main purpose and mission of the PMO and the main challenges and obstacles in implementing the PMO are questions that John will struggle with and questions that this assignment tries to answer. The purpose and objectives of a Project Management Office (PMO) as defined by PMBOK is as follows: A project management office (PMO) is a management structure that standardizes the project-related governance processes and facilitates the sharing of resources, methodologies, tools, and techniques.

The responsibilities of a PMO can range from providing project management support functions to actually being responsible for the direct management of one or more projects. There are several types of PMO structures in organizations, each varying in the degree of control and influence they have on projects within the organization, such as: Supportive – Supportive PMOs provide a consultative role to projects by supplying templates, best practices, training, access to information and lessons learned from other projects.

This type of PMO serves as a project repository. The degree of control provided by the PMO is low. Controlling – Controlling PMOs provide support and require compliance through various means. Compliance may involve adopting project management frameworks or methodologies, using specific templates, forms and tools, or conformance to governance. The degree of control provided by the PMO is moderate. Directive – Directive PMOs take control of the projects by directly managing the projects. The degree of control provided by the PMO is high.

While the PMO of AtekPC was still in its implementation phase, one of the problems facing Strider was defining its purpose while gradually proving its value. The PMO group was still evolving from its inception in 2006 but still had not build complete consensus regarding its purpose, responsibilities and authority. Strider believed in using a PMO light/low implementation approach, where project focused responsibilities were going to be the primary means used to prove the merits of the PMO. The plan was to create acceptance of the PMO by consulting and mentoring individual projects before branching out into a more enterprise role for the PMO.

This approach used a minimal staff of experts who worked through internal project managers to perform the responsibilities of the PMO. The focus was on the development of skills of internal project managers. Not everyone involved believed in the light approach, Mark Nelson the new PMO manager agreed with the light approach to begin with but he also felt the delays from using this light approach might compromise the groups’ ability to provide effective PMO services and to demonstrate its value to the functional areas of the business and by extension executives that had not bought into the idea of implementing the PMO.

Without constraints, Nelson would employ a team of people consisting of project analysts, as well as managers very rapidly. He was more concerned in the group’s productivity and outcomes than in how the group might be perceived or affects organizational culture at AtekPC. The issue of implementing a PMO and the obstacles associated with implementing the PMO at AtekPC is not unique to AtekPC. Most organizations that are implementing a new PMO do so as a result of changing times, changing market forces or changing personnel and culture.

AtekPC finds itself having to deal with changing market forces as the PC industry moved away from a growth market industry to a mature market industry. Cost pressures increase tremendously on mature markets since areas for growth are no longer viable. Managers must effectively manage processes and supply chain to maximize profits in a mature market industry. PMO offers centralized efforts that are dedicated to improving the practice and results of the organizations project management.

The challenges for implementing the PMO at AtekPC are roughly the same most companies have had to overcome in implementing PMOs. Some of AtekPC’s challenges are as follows: Lack of recognition of value of PMO to the organization and evaluating the effectiveness of the PMO within the organization – Because many mature organization view PMO as just another reporting mechanism for senior management, it will be difficult for Strider and Nelson to get the functional areas to recognize the real value/output of the PMO. Strider’s concern was how would implementing the PMO change the organizational culture.

Would implementing too quickly raise red flags? Persons outside the PMO will have reservations because to them, the PMO cannot get the project done, they are not the ones writing code, installing servers, meeting with users or dealing with customers. The challenge is getting these units to realize the value of the PMO even though the PMO might not be doing the actually heavy lifting of writing code and installing servers etc. Can the PMO show value of best practices and rigid centralized planning, control and methodologies?

It is easier to make a case for implementing the PMO than it is to provide measurements or metrics to measure the success of the implementation or the effectiveness of the PMO once implemented. Another challenge of implementing the PMO at AtekPC is the failure to decide of the type of PMO that will be implemented. After a year in existence, all the executives are still not on board with the idea of a PMO and its necessities. Strider is still debating with himself about the type of PMO structure that is right for the organization.

For effective PMO implementation, the PMO teams need to have a strictly defined hierarchy with the organizational structure. Sponsors, direct and indirect reports and other relationships to the PMO need to be clearly defined. These steps are required for the PMO to be efficient and effective. Another challenge of implementation is a rigid corporate culture and failure to manage organizational resistance to change. Strider understood AtekPC was moving from an organization that had no formal project management to a company that would like to be very formal.

He understood the forces opposing the PMO implementation can be overwhelming at times. He understood the resistance from the IT organization and also understood the resistance culturally within AtekPC. He believed he had only two choices, conform the PMO to culture and survive or fight the culture and fail. He decided to work within the culture and to develop forces that would promote the PMO and overcome these entrenched cultural resistances. These efforts would include mentoring, coaching and training that would be provided by the PMO team to other functioning areas.

Would this hybrid approach work? These are questions that only time and reflection will answer. Conclusion: There is a saying in project management, “if you cannot measure, you cannot control and if you cannot control, you cannot manage”. PMO solves this for organizations that take the time to implement a suitable and effective PMO. By continuing with its implementation strategy, AtekPC PMO should be able to enhance its reputation and as a result gain top to bottom recognition and organizational support.

Implementing sound methodologies and project management best practices within an organization can definitely affect the bottom line in a positive way. AtekPC at this point in the maturing market can least afford to continue doing business as usual. Organizational and cultural resistance might be an issue but it is up to the executives, functional managers and project managers to mentor and educate the larger organization to the benefit to implementing PMO and project management practices that will have a positive effect on the company long term.

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