PMO Nirvana is a Conversation, not a Schedule

We continue to iterate on our PMO processes – managing too few resources and too many project requests, an environment I have consistently seen in every IT group I have ever worked with. Our latest discussion concerned the concept of FIFO work on projects …

    … when presented with five things to do, I will only [emphasis added] work on them in the order received.

This is an exceedingly poor assumption for your personal run-rules, and a short-sighted objective for a PMO that needs to be aligned with the business.

You can’t assume or aspire that your PMO can be a finite scheduler for IT. There is too much variability, softness, lack of clarity, process, etc. on most projects – especially at the Application Layer. Once you get anywhere close to business process and the fluid nature of business requirements, you have to have a strong element of agile, flexible resource scheduling and response.

    <aside> One might say that the lower you go in the seven-layer stack, you have a better chance of finite scheduling this stuff – projects can and should be more highly predictable, highly engineered. </aside>

Another bit of the conversation uncovered an interesting insight; is there “too much” communication overhead? The effort involved to document something completely, to build a detailed work plan, to create a detailed, multi-line resource forecast – yes, these all represent large chunks of work that do little to make something happen on the screen / in the database. However, the value of such effort is quite high, because the results facilitate complicated conversations in the future. It’s just like the idea of capturing requirements early on – saves tons of rework later.

    <aside> That last analogy begs a contrast to agile development – but agile values and requires focused communication and rapid iterations, which can be tough in an environment of thin resources and a high volume of “open” projects. Some elements of the classic waterfall are helpful when keeping multiple plates spinning. </aside>

A final quote – actually heard someone summarize the situation as “we just have a lot of slow projects”. There are two important problems contained in that sentence – “a lot”, and “slow”. You have more control over quantity and duration than you may think …

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James MacLennan

... is the Managing Partner at Maker Turtle LLC, a digital consultancy focused on creating value in ways that align with your strategy and drive engagement with employees, customers, and stakeholders. He is an active creator, providing thought leadership through on-line & print publications, and public speaking / keynotes.