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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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