A lot of companies and organizations conduct their businesses as a series of projects. A large percentage of big projects either get canceled or show lackluster performance in comparison to the original projections and only slightly more than 15 percent of all projects are considered completely successful. While technical, logistic, and labor issues can impact the success rate of a program in a negative way, the principal reasons for the failures are made up of poor management and planning practices, as well as inaccurate objectives.
To avoid this, companies are advised to create project management offices (PMO) and interface management (IM). PMO is a department in a company, which is responsible for developing and maintaining guidelines and templates for project management. This group works to achieve this goal through standardization of development routines in project development and to develop guidelines and metrics for future projects.
And IM is an important part of project management, which PMOs also have to recognize. Tied directly to the growing complexity of large capital projects, interface management aims to close the gap in development due to inefficient management of relevant entities involved in the projects. Its purpose is to forgo assumptions that all the different projects or parts of projects worked on by separate teams will work well together eventually, and, instead, create a unified plan for complexity management and interactions between human resources, parts of the programs, procedures and policies, equipment and technology, etc.
The key sources on the topic can be divided into two category. The first category evaluates PMO, its role as a new addition to the project landscape, functions and types. The second category studies the rapidly developing discipline of IM, and how it helps businesses to develop and define the physical family interfaces.
The article “Three Different Types of Project Management Offices” is aimed to define PMOs, their role, functions, standards, methodologies, and, more importantly for this research, differentiate them into different types (Reiling, n.d.). The PMO Frameworks identified by the author are: Supportive PMOs (which provide expertise, best practices, and other non-intrusive aid), Controlling PMOs (which take more involvement in a project when a situation needs to be amended, and whose support and advice are mandatory to be accepted), and Directive PMOs (which fully take charge of projects, and allocate managerial and other resources to the project). The PMOs can also be categorized according to their organizational exposure perspective: enterprise PMO, departmental PMO, and special-purpose PMO.
According to Ward and Daniel (2013), the activities and functions of PMO can significantly vary from one organizational context to another, however, the major PMO practices that “span the project life cycle” are identification of investment advantages, planning of technology application, strategic planning of business changes, post-project evaluation of costs and quality (Ward & Daniel, 2013, p. 318).
In their article, Hobbs and Aubry (2007), continue developing the subject matter and suggest categorizing different types of PMOs according to their functional purposes. In their comprehensive study, the researchers evaluated such factors of PMO performance as their organizational roles, decision-making authorities, staff members, PMO’s age, and some other characteristics which were measured through the conduction of a descriptive survey analysis on the sample of five hundred randomly selected PMO’s.
Hobbs and Aubry (2007) came to a conclusion that there are a few major functional groups associated with PMO performance: supervision and control (Controlling PMO), development of organizational competencies and methodologies, (Supportive PMO), organizational learning, and strategic management (Directive PMO). The particular tasks included in the controlling PMO group are related to the thorough project monitoring, provision of reports to the executive management, and implementation of the information system. The researchers regard the controlling PMO functions as the most important because they support the adequate execution of the project (Hobbs & Aubry, 2007).
At the same time, supportive or developmental PMO group is associated with a complex of strategies and methodologies aimed to increase personnel’s competence and skillfulness while the directive PMO group is interrelated with strategic management practices aimed at the successful execution of the project: analysis of environment, provision of recommendations and benefits for the executive management, networking, planning, and realization of the formulated goals.
The researchers found out that although PMOs are commonly considered to have a positive impact on organizational performance, many of them fail to demonstrate value for financial resources and, as a result, the “mortality rate among PMOs is high” (Hobbs & Aubry, 2007, p. 85). The findings make it clear that organizations need to develop their competence for the successful implementation of PMOs and not merely rely on the popular tendencies in management.
The research study conducted by Lakemond et al. (2013) is based on the review of the case studies related to the field of project management and interface assessment, as well as the examination of the sample based on data accumulated through interviews and surveys. The authors came to a conclusion that IM practices aimed to assess the technological, organizational, and contextual interfaces may be an effective method for overcoming potential barriers to project’s success.
According to Lakemond et al. (2013), contextual interfaces related to the boundaries between the technology and the external economic environment while technical interfaces occur in interactions between the project output (services or products) and organizational production system. Finally, organizational interfaces are related to the interactions between the project team and external organizations. The assessment of the mentioned areas of organizational performance helps to impact project work and allows the managers to raise awareness of and identify issues in the areas of concern.
In addition to these research findings, in their analytical and statistical case study, Weshah et al. (2013) regard physical, contractual, organizational and information interfaces as the main interface types in IM practices aimed to increase the efficiency of communication, coordination of responsibilities between the parties, and prevention of problems that may occur both between the organizations and within a project team. In this way, the interfaces may be defined as external (in case the distinct organizations cooperate with each other) or as internal (in case only one team conducts project fulfillment).
The objective of this research is to organize the existing information on Project Management Offices and Interface Management, to evaluate their emerging role in the modern industries, and study how they are developing and integrating into the traditional structure of major enterprises. For the purpose of this research, an extensive literature review was conducted of the existing literature relevant to the two topics. The articles were studied for their content and quality of presentation. While they provided a lot of useful information, these articles don’t have very extensive data to work with due to the novelty of both concepts. As a result, they still operate on assumptions at times and formulate their own unique understanding of the topic.
PMO may be regarded as an indicator of mature organizational project management, and in many companies it became an inherent part of managerial system. PMO’s tasks and services can significantly vary depending on the context and project goals, but the researchers distinguish three major groups of functions associated with PMO: supporting, controlling, and directive. PMO can assist executive management in planning, dissemination of information and communication, audit, evaluation of risks, and project administration.
However, not every attempt to organize a PMO leads to success. Management needs to consider the fact that the accountability of multiple project managers to one PMO director endows the director with significant responsibilities and increases the chance of project failure. When project managers are accountable to different linear directors, the opportunity for a greater positive effect emerge.
IM may be regarded as a part of PMO, which is important for the control of different fields of operational activities. Interfaces occur at the junctions of distinct areas of organizational functions, and different researchers distinguish multiple types of interfaces: physical, soft, organizational, contextual, technical, informational, etc. While taking into account the potential problems and risks within particular areas of concern, IM helps organizations to prevent the barriers to project’s success.
PMO and IM are two, very young concepts that are quickly becoming essential for managers of large projects. There is not much research on this topic yet, but as the practices will become more commonplace and more data for analysis will grow available, it is likely that they will get much more coverage. This research will then be able to provide the starting point for further studies.
Hobbs, B., & Aubry, M. (2007). A multi-phase research program investigating project management offices (PMOs): The results of phase 1. Project Management Journal, 38(1), 74-86.
Lakemond, N., Magnusson, T., Johansson, G., & Säfsten, K. (2013). Assessing interface challenges in product development projects. Research Technology Management, 56(1), 40-48. Web.
Reiling, J. (n.d.). The Three Different Types of Project Management Offices. Web.
Ward, J., & Daniel, E. M. (2013). The role of project management offices (PMOs) in IS project success and management satisfaction. Journal of Ent Info Management Journal of Enterprise Information Management, 26(3), 316-336. Web.
Weshah, N., Ghandour, W. E., Jergeas, G., & Falls, L. C. (2013). Factor analysis of the interface management (IM) problems for construction projects in Alberta. Canadian Journal Of Civil Engineering,40(9), 848-860. Web.