Building the PMOProject Management Office

PMO Building Block 2: The Lowdown on Methodologies

Implementation Methodology vs. Project Management

In my mind, there is a difference between implementation methodology and project management discipline. They can work together quite seamlessly but aren’t the same thing. Looking at the PMI Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®), you will see the various “whats” that need to be considered as a project manager. Those “whats” are the knowledge areas and are primarily focused on the things the project manager must do, from the perspective of the project manager.

As with any methodology, you should look at it as a toolbox of potential tools that you can pull out to accomplish a task. You don’t need every tool all of the time. However, to be successful, you have to know which tools are at your disposal and when and how to use them. As a seasoned PMP, I can say that I highly recommend becoming familiar with these “whats” of portfolio, program, and project management via the PMBOK.

As far as the “hows” of getting projects done, there are many different implementation methodologies you can choose from for your organization. Implementation methodologies are focused significantly on the building part of a project—where the sausage is made, if you will. Agile, SDLC, spiral, waterfall, etc. all look at the roles for each of the players on the team and how they must engage for the work to get accomplished. Each of these implementation methodologies has strengths and gaps in ability to help you manage your projects.

As with project management discipline, look at the various implementation methodologies as options you can choose from to accomplish your priorities. Some require more rigor and discipline in applying the components than others, but all are aimed at getting your projects completed while balancing the triple constraint.

What’s New in Portfolio-Level Methodology?

Now, let’s take this to the entire portfolio level. As PMO leaders, we need to be mindful that a key to our success is being able to build trust with our business partners. To do this, we need to build highly reliable techniques for managing our portfolio of work so that we can deliver consistently. Doing what you say you are going to do, on a regular basis, will show your customers and business partners that they can count on you. It’s that simple.

So how do you maximize your available resource capacity and throughput on projects to get to a high-quality and optimally delivered portfolio? To answer that, let’s look at a methodology that leverages the pros of a few different implementation methodologies in a way that creates hyper-productive teams and significantly increases your total portfolio success.

I’ve personally seen the details of this framework, attended the full-day workshop, and feel that this guy is really onto something big. As stated above, having all of the best tools at your disposal and knowing when and how to use them is one of the top strengths for project managers. Now, if you can take that a step further and leverage those components in such a way that your entire portfolio is optimized, then you’ve hit the sweet spot for PMO leaders. You have fully leveraged the “whats” and the “hows” to maximize your entire portfolio throughput.

ACCLAIM™ is a portfolio management approach based primarily on critical chain project management, with some project-level methods borrowed from agile and lean. It stands for Advanced Critical Chain Lean Agile IT Management. This methodology takes six proven techniques for dramatically improving the throughput and reliability of IT project portfolios, and it then introduces a seventh technique that allows both agile and non-agile projects to coexist harmoniously within the same portfolio. ACCLAIM is focused on addressing the three primary objectives of any IT PMO:

  1. Get more done (improve throughput of project completions).
  2. Get it done reliably (minimize risk of project failure).
  3. Use the right tool for the job (apply agile when it makes sense, and other methods when they make sense).

Four of the techniques—project staggering, single tasking, elimination of task-level commitments, and lean—are designed in combination to boost the throughput of project completions by as much as eight times, while boosting reliability.

Two of the techniques—project buffering and buffer management—are designed to maximize the probability that all projects in the portfolio are completed within the original budget, schedule, and scope.

The last technique—time-based buffering—converts agile’s scope buffers into time-based buffers, offering an “apples-to-apples” view of all project buffers in the portfolio.

Finding a methodology that works for you is highly dependent upon your environment, culture, aptitude of the staff expected to use it, and the organizational appetite for standardized process. With that said, there are ways to maximize your entire portfolio so that your PMO becomes a trusted partner in delivering the results that the organizational leaders need.

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