Much of the work conducted in organizations occurs as projects. Project-based work is especially popular in the information technology domain. Statistics indicate that between 50% to 80% of IT projects are unsuccessful –– they either fail to deliver on time, overstep budgeted estimates of resources and time, do not meet customer requirements, or fall short of customer expectations. This alarming scenario is hardly surprising –– too many organizations tend to repeat the same mistakes too often, particularly in terms of knowledge transfer and reuse of the information derived from past projects. Some of the primary reasons for project failures are a result of poor knowledge management: lack of effective project estimation and budgeting, poor communication and information sharing practices, inadequate reuse of past experiences and lessons learned, and insufficient understanding of the technology, particularly its limitations. Other typical reasons are lack of consistency in management, lack of formal tracking, and lack of functional user involvement. The end result is overruns in cost and time through restarts or projects routinely abandoned before completion.

Establishing a Project Management Office (PMO) is one strategy that can be used to resolve these persistent problems –– it is a source of centralized integration and a repository of knowledge which can be used to inform more effective and efficient IT project management. A well-implemented PMO can resolve the most challenging project management issues by capturing and transferring knowledge, maximizing the power of cross-functional teams, regulating the demand of integrated technologies, and providing ownership and accountability for key efforts. Moreover, it can fully assess the impact and risk of change and provide projects with guidance on best practices and standards.

While Project Management Offices (PMOs) have become a mainstay in organizations, systematic research has not yet been undertaken to study their intricacies. In a recent project, Roberto Evaristo and I, conducted an exploratory and descriptive case study analysis of PMOs, based on our interviews with senior managers and directors of PMOs in 32 IT organizations. To read our findings please see - SOURCE: Desouza, K.C., and Evaristo, J.R. “Project Management Offices: A Case of Knowledge-based Archetypes,” International Journal of Information Management, Forthcoming.

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