Thought Leaders

Where Does My Project Management Go?

project managers

Project management, in one form or another, is here to stay in most organisations.  The challenge is figuring out where “here” is.  Organisations wrestle with the notion of how to integrate PM into the hierarchy without creating a significant new administrative layer.

Project Manager Today reached out to organisations through their PMOs and through project management leads to explore how to integrate project management effectively within organisations.

Jack Lewis, Project Management Office Manager for Eversheds-Sutherland, an international top 15 law practice, says the project managers report directly to the PMO, and the PMO reports directly to the CIO.

He says the reporting structure works for internal personnel, but external contractors are sometimes challenged by it. He says some of the most significant challenges occur because external PMs believe they have the support of the CIO.

Michelle Venezia is the Director of the Project Portfolio Office for the University of Rochester Medical Centre.  She says that the 15+ project managers who report to her office are spread across the organisation (in addition to the 10 project managers who don’t have the title, but manage projects, nonetheless).

She says only the core team members report directly to her, while highly specialised project managers are focused within their speciality and functional organisation.  The portfolio office reports up to Chief Technology Officer.

“The intent is to ensure alignment with IT Strategy & Enterprise Architecture, and to report into a neutral leadership chain that is focused on taking an enterprise view.”

Kathy Shives, a Senior Technical Project Manager for a large national healthcare insurer, says her organisation is much flatter than that of her peers.  “Project Managers in each division report to the Senior Manager for that division.

Scrum masters and Agile team members report to the manager of their division with dotted line to the Project Manager of the project for which they are assigned.”   She says that the organisation is dispersed.

“Each division reports up to a PMO in a separate reporting chain but the actual PMO has little authority beyond reporting, risks, and issues.”  As for who the PMOs report to, it’s a function of their level within the culture.

“The Senior Manager of the PMO reports directly to the head of the organisation.”  She says that’s because the Senior PMO manager has “higher authority than divisional Senior Managers who report to Directors that in turn report to the head of the organisation.”

A senior vice-president for service delivery at Ericsson, Phillip Long, is the business area delivery head for digital services.  He says their half-dozen project managers report into a single project management office.

He explains that the project managers report to the head of the PMO, who in turn, reports to him. “Our project-based delivery teams are a blend of PM, Architects, Engineers, Deployment specialists, trainers, and integration test teams. All of these functions sit under me, the Head of Delivery.”

He says that it goes back to Ericsson’s need for a project-centric environment.  He says it’s a “consolidation strategy around a project-centric delivery model. I also keep the PM’s in the PMO for career development and growth focus.”

Long is no stranger to the project management community, despite the fact that he’s an executive.  “As the lead for delivery I think it very important that I have a strong PM background. It has served me well. The biggest issue we continue to face is scope control and value management.”

He also believes he needs to know what they’re providing for their customers.  He says he needs to hear from the project managers early in the process, as it’s “easier to engage early in the pre-sales process and carry the ball through the effort estimation and execution phases.

Since the Head of Delivery owns all customer facing projects/programs, it’s important that the process ownership” comes from his office.

Scott D. Gedicks is a PMO leader for a large technology company based in Silicon Valley with 23 project managers under his wing.  He says their dispersed model is important, as they need to work with technical personnel.

“We have PMO leaders regionally to keep our teams smaller and more closely aligned with the technical teams they work with.

“In our world, the PM is often the scrum master, as we do practice agile methods, but because we are teaching our customers (professional services) how to use our product, we frequently need to adapt to what they are comfortable with for project delivery. Our R&D teams have a separate structure, and generally do not consider themselves a PMO.”

He points out that just in the recent past, they’ve made changes to their governance structures.  “The PMO Reports to the regional Director – currently split into 3 teams in Americas – who then ultimately reports to the VP of services for Americas.

Only a few weeks ago the PMO was a silo and the PMO Director reported to the VP of services for the Geographic Region – Americas. We made the changes to be able to be more responsive and to push decision making down closer to the work.”

Shives believes the notion of a flatter organization (fewer layers) provides a higher level of visibility at the executive level.  “The problem is, problems faced by the project need to go through so many levels of management, the true picture may never be seen by the C-level of the organization.

There are annual skip-level meetings but that still only moves the Project Manager up one level, often not sufficient to make any difference.”  She says that “only the most critical information reaches the top.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Venezia says her organization has extensive governance that ensures a higher level of upper management visibility.  “We have an advanced governance structure, consisting of 6 different Advisory Councils divided into major operational areas of focus: Data & Analytics, Clinical, Revenue Cycle, Providers, Business Systems, and Architecture Review Board.

“Architecture Review Board is focused internally within IT focused on adherence to enterprise architecture standards. The other councils are chaired by the executive leaders of the medical center, and focus on prioritization, approval and oversight of all IT work – ensuring that we are working on projects that have largest business impact and strategic focus. We also hold a monthly CIO Portfolio Review, focusing on the health of the overall IT portfolio.”

She also points out that it doesn’t matter if the projects are being built using adaptive, waterfall or hybrid models.  “Governance is methodology agnostic. If a project utilizes IT resources, it receives governance oversight.

“It is important to note that the role of governance is largely portfolio management focused. We do not have a strict waterfall approval process. There are high level checkpoints in projects, however governance focus is on scoping/planning and go-live. The implementation phases allow for iterative development cycles.”

Long is in a similar environment, looking at it from the top down.  “We have a very structured governance model with standardized reporting that has been modified and adapted over the last 2 years. It’s quite comprehensive. We do monthly true up on earned value by representing earned value, estimates at completion, estimates to complete, and financials derived from this. Our revenue recognition is based on a man-hour model”.

Long says his view is pretty detailed.  “Weekly, I am provided with status, risks, headcount, schedule, milestones, opportunities, highlights, and revenue/margin financials. We conduct a weekly deep dive into the projects’ status.”

He says the information from Agile teams is not quite as extensive.  “The PMO has a bit more than the development areas. I’m also quite transparent with this information at senior levels. Inside the development areas you notice a little bit of shrouded activity. They are less willing to provide a completely open view into how things are progressing. Even the roadmaps are kept a bit in secret.”

In Gedicks’ world, there are a lot of common elements.  “We use a standard set of project status reporting, project dashboards, escalations meeting weekly, and project governance meetings (both internal and customer facing). We provide the high-level summary to leadership, and keep the details attached or linked if the leaders do want to dive in to more details on a particular subject. It’s a balancing act to meet each executive’s personal style and expectations.”

Lewis points out that it’s not all about having the information available to the executive team.  One of the issues is consumption.  “Full detailed status of the project portfolio goes to the CIO. [The]CIO chooses what to share with the Executive Committee. Most risk and issue data are available to CIO, but not usually consumed, and therefore not known at the Executive Committee level. Project level progress for the overall portfolio is shared to the CIO and Executive Committee levels.”

That disconnect is far from ideal.  He says the “CIO does not fully understand what is involved in project management and thus does not appreciate what is has to be done to successfully drive a project to on-time, on-budget completion. [The]PM process is viewed by the CIO and his direct reports as an overhead function.

“Additionally, because of that lack of understanding, the CIO continually agrees to add projects to the portfolio without changing the timelines or schedules of previously approved projects in the portfolio.”

For all of these experts, the question remains, “Where do we go from here?”

“The role of the PM will need to adapt very quickly to remain relevant and to provide unique value to the organization,” says Gedicks.

“My personal opinion is that the PM will be a higher-level resource with more strategic involvement in project selection, developing charters, managing risk in the portfolio or a portion of it for the future. I think that as the speed we can deliver solutions at increases, we need to re-focus on the big picture of how we manage our projects – and not get stuck in the details that are now moving so quickly it can be almost impossible to be informed at all times.”

Lewis believe the project management role will migrate toward becoming more implementation- and customer-focused.  “PM work has to specialize on implementation activities with a heavy emphasis on rollout, communications, and training for end users.

“Focus is placed on the solution selection process – seeking to ensure solutions introduced in the organization adhere to the established security and technology standards. The PM function will need to be more strategic in roadmap planning, portfolio management/planning, technical staff skills planning/education, resource planning, and vendor relationships.”

Venezia says it’s a good-news/bad-news future for project managers and PMOs.  “As the demand for project management grows, I believe organizations will assign project management responsibilities to more people that do not have the traditional PM background and certifications. They will pull in subject matter experts and technical leads and ask them to oversee projects within their disciplines.

“As PMOs, we need to build out the training and toolsets to equip the non-traditional PMs to support them in project execution.”

And she’s optimistic that these shifts will push project management to a higher level of visibility.  “As the focus shifts to strategic execution, I believe PMOs will expand to have more of a seat at the table with executive level decision makers.”

Shives suggests that until that seat at the table is available, organizations can’t win.  “Project Management cannot be effective without access to the decision makers. Organizations need to make a decision, as to whether they want to focus on building strong functional teams or deliver outstanding projects.

“It is always going to be more effective to have a strong Project Manager who can build a strong team for a specific project. While the functional teams may be able to support smaller, shorter projects…a projectized organization can better deliver large, full-time projects.”

Long remains hopeful, but concerned.  “My biggest fear is that the level of PMO oversight has reached its peak.  I’ve been pushing for years to get the PMO at the Enterprise level with little to no success.”

“This is less optimistic than you might hear from others but even though it’s clear that Program oversight has improved significantly and is on the minds of C-suite executives, they’re not willing to make a commitment to host project management at a higher level and allow the influence into the executive management team boardroom. The maturity the field has attained is exemplary but I still think it falls a bit short in influence at the highest levels,” Long adds.

And while Long believes the data is there, he fears project management may have peaked in the middle of organizations, rather than near the top.  “I believe we’re somewhat stuck. We’ve generated a ton of proof points and data to support moving higher into the organization. Just not sure it’s ever going to happen.”

Carl Pritchard, PMP®, PMI-RMP® is the U.S. Correspondent for Project Manager Today. 

He is the author of seven project management texts, and teaches project t management around the globe, with a focus on risk and communications.  He welcomes your comments and insights at


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