Published here February, 2008.  

Introduction | Book Structure | What We Liked
Much That Is Familiar | Downside | Summary | Postscript


Notwithstanding the extensive detail in the book, we have to confess to some disappointments. The first example is that for those that are already convinced of the intrinsic value of, and necessity for, project management, then the justification described earlier is fine. However, we suspect that the first question that top executives are likely to ask is not "How do we institutionalize project management practices? Or even "How do we get a global view of all of our projects and optimize our resources?" Rather, they will ask, "What do we get for the money?"

Chapter 2 purports to describe "The Business Case for the PMO".[15] However, the purpose of a Business Case is to provide a compelling justification for proceeding with any project initiative, and the description in this chapter is far from making a solid case. As far as we could see, Business Cases are not mentioned again until we get to "Documenting the Strategic Business Plan and Business Cases"[16] where we learn about "What is the purpose and content of a simple business case document?"

As the authors correctly observe:

"A business case articulates the intent and desired benefits of a specific strategy in a feasibility study format. Each Business Case provides the bases for authorizing further [project business management] planning activities, so that an adequate definition of the intent of each strategy initiative and supporting objectives can be developed."[17]

Well, we are not sure about the necessity for a "feasibility study format" but we take all of this to mean that the identified benefits must justify the expenditure of resources on the particular initiative - or, we presume, the initiative will not be funded.

But to be fair, the authors are not alone in their shortcomings in their Chapter 2 description. PMI's PMBOK Guide in fact mentions "Business Case" only once in the whole document and this only as one of eleven bullets listing the recommended contents of a Project Charter.[18] Considering that a Value Proposition or Business Case is the essential primary instrument required by executive or senior management to assess the relative merits of competing potential initiatives, this seems a serious weakness. Or perhaps it just illustrates the narrower focus of project management as a subset discipline in the overall scheme of general management. Either way, the Business Case is a fundamental requirement of project portfolio management that, in turn, is the best rationale for establishing a Project Portfolio Management Office that might otherwise be given the label EPMO.

Our second disappointment is that there is very little focus in the book on the subject of benefits arising from the products of the projects being selected and managed. It is as though project management is an end in itself, when surely the object of the exercise is to produce new products and services better, faster, cheaper, so that better benefits can be harvested sooner. Also missing is the all-important feedback of information from operational units reporting on how well the new products are serving the organization. Without that, there is no mechanism for "continuous improvement" in the management of a project portfolio. Figure 3 illustrates this absence in the authors Project Business Management Methodology data flow model.

Figure 3: PBMM Portfolio/Program/Project Data Flow
Figure 3: PBMM Portfolio/Program/Project Data Flow[19]

Our final regret is really only minor. The text is laced extensively with numerous acronyms. For the intermittent reader it would be very helpful to have both a Glossary of new terms introduced in the book as well as a table listing all those acronyms.

Much That Is Familiar  Much That Is Familiar

15. Ibid, Section 2.1, pp18-20
16. Ibid, Section 19.2, pp218-222
17. Ibid, p220
18. Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, Third Edition, Project Management Institute, 2004, p82
19. Bolles, Dennis L., and D.G. Hubbard, The Power of Enterprise-Wide Project Management, Figure 21-1, p245
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