Published here September, 2009.

Introduction | Book Structure | What We Liked
Gems from Part I - Setting the Stage and Part II - Strategic Planning
Gems from Part III - The PMO in Detail | Gems from Part IV - Implementing a PMO
 Downside | Summary


The authors do explain that "central project management coordination units" are known by different names such as Program Management Offices; Project Management Offices, Project Offices; Enterprise Project Offices; Enterprise Program Management Offices and so on.[17] But the focus of the book is essentially on Project Portfolio Management as the title suggests. Therefore, we would have thought that the obvious recommended title for the centralized office would have been Project Portfolio Management Office.

This might be viewed as a matter of semantics, except that we have a strong feeling that there is a growing acceptance that the duties of an office required to handle the management of a project portfolio are not the same as those required to handle program or project management. And further, that the reason for the difference is that possibly different types of people with different skills are required to fulfill the functions of each.

Indeed, the authors themselves observe: "What we are describing is different. It requires much broader coordination across more functional areas. It requires significant research and work outside of the product development."[18] In any case, it is unreasonable to make the project manager responsible for the selection of the project - that is corporate management's job. The job of the project manager is to get it done.

Although the book is packed full of information we found little to criticize. We did however find some of the diagrams a little mystifying, such as the "PMO Continuous Loop" throughput model, serving to confuse rather than clarify.[19] However, this did not detract from the message in the text. In this connection, the authors state:

"In the Throughput Model, unused budget money can be given to new projects as a means to deliver additional value without having to raise planned fiscal year budget projections. Or it could simply reduce project investment, yielding a better ROI on existing projects ... . As a result of each cycle of reporting to the Governance Board, several things may change:
  • Relative priorities of projects
  • New projects may be added
  • Active projects may be stopped or cancelled
  • Decisions may be taken that will affect specific project work plans or investments"[20]

All of that may well be true, but should not be tinkered with lightly. Considering the average duration of an IS/IT project is maybe one to three months, that environment could be pretty demoralizing for the project teams. If I was on one of them I might be inclined to take the position: "I'll put my back into it once they make up their b****y minds!"

Throughout the book there is the presumption that all the projects are executed internally and for the organization's own benefit. That precludes all those who undertake projects under an arms-length contract as a service to others - including in the IS/IT industry. Even outsourced projects for an organization's own benefit may have to be handled somewhat differently because of the legal implications.

Because the book is discussing relatively large numbers of projects in relatively large organizations, we found a tendency to treat throughput of projects like the production throughput of widgets, albeit widgets of varying sizes and duration. Consequently, the discussion is not really about project portfolio management but about "job shop" management. In such circumstances, "Job Shop Management" is a more likely source of useful information than project management.

The book does not include a Glossary of Terms. Given the differences of opinion throughout the project management industry on the meaning of many terms, we think that the absence of a Glossary to enable correct interpretation of terms in management books is a serious shortcoming. However, the authors do provide many definitions in the body of the book. Unfortunately, some of them are repeated - but inconsistently![21]

Gems from Part IV - Implementing a PMO  Gems from Part IV - Implementing a PMO

17. Ibid, p24
18. Ibid, p408
19. Example: Figure 2.1 PMO Continuous Loop, p27
20. Ibid, p28
21. Examples: The definitions for Throughput, Investment and Operating Expense on pages 62 and 99 are repeated but not the same. The definition of Critical Chain on page 102-3 is repeated on page 262 but is not the same.
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