Thursday, October 14, 2010

Raising the Situational Awareness of Your Enterprise IT Program Management Office|PMO

The concept and use of the Program Management Office (PMO) in Government Information Technology (IT) procurements is both time-tested and well-known. A PMO is typically comprised of experience program and project management personnel, who help the government (i.e. the “client”) monitor and evaluate the performance of significant IT investments – for example building a new computer system, reorganizing and automating business processes, or implementing new IT capabilities within an existing environment. The PMO ensures that program-level risks are mitigated, standards and methods regarding system engineering lifecycle activities are followed, quality management procedures are implemented and all resource utilization is effectively tracked, managed and reported.

The PMO also (and perhaps most importantly) helps make sure that individual procurement and project managers, together contributing to an overall program’s success, are effectively communicating and sharing information and reusable insight. The most capable PMOs provide coordination of planning, communications and reporting between and among the business units and IT staff. This PMO then delivers visibility, by providing some degree of a “common operating picture” (COP) to IT investment and mission stakeholders, based on the “situational awareness” (SA) captured via execution of PMO monitoring and review processes.

Standard PMO practices and organizations, however, are ill-prepared to meet the more real-time demands of “services-oriented” IT investments, in today’s very collaborative, new-media influenced environments. These investment programs require constant, frequent collection and use of information gathered across the entire IT stakeholder enterprise, at multiple levels of visibility, reflecting quickly evolving synergies between the business owners and IT service providers. Reporting earned-value metrics (EVM) including quality, schedule and cost variances across an integrated master schedule (IMS) doesn’t always reflect strategic context or correlate with emerging, changing stakeholder profiles and investments. Tracking and reporting simple delivery of Systems Engineering Lifecycle artifacts misses out on the “value” and “impact” discussions. Effective means of disbursing insight and harvesting reaction doesn’t exist outside of very rigid, procedure-driven communications channels.

While a typical PMO governs the IT investment management processes of many related projects, it falls short of capturing and participating in the development of actionable knowledge around the enterprise that’s not distinctly identified as a project deliverable, but may be enterprise situational awareness that most definitely may result in unplanned risk or success.

Therefore, today’s standard PMO organization, processes and scope of influence requires some evolution, into more of an “Enterprise IT PMO” – to cut across not only the project-oriented IT investment activities, but also to bridge the enterprise services-oriented communication, collaboration and information-sharing activities (that aren’t clearly the singular domain of either business or IT interests). This evolved PMO would foster a more actionable Enterprise Architecture (EA) and Performance Management Plan (PfM), drive increasingly effective Knowledge Management practices (both in and outside of the firewall), respond to and leverage more frequent organizational change, and promulgate rapid enhancements to the IT investment governance processes that are more driven by real-time insight vs. uninformed standard processes. The kinds of new “architect, coaching and consulting” roles, vs. purely administrative, that would be introduced in such an EIT-PMO include:

• Communications and Outreach Manager
• Solution Integration Architect
• SOA Functional Architect
• Enterprise Knowledge and Information Architect
• Enterprise Performance Manager

Communications and Outreach Manager

The Program Communications and Outreach Manager would fulfill the role of the “IT-Savvy Public Relations” staff, albeit leveraging where possible all communications monitoring and distribution channels available. Inside the firewall, available channels would be used for creating, distributing, monitoring and responding to messages and dialogue about the program using email, Intranet sites, blog/microblogs, feedback forms, bulletin boards, wikis, etc. Outside the firewall, this role would be responsible for monitoring dialogue about the program, responding to or channeling questions and feedback, producing and distributing information in a manner that takes advantage of common Internet Marketing techniques (so that the information is found quicker, more often and in the right circumstances). The primary objective of this new role is to enable more timely, collaborative and useful dialogue among a much more connected and complex stakeholder ecology, and to manage and leverage common social media tools or “social business software” as much as possible.

Solution Integration Architect

The Program Solution Integration Architect serves the function of identifying and categorizing prioritized IT resources to meet Business Requirements, aligning IT services and investments to both the Program Business Case and the Enterprise Architecture constraints, and pulling together the organizational roles, structure and expertise necessary to create and implement the Planning or Analysis phases of a program. This role requires an experienced mix of Program Management, Enterprise Architecture and IT Investment Management skills, along with a healthy dose of contextual knowledge and awareness (i.e. understanding of the business and mission). Typically this role is fulfilled by a mosaic of business, IT and program management staff – however, there do exist in most organizations or consulting groups experienced Enterprise Architects or System Architects who not only understand the business problem and context, but have also some background in systems engineering lifecycle-based project management. Such personnel are invaluable additions to the type of PMO being described here, and can truly help bridge the planning and communications gap between the Program Owners/Investors, the Business Users and the Enterprise IT Department.

SOA Functional Architect

Many large IT initiatives these days tend to reflect the influence of Services Oriented Architecture (SOA) methods, if not actually practice them. Very often on an SOA-guided IT Program, the SOA or Functional Architect is a member of the “Technical Team”, though with considerable influence or membership among the “Business Team” groups. That’s the role, to help guide the expression of business and functional requirements in terms of reusable processes and accompanying standardized, automated IT components and services, aligned with the Enterprise Architecture. There’s very often a time-sucking disconnect between the functional and technical architecture build, and the program management resourcing necessary to approve, apply resources, monitor and communicate theses activities with the rest of the Program stakeholders. Installing an SOA-experienced Functional Architect on the PMO should significantly decrease the amount of time spent convincing program owners, investors and stakeholders as to the effectiveness and appropriateness of the developing solution design, whether from a resource management or enterprise architecture compliance perspective.

Enterprise Knowledge and Information Architect

An often overlooked and under-resourced requirement of large PMOs is the need for integrated knowledge and information management. A large PMO governing investment across a collection of very complex, inter-related Enterprise IT domains will itself both collect and generate huge volume of information. Not all the information will be documented and preserved effectively; much will be trapped within the brains and personal processes of individual managers and SMEs. The Communications and Outreach role described above will do a lot to unlock, expose and collect some of this, but an information and knowledge management strategy would help actually harness it to achieve significant gains in productivity, risk mitigation, investment control and overall delivery of mission or business value. The most valuable information probably revolves around the more tacit reasons, factors and sources of program successes and failure, vs. the explicit policies, standards, reports, issue logs and EVM metrics. The PMO is itself a major consumer and provider of information, and therefore deserves a dedicated strategy for managing its information and associated data management tools and repositories – rather than relying perhaps on underutilized, inefficient or otherwise unhelpful existing information management tools and processes.

Enterprise Performance Manager

Standard PMO processes and roles include many who engage in tracking metrics, creating reports, establishing and mapping Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and aligning project performance measures and results to IT acquisition and investment management goals. This last role, mapping project results to enterprise objectives, is a role that requires quite a bit of creativity, enterprise insight and near real-time situational awareness of enterprise IT investments, project status and personnel resources. As service-enabled (i.e. SOA) capabilities are rapidly conceived and deployed around the enterprise, the return-on-investment (ROI) numbers and total costs of ownership (TCO) calculations that have been projected for your program, and included in the annual budgeting cycle, can quickly and significantly change. As projects - upon which your own program depends - rapidly evolve and deliver anticipated (or unanticipated) results, many dependencies or relationships that constrain your project may quickly change.

As significant knowledge is obtained or developed within communities or expertise or key personnel around or outside the organization – that clearly change some of your project’s assumptions, performance targets or resource availability – this must quickly be used to re-factor your own project’s performance goals, and must be quickly communicated and shared with your project’s stakeholders and investors. This kind of knowledge and insight, reflecting tacit performance trends and outcomes around the enterprise, might be monitored and tracked in terms that those evangelizing Social Media programs understand – tracking relationships, resonance of opinion, reach and influence of negative sentiment, and other factors that implicitly highlight probable issues ors risks for your program. In short, program performance management must have an enterprise perspective with which to constantly and quickly measure the impact of change.

Most PMOs moving forward in this era of information-sharing, social media and fine-grained, agile IT Investment needs will require consideration of the roles outlined in this Enterprise IT PMO illustration, if not others. Smaller PMO’s would be wise to seek these roles as shared capabilities and inherent skills among experienced managers; larger PMO’s might directly staff to these positions (or otherwise assign these roles to existing, dedicated resources). Blackstone Technology Group’s Federal Government Practice, in Washington DC, is a great example of a Federal Government IT Management and Consulting firm that is actively applying these strategies and roles in its execution of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) PMO contracts (with Enterprise IT scope). Contact Blackstone for more information, and also find more information about their participation in the upcoming DHS Eagle II Acquisition Program.

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