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Why project management is essential to health IT adoption

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- Program Management, Project Management, Project, Management Offices (PMO). What do those all really mean? Further, why are some organizations successful at program and project management while others fail? If an organization practices good project management and has the most up-to-date tools, does that guarantee successful projects? Results from “The survey of reason for establishing PMO and their influence on PMO operational success” (PMI.org 2010) indicates that the answer is quite simple: PMOs make a difference. Survey results reported that for the more than 300 organizations surveyed, organizations with a PMO were 20 percent to 30 percent more effective than those without a PMO.

As we delve a bit deeper into the survey results, it is interesting to note what is discovered. While many organizations understand the value of project management, they may not realize the investment necessary to be successful. The misconception exists that the more complex the project, the more detailed the plan necessary for mitigating project, company, and individual job risk.

Compounding this is the misunderstanding that project plans are primarily a tool for risk mitigation. For many organizations the lack of technology, such as health IT,  integration has a significant impact on their ability to effectively manage the project portfolio. Without technology integration, project management alone cannot bridge the divide between competing business areas.

PMO: The foundation for organizational success

We can’t tackle all the technology integration issues in our healthcare world in this article, but what we can address is the role of the PMO in organizations at all levels of technology integrations. A centralized PMO, staffed by strong project managers, facilitates an organization’s ability to successfully achieve predictable, repeatable, and profitable results.

For an organization to maintain competitive advantage, it must create a culture of accountability with a focus on sustained improvement. A PMO, coupled with a supporting project management culture and philosophy, are key to achieving this goal. This resulting strong foundation, based on project management principles, provides the structure necessary to lead and track projects against not only against project-specific timelines and budgets but also the organization’s overall stated strategy and goals.

The role of the PMO

An effective PMO has organizationally centralized operations allowing it to oversee, coordinate and report project results across the organization. Project management principals are developed that are both repeatable and predicable and are maintained within the PMO. The PMO flags conflicts in timing, resources, staffing, or information which can jeopardize or delay projects and result in budget overruns. However, the PMO authority goes beyond the role of project police and chief problem identifier.

The PMO can also serve as the catalyst for change. Within mature organizations the PMO also plays a facilitation and mediation role by bringing together competing projects, project owners, and stakeholders and facilitating a resolution that is based on what is best for the organization. As the organization transitions from disparate project owners to a formalized PMO, these facilitated sessions are likely the first time that individuals heading up projects from different departments meet face to face. The PMO helps project owners see beyond their individual projects to work collaboratively developing consensus based on what is best for the organization. The project managers supporting the PMO also play a critical role in proactively addressing challenges that could potentially jeopardize project success.

A fully functional and matured PMO takes many years to achieve and are in a continuous state of evolution. As with the development of many organizations, the first few years for many are viewed as the most difficult. It is critical for a PMO to have executive level support and the mission of the PMO established prior to the establishment.

More often than not, when the value of a PMO is in question, it is a result of not delivering quality projects on time, lack of project control and unable to provide value based reports. Being able to develop a value based PMO with the ability to deliver on-time quality projects, generate meaningful statistics and score cards should be the baseline of any PMO. But in the end, the value of an effective PMO far outweighs the organizational “costs” incurred.