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These are my notes from the EDUCAUSE 2008 session, “Development of a Project Management Office,” by Kelley Anderson, Project Manager, Carnegie Mellon University.

This was the last session I attended just before the big party at Universal and I was so glad I stuck it out. In their Project Management Office, CMU has managed to transform the culture of IT project management. I would encourage our MnSCU system office to take a good look at how the CMU PMO is structured. I think we could and should pull this off at the system level.

I did get some ideas for practices that could be implemented at WSU. My absolute favorite was the executive retreat. Each year, executives meet to review the initial “mini-charters” developed by project initiators. If approved, full project charters and plans are requested. This executive-level filter is important for several reasons:

  • It increases the likelihood that supported projects will align with the institution’s mission, vision, and goals.
  • It increases the level of executive awareness of IT activity, how these activities affect all institutional operations, and how individual IT initiatives are interconnected.
  • It increases and distributes executive accountability. The CIO can no longer be blamed for taking a wrong turn or for the hard lessons learned when resource allocations don’t pan out as expected. Everybody has some skin in the game.

The other thing I really appreciate about the CMU approach is its friendliness. As Kelley described it, steps are taken to reduce defensiveness and misunderstanding and there is a genuine positive regard for the situations faced by colleagues. The process is truly collaborative and life affirming. There didn’t appear to be an increase in bureaucracy and paperwork. There weren’t any strong personalities who dominated the process. If I was a part of such a process, I would look forward to participating. It would actually facilitate, not inhibit, my project. That would be wonderful…a community approach to resource investment and project management.