Enterprise project management: To centralize or to de-centralize?

As the notion of enterprise project management becomes more prevalent in the industry, we’re starting to see EPM approaches divide into a small number of camps. One of the major choices that a new project management office (PMO) has to deal with is who will be responsible for the data itself.


a basic tenet of systems analysis that for each piece of input data there can be only one person responsible. If there are multiple people responsible for a single entry of data, managing the quality of that data becomes very difficult. So, when we set up PMOs, one of the challenges is to decide the role of the PMO personnel. Is it to collect, analyze and report on project data, or should their role be more as a coordinator, bringing the data of many individual project managers and even individual team members into a cohesive collection of data?

In the first scenario, the PMO will look for a high-end centralized project system. Project managers will put the bulk of the project management data in directly or with the assistance of schedulers. The individual team members will see reports out of the centralized system and their input to that system will be either as a part of meetings or, perhaps through their timesheet system. This type of system will typically have advanced functionality for critical path scheduling, resource leveling, skill scheduling, multi-project analysis, risk analysis and extensive reporting capabilities. This type of product will work best in the hands of skilled project scheduling workers.

In the second scenario, the role of the PMO is designed as a clearinghouse for work which is being managed in a much more decentralized manner. Team leaders — or project managers of much smaller projects — work on their own project data. The team members are given direct access to the system and interact with it to find out what they are working on and to update the schedule with their own progress. This type of system is oriented more around collaborative functionality. There will be tools for individuals to customize their own views, to see system announcements and online discussions, to get alerts for project changes, to add collateral data to the project such as documentation, issues, progress notes and more. There is usually less emphasis on reporting in this type of system because the system itself is typically available to everyone. Instead, you’ll find more emphasis on personalized online views. A matrix organization would find this type of tool a good fit.

Which is the best approach? For each organization, you have to look at the key business drivers. The centralized system will bring a lot of data together where it can be managed in the hands of highly trained individuals. The problem may come in the ownership of the results by the team members who are affected. In the decentralized system, individuals are likely more empowered and the project management is done closer to the actual work. The challenge becomes getting sufficient conformity and compliance to have the consolidated data make sense.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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