PMI MetSIG World Congress 2007

I’m “attending” the PMI MetSIG virtual World Congress this month.

PMI is the Project Management Institute, MetSIG is the Metrics Special Interest Group.  The “Global Congress” is being done as a series of webinars — web seminars that include a powerpoint presentation and an audio conference by phone.  You can ask questions via a web chat interface.  I’m interested in both project management metrics and software metrics, and so far what I’m learning is disappointing.

Time and Budget, which are two of the three elements of the triple constraint, are easy to understand.

Time passes, the Universe expands and cools, and with little adjustments for things like sick days and vacations, everybody has pretty much the same understanding of Time.

Budget is dollars, and for labor-intensive activities like software, the number of dollars being relocated from the project to various individual bank accounts is also pretty easy to understand.

When we get to Scope, there is lots of hand waving.  Software systems start out very ill-defined, so there are often lots of disagreements about what is in or out of scope.  One of the webinars  started to discuss scope changes, but what it boiled down to is that if the project manager thought she could add or improve features without increasing cost, it didn’t count as a scope change.  If the customer wanted something other than what the team had planned, and the project manager thought it would cost more, it was a scope change.

That’s roughly the same as saying “If I like it, I’ll do it.  If I don’t like it, you have to pay for it.”  In fairness, the speaker went on to describe a negotiating process  for possible scope changes to see where “blame” for scope changes belongs.

The other topic has been trying to quantify the  value of a Project Management Office.  PMOs are supposed to provide a way for senior managers to align project activities with the strategic objectives of the enterprise.  Their argument gets a little wierd, though.  It boils down to “Senior managers will find PMOs valuable if they charter them, but if a PMO isn’t chartered by senior managers, it won’t be seen as valuable.”

Well, duh. Once you talk yourself in to investing in a PMO (not cheap) you’re not going to readily decide it was a bad idea.  Your boss may, so you look for “Payback models” that include dollars saved, or new projects launched that create dollars earned, or you get in a bind and talk about “intangibles.”

If you are concerned about strategic alignment — only doing the things that have strategic value for the organization — then a PMO may be just the cost of doing business.   If you don’t care much about strategic alignment, because you have spare resources, or you’re in a very experimental enterprise, or you are not so concerned about ROI, then a PMO probably can’t be justified.

And there we are.


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