Staffing for Project Management and the PMO

October, 2006

As businesses become more dependent on information technology, the ability of the IT organization to effectively deliver new systems and capabilities becomes ever more important. Yet, in many organizations, the track record for successfully completing IT projects is poor. Budget and schedule overruns are common, and new systems often fail to meet key requirements. In the worst cases, projects are abandoned without delivering any value. Therefore, consistent delivery of IT projects on time, within budget, and according to specifications can spell the difference between success and failure for many businesses.

In such an environment, the role of the project manager in the IT organization is critical. Although the project manager generally does not have responsibility for direct creation of project deliverables, such as system design, program code, or documentation, the project manager is the individual with primary responsibility for ensuring that these deliverables are completed according to plan.

This Research Byte is a summary of our full report, IT Project Management Staffing Ratios and PMO Adoption Rates.

Realizing the unique knowledge and abilities that project managers must possess, many companies have established a formal project management office (PMO) that provides project management expertise as needed by the IT organization. In some organizations, the PMO operates as an advisory group to project managers, who report directly to business units. In other organizations, the project managers report directly into the PMO and are assigned to projects on a case-by-case basis. In either case, one of the advantages of having the PMO as a distinct group is that it provides focus. The PMO provides an environment where IT professionals who show promise as project managers can be formally trained in the principles and techniques of project management, such as those contained in the Project Management Institute’s certification program. The PMO also provides a place where project management tools, such as product planning and scheduling systems, can be selected and implemented so that they are available for rapid deployment when new projects are launched.
Project Manager Staffing Varies with Size and Structure
Because project management is a key function in the IT organization, it is important that it be adequately staffed. To better understand current trends in project management staffing, our recently completed study, IT Spending, Staffing, and Technology Trends, investigated the role of project managers and PMOs in nearly 200 organizations.

Overall, ninety percent of the CIOs and senior IT managers surveyed report use of project managers as a distinct IT staff position. However, there is a positive correlation between the ratio of project managers to IT staff and organization size. (In our study, small companies have annual revenues less than $250 million, medium companies between $250 and 750 million, and large companies in excess of $750 million.) Our analysis indicates that as organizational size increases, the need for IT project managers also increases.

The full version of this report also provides a breakdown of PMO usage by organization size, metrics for measuring the performance of the project management office. It also identifies some of the best practices of the most effective project managers. 
While project management is one of the most challenging roles in the modern IT organization, the potential for payback makes it one of the most important functions. The project management function must be adequately staffed, and the individuals fulfilling that function must be adequately trained. Fortunately, the project management body of knowledge is well-defined. Nevertheless, too few IT organizations consistently apply that knowledge to their actual project efforts. The project management office is an important part of transferring project management theory into practice. The PMO provides a professional environment where project managers can learn from each others’ experiences and develop project management best practices for the benefit of the whole organization.

October 2006

This Research Byte is a brief overview of our report on this subject, IT Project Management Staffing Ratios and PMO Adoption Rates. The full report is available at no charge for Computer Economics clients, or it may be purchased by non-clients directly from our website at  (click for pricing).

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