Multi Project Management
Last updated: 2022-03-20
We define "multi project management" as a set of methods an organization
can use to enable management of multiple projects. In the first part of
this sub-section we introduce the different types of project
organizations. The second part presents the concept of the project
management office. We conclude this sub-section with a summary of
characteristics of the different project organizations.
We assume that we are an organization dealing with multiple projects
and have to start a new one. There are four basic organizational models
to choose from.
(1) PROJECT LINE ORGANIZATION
The project line or functional organization is suitable for projects
where we mainly need resources with skills that are already available
within one line of our organizational structure. We hand over our new
project to that line where we find the expertise which is necessary. The
project responsibility will be with the line manager of that line, and
he staffs the project team with members of his line. Typical examples
are projects for product development where every new product version is
set up in an individual project, and all of them are managed in "multi
project management mode".
Project Line Organization
(2) PROJECTIZED ORGANIZATION
The projectized organization is applicable for projects that need
resources with skills that are spread across the organization, or have
to be hired from outside. We create a new sub-organization in our
existing one, just as needed for the new project, and staff it with
members from inside or outside our organization, according to the
necessary expertise. This type is only suitable for projects of adequate
duration so that the organizational change that goes with it is
justifiable. Typical examples are large to very large projects like
construction of a power plant, subway line, etc., with durations of 24
months or more.
(3) PROJECT MATRIX ORGANIZATION
Most projects need resources with expertise that are spread across
our organization but the project duration does not justify the
organizational change necessary for creating a projectized organization.
For that reason, we apply the project matrix organization. We hand over
the project responsibility for our new project to a colleague of one
line, and staff the project team with members of all the lines where we
find the necessary expertise. All staff members, assigned to the new
project, enter the leadership of the project manager for the project
duration while remaining under the leadership of their "home lines" at
the same time. The "matrix" seems to be the most frequently used one for
multi project management. Typical examples are projects that need
different skill sets, with duration of up to 30 months.
Project Matrix Organization
(4) PROJECT FUNCTIONAL ORGANIZATION
The project functional organization is a special case of the project
matrix organization. Main difference is the completely missing project
manager's authority over project team members and project budget. In
this situation, the project manager can only influence his team members
and thus, manage the project with his high level social skills. Maybe,
the most spectacular examples are those "under-cover projects" which
enjoy very high commitment by the individuals involved but nearly zero
(official) authorization of the organization. Some of us vividly
remember a TV program in which the "project manager" received a tape
with the "project goal", some vague "project requirements", and the
special note that in case the "project team" encountered difficulties
they could not expect any support: Mission Impossible.
Project Functional Organization
Project Management Office
Usually, the term project management office (PMO) refers to a special
department in an organization which identifies and supports internal
standards of project management processes. The PMO uses generally
accepted, international industry standards such as the PMBOK or PRINCE2
as basis for organization specific adaptation. It tries to promote the
optimization of those process standards by identifying what works best
and feeding this back into the continuous improvement of the internal
standards. The ultimate, underlying purpose of the PMO's activities is
the sustainable improvement of project results in a multi project
In that sense, the PMO will serve as the internal source of an organization for guiding, measuring, recording, and documenting project management practices within that organization. This can go so far that the PMO itself involves in managing projects or parts of them. Especially the latter requires systematic coordination between those parts of the organization who carry the project responsibility and the PMO. In case the PMO gets involved into the management of projects we need to define clearly which project activities shall be transferred to the PMO.
The organizational setup looks similar to the project matrix organization.
Project Management Office (PMO)
Usually, the PMO will be the owner of internal, standardized project
management processes for a multi project management context. If
necessary it will also take ownership of the organization's project
selection process, knowledge management
process, project management information system, and the metrics for
measuring project management maturity. Project management tasks or
groups of tasks, ownership of which we typically can transfer from
individual projects to the PMO comprise project management
responsibility, scheduling, contract management, and risk management. Of course, we only can transfer the parts of those tasks which do not need specific, content based expertise.
Some organizations install a so-called PMO and assign to it only
the tasks of managing certain projects (or major activities of them). In
this case the PMO is a pool of project managers (or schedulers, or
contract managers, or risk managers), and the resulting organization is a
project matrix organization.
Characteristics of Project Organizations
The following table gives an overview of the main characteristics of the
different project organizations for multi project management.
Characteristics of Project Organizations
If we organize our projects in a matrix setup we will sooner or later
encounter problems with the work load of project team members. It is
common practice to have our highly skilled experts working on several
projects at the same time. Then we usually observe two problems:
First, these colleagues often have to jump back and forth, from one project to the next; they change their working style from the one-task-at-a-time into a multi-tasking mode.
Second, if we take more and more projects into the organization these colleagues tend to try to serve the needs of all projects, and consequently run into work overload. We can avoid this only by carefully coordinating the schedules of the different projects, and then leveling resources between them.
Multi Tasking of Project Team Members
We can avoid that by clearly prioritizing the projects and encouraging
our team members to finish work on one project before switching to the
next one. This even improves the schedule situation, at least for one of
"Single Tasking" Resolves the Multi Tasking of Project Team Members
Based on our observations, coordination of project schedules and
resources seems to be one of the keys to successful multi project
management. In sub-section Project Management Information System, we
propose a method that supports schedule and resource coordination.