Over the past nine months I have spent a lot of time thinking about governance. I haven’t done it alone, but with a group of subject matter experts from Singapore, Turkey, France, and across North America, all of them members of the Project Management Institute.
If I had to boil down my core finding, it’s that governance happens in corporations at three levels. Each is distinct and important, which is why it’s troubling that people mix them up all the time.
1. Organizational Governance occurs at the board level and includes setting policies and procedures at the organizational level. This includes legal, fiduciary, and regulatory compliance responsibilities. Issues here could cascade down to a project programmer portfolio level or other functional governance levels such as IT. And though there are some organizational governance policies that have an impact on projects and programs and portfolios, they mainly reside at the board level.
2. Project Management Governance is something organizations rarely do very well. This level of governance includes program and portfolio management. Sometimes people think of this as how you actually execute your projects with project management over the project life cycle. The lack of integration and degree of project/portfolio overlap I see demonstrates that very few organizations have defined project management governance to the degree it should be.
3. Functional Governance includes groups like IT. If you have a product-based organization, you might have product governances as well. When I used to work at a pharmaceutical company, we had individual governance for each product in development that lived in a business area or business unit.
Without the right degree of definition and logic around governance process, how could you expect any consistency across multiple projects, programs, or portfolios? To make groups like IT work better, it’s essential to define the process, the function, the structure, and most importantly, the decision-making authority and responsibility. Unless you know who is empowered to decide what, governance will become a bureaucratic speed bump instead of the efficiency driver it was designed to be.
The CIO takeaway
So what should a CIO take away about governance? Here are three steps I recommend:
- First, assign one accountable owner of integrating governance, whether that’s the project management office or a group created to oversee a large implementation like an ERP system.
- Second, figure out who is accountable to who. Will IT be accountable to the board level or the executive level? Aligning the governance structures is critical.
- Third, determine what governances exist, what may need to be created, and what can be streamlined.
Get your governance house in order, and you’ll always know how to execute your program, and most importantly make the decisions you need to go forward.
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Jen Skrabak, PMP, PfMP, MBA, is a senior level project executive, leading high profile business and technology transformation projects, programs, and portfolios. She currently serves as the leader for the Program Management Office at a Fortune 15 company, and has over 18 years of professional experience across broad industries such as healthcare, biotechnology, entertainment, and financial services. Her recent accomplishments include establishing a PMO Center of Excellence that includes both PMs and BAs, implementing a global $50 million program across multiple sites, and managing a $500 million portfolio. She has a successful track record of delivering business transformation initiatives – including Enterprise Resource Planning/SAP, Manufacturing Execution System, E-health platform, Project Portfolio Management System, Document Management System, Automated Plasma Disposition System, Laboratory Information Management System, Clinical Drug Supply System, Business Process Management, Learning Management System, and Operational Excellence programs.
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