From Class Project to Company Policy Overhaul

Tushar_Patel copyBy Tusharkumar Patel

Technical Architect and Part-Time MEM Student

This summer during Professor Werwath’s Business Process Change course, we received a process audit research assignment. I decided to take the opportunity to apply my in-class knowledge to my work place experience. At the start of the project, I simply wanted to understand the bigger pictures with process audits and what the benefits or problems there might be with the current process. In the end, I discovered far more than I ever could have anticipated and the results of my project helped change the PMO process at the big corporation I work for.

As a technical architect, I use the PMO process for my projects. I decided to pair up with a member of the Information and Technology Group PMO Member at my company Romanowski Donna to learn more about how the PMO group selects projects for the process audit, how they perform the audit, what types of reports they generate, and who receives the reports. I also consulted other group members who either use the PMO process or are involved in defining the process. This is what I discovered:

  1. The PMO group follows a decision model to select a project for the process audit: if the project is touching various business units (BU) or is high priority in nature then it goes through the process audit step.
  2. Before PMO perform the process audit, they provide necessary trainings to the project manager so he or she can understand the process and its expectations in order to comply with the process.
  3. The company follows a waterfall project management methodology, so the PMO audits the project at each stage to see the project’s health and assesses its compliances.
  4. The PMO generates phase reports and final reports and sends the reports to Manager, VP, and CIO for review.
  5. For the process audit, the PMO mandates certain document compliances, and certain process compliances which they communicate to the project managers.
  6. When the PMO audits the project, they ask various questions to the project manager and team members, and rank the project based on their responses. Normally, they provide a color coding status: Green for normal, Yellow for a minor issue, and Red for Very Bad.

In my research, I found that even though PMO has been using this process for a long period of time and enforcing its compliances, there are many issues in the process. Below are a few of the issues I discovered:

  1. The PMO group has limited resources and auditing all the projects is simply not possible.
  2. The process audit result has no impact on the GO LIVE date.
  3. Before the project starts, its production launch schedule is defined, so there is a disconnect between the audit and the production. Team members are more focused on developing and delivering the projects on time than applying the correct process audit activity.
  4. The PMO group is unable to connect the process audit activity with the financial benefits.
  5. Project compliances with the process audit does not mean the team produces a quality product because process audit activity does not enforce product quality.
  6. Process audit activity is a time consuming process and it appears as overhead activity requiring time for pre-planning, training activity, many resources, report storage and archive infrastructure setup, and tools setup for some automation.
  7. Process Audit activity is sometime considered as a “nice to have” but not a “must have” activity.
  8. Internal and External auditors are following different questionnaires and different processes to perform audit. When all the projects are not following the same processes, it’s impossible to audit all the processes with the same procedure.
  9. The process conformity and reward system is NOT in place—teams are not motivated to follow the process audit and it appears the process audit activity needs management support.
  10. The company’s processes are close to the industry standards but not similar as CMMI or other well-known standards; therefore, every team member has to go through the trainings to be aware of the process audit expectations.

After reviewing these issues with the PMO group, I sent the process audit gaps to my Division Vice President. She acknowledged that we have BIG issues in the process compliances and that the PMO group needs to work on fixing this. After she communicated with the PMO Director, new mandates were put in place. The process audit results are now a key factor for the projects to meet GO LIVE criteria and every team member must go through PMO process trainings. A connection between process conformity and rewards was remedied by linking individual bonuses with process compliance to ensure each employee rigorously follows the audit process.

I am glad that I have taken this class and performed the research project for my company. Because of this project, I was able to show the process gaps in the existing process and was able to help the company to improve their internal process. I am really thankful to Professor Mark for providing additional guidance and support to make this project very useful to my company and me.

For more advice on leveraging your coursework for your career read alumni Amjed Shafique’s advice on implementing new skills for immediate results and our advice on becoming indispensable at work.

1 Comment

  1. Wed the 4th works for me let’s plan on that On Aug 21, 2013 10:04 AM, “Northwestern University Master of Engineering

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