Literature Review – project management practices in the public sector in UAE

Chapter 2: Literature Review

2.1 Introduction

After introducing the research context in chapter one above, this chapter provides a critical review on the existing literature on the research context. With the aim of this study being to investigate the project management practices in the public sector in UAE, where much of the focus is given on the role of project management office in fostering project management success, this chapter focuses on providing an insight into this research area. First, the search protocol adopted in this study is brought into focus, where the key databases that were used to access research materials, key words used during the search, and the inclusion criteria used when selecting the literature materials for review in this study. This is followed by a review on the concept of project management office where its definition, usefulness, and rationale in project management practices are explored. This is followed by project management office success factors. Moreover, project management methods, tools and techniques are brought into focus. In addition, the models of project management office are explored in this section (Pemsel & Wiewiora, 2013). The role of project management office in public sector organisations is also explored in this chapter. Further, empirical studies conducted to determine the effectiveness of PMO in the public sector in UAE and other countries are explored. Before the chapter concludes the research gap and the conceptual framework that guides this study is presented.

2.2 Search Protocol

In order to be able to define the literature search based on the research problem, while also minimising literature bias for the literature materials, which could adversely affect the reliability of the information provided, a systematic search protocol was adopted. This was guided by Boland, Cherry, & Dickson (2013) who argued that it is very important to establish a search protocol in order to facilitate a more focused research, guided by literature sources with high reliability command. Defining the search protocol is there an important consideration in any literature search, as it outlines the steps that the researcher has taken in reviewing existing literature on a particular research problem, in order to foster the validity and reliability of the information provided. Since this study focuses on PMO and its usefulness in the public sector organisations, the researcher was keen to establish a stringent search protocol which provides relevant research materials for review on the research problem. Among the key steps involved included the search databases, key words search, and the inclusion criteria, which altogether contributed towards the selected of highly credible and most relevant research materials for review in this study.

During the search process, a number of databases were contacted, which include EBSCO, Science Direct, Google Scholar, Taylor & Francis, and Emerald. These five databases where preferred because they mainly contain peer reviewed scholarly materials on business and organisational management practices. Since project management is one of the most popular areas of study in the contemporary business world and scholarly realms, using these five databases would enable the researcher to access sufficient literature materials for research in this study.

Further, a detailed inclusion criteria for the results obtained during the search process was established in order to ensure that only the most relevant and credible literature sources were selected in this study. The following were the inclusion criteria that were adopted in selecting the literature sources for review in this study from the search results obtained using the key words in various databases outlined above:

  1. Only those publications in the English language were selected
  2. All the selected materials had to be published within a period of 10 years, and hence only materials published between 2008 and 2018 were selected
  3. Only published books and peer reviewed journal articles were selected for review in this study
  4. All the research materials involving systematic review of literature and primary research methodologies were selected

2.3 Project Management Office

2.3.1 Definitions of PMO  

PMO is rather new concept in project management literature, but over the recent decades it has attracted massive attention among scholars and researchers (Mulenburg, 2012; Pemsel, & Wiewiora, 2013). While it is possible to consider PMO as a project management system that is created in an organisation in order to cater for its existing and emerging demands, efforts, and culture. Nonetheless, there are several definitions.  Kiani, Yousefi, Nouri, Khadivi, & Mehrabanfar (2015) define PMO as “an organizational unit responsible for centralizing and coordinating the management of the undertaken projects. It is also called ‘plan management office’, ‘project office’, or ‘plan office’ (p. 326). On the other hand, Martin, Pearson, & & Furumo (2007) defines PMO as a unit within an organisation mandated to develop methodologies for project management practices based on the specific needs of the organisation. Other researchers (e.g. Meyer, 2010; Julian, 2008) consider PMO as basically a department in matrix organisations which deals with assessing, evaluating, and defining the most efficient methods, tools, and techniques to be used in implementing projects within the organisation. As such, it is evident that PMO is mainly a specialised department in an organisation which ensures that project management practices are more streamlined, and that the entire organisation is agile enough to respond to any dynamics in its projects.

Essentially, PMO is a unit in an organisation that is an independent unit of the organisation, but works closely to the project managers and teams during the designing and implementation of projects (Johri, 2008; Hydari, 2012). As such, PMO is often referred to as the center of expertise within an organisation, whose key role is to ensure that project management functions and role are effectively executed within reasonable timelines and resource-limits. Given the way organisations today are operating in a turbulent environment, PMO has gained significance over the recent years, as organisations brave for increasing dynamics. Moreover, more organisations today are experiencing increased projectification in their mode of operations, and hence the establishment of PMO has critically become an important strategy aimed at fostering the effectiveness of project management practices in many organisations. The central role of PMO is therefore to coordinate planning, prioritization, and the facilitating project implementation with an aim of ensuring that such projects run within the expected resource estimations and within the planned timeframes. As such, PMO has often been regarded by scholars and practitioners as key decision making unit through the project management lifecycle (i.e. from initiation, through planning, execution, and finalisation) (Hobbs B. &., 2008; Desouza & & Evaristo, 2006). Research has shown that, if PMO is managed effectively, organisations are able to not only save significantly large amount of resources, but also foster customer satisfaction since projects are completed within the agreed timelines with high quality attributes.

With regard to a study a study conducted by Aubry, Hobbs & Thuillier (2008), PMO has enabled customisation and sustainability of practices and tools in organisations aimed at fostering efficiency in project management practices. While the fundamentals of PMO are not new, it is most associated with engineering and defence among other types of projects. Essentially, PMO started as a support unit for complex projects, but nowadays many organisations, even those which do not involve engineering projects are employing PMO in their project management framework (Young, 2013; Aubry & Hobbs, 2011). This explains the increasing rate of PMO adoption, since many organisations are understanding its importance in ensuring sustainable organisational success (Pemsel, & Wiewiora, 2013; Pellegrinelli, & Garagna, 2009). Although it is often not cheap to set up a PMO unit because of specialised expertise and capital (in form software and hardware) requirements, research has shown that the value brought about by PMO cannot be matched by the costs involved (Pansini, Terzieva, & Morabito, 2014;  Project Management Institute, 2013). This because when organisations leverage a PMO mythology in their project management practices, chances of such projects succeeding are often higher.

2.3.2 The Need for PMO

In the currently knowledge-based economy, projects have become a common way of value creation, which has necessitated the establishment of a powerhouse of expertise to execute project-based operations in the organisations through PMO (Maylor, 2010). While research shows that over 80% of project failure is attributed to poor planning and execution, where overrun costs and tome overdue being the key challenges, the need to establish a unit in organisations that is solely responsible for giving support to organisational projects has been considered as a useful strategy aimed at revamping and bridging the gaps that often arise during project management leading to failure (Julian, 2008; Kendall & Rollins, 2003;  (Huang & Huang, 2013; Gerard, 2014; Liu & Yetton, 2007). Alarmingly, research has shown that when organisations fail in a particular project, they continue making the same mistakes over and over again. Among the key problems areas that Hurt & Thomas (2009) identifies as the main concern as to why organisations continue to make mistakes over and over again is the failure to re-use information from successful projects and failing to establish an open communication system where information is freely shared with a central coordination unit.

Moreover, research has shown that many project-based organisations handle multiple projects to an extent that the project managers fail to recognise need to match the available resources with the project magnitudes (Huang, & Huang, 2013; Gerard, 2014; Hobbs, 2008). As a result, since PMO is mainly a unit within an organisation which is concerned with project management practices in the organisation, they provide advisory and supervisory services to project managers and teams in order to evaluate and determine the feasibility of a project in a timely manner, before resources are deployed. As a result, PMO acts as a control system within an organisation that ensures that resources are not wasted through establishing a project that is bound to fail (Desouza & Evaristo, 2006; Hatfield, 2008; Cheng, 2009). Research has shown that, over 85% of projects that have been executed through PMO have been successful, while conventionally projects that don’t adopt PMO typology experience between 50% and 80% failure (Aubry, Hobbs, Muller, & Blomquist, 2010;  Hobbs, 2008). This is a clear implication that PMO has been a useful unit in organisations that has contributed largely towards ensuring high rates of project success in most organisations. Through the establishment of PMO unit within project-based organizations, meeting the urgent organizational need is facilitated and this contributes towards the improvement of the managerial performance in executing multi-projects.

What has been clearly evident over the recent years is that, with the introduction of PMO in organisations, it has become easier to alien project management processes with overall objectives of the organisation (Hobbs, Aubry, & Thuiller, 2008). This has contributed positively towards increased return on investment on projects, since costs are optimised while value for the projects are maximised. While it should be clearly understood that PMO does not operate on one-size-fits-all mythology, the flexibility of PMO operations makes it to be in a position to navigate through challenging environmental conditions and still deliver the expected project results (Hubbard & Bolles, 2015; Kerzner, 2009; Pansini, Terzieva, & & Morabito, 2014; Kutsch, Ward, Mark, & Alga, 2015). Since most PMO units are currently being characterised by sophisticated technology systems and outstanding expertise, it becomes more efficient for organisations to achieve increased performance for their projects. As such, with the availability of PMO units as a central guide, advisor, and monitor for organisational projects, it is evident it has become a universal solution to many challenges that managers and project teams have been facing using traditional project management practices.

 

 

2.3.3 Functions of PMO

The fundamental functions of PMO are categorised into supervisory, control, and support. Traditionally, PMO was assigned limited functions, as it was mainly an advisory unit on whether a particular project is viable or not by conducting a cost-benefit analysis, risk analysis, and dissemination of knowledge (Project Management Institute, 2013; Santos & Varajão, 2015). But over the recent years, PMO functions have been centred on support in project execution, technology leveraging, and provision of skills on how the project should be managed starting from initiation to its completion (Santos & Varajão, 2015; Tsaturyan & Müller, 2015). Moreover, training and establishment of standards for the organisation have also become a central role of PMOs (Crawford, 2010; Unger, Gemünden, & Aubry, 2012).  Hill (2008) observed that PMO has significantly developed in controlling of project management intellectual property. Most of the projects fail due to failure to benchmark from past successes and learn from past failures, PMO has gained popularity in functions like the documentation of lessons learned, disseminating information, benchmarking roles, developing business cases, stakeholder management, and capacity planning among others. PMO is further grouped into four groups which include practice management, infrastructure management, resource integration, and technical support with each having its specific functions (as shown in table 2.1 below).

 

 

 

 

Table 2.1 – Functions of PMO

Source:  (Hill, 2008).

As shown in the above table, project management group is responsible for project methodologies, project tools, setting standards and metrics, knowledge management practices (Hill, 2008; Dinsmore & Cabanis-Brewin, 2010;  Aubry, Hobbs, Muller, & Blomquist, 2010). This means that, the practice management group plays a central role in the project planning phase, it determines the most suitable methodology for a particular project, and setting standards and metrics, and hence this group is critical in determining the feasibility of a particular project based on the available resources.

On the other hand, group 2 of the PMO is the infrastructure management team whose functions is to provide project governance, assessment, and organise and structure facilities, and provide equipment support for the organisation. This group works closely with group in providing feasibility analysis of the project, and providing the necessary support infrastructure to ensure that the project succeeds (Hill, 2008; Crawford, 2010; Artto, Kulvik, Poskela, & Turkulainen, 2011). Determining the organisation and structure of facilities ensures that the necessary infrastructural requirements for the success of the project are provided.

In group three, resources integration, this team plays the role of planning and allocation of resources, training and staff development, career development, and team development. Considering that one of the success factors of any project is efficiency and effectiveness in the allocation of resources, this group of PMO works towards ensuring that resources within a project are optimised (Hill, 2008;  Young, 2013;  Pemsel & Wiewiora, 2013). Moreover, working of staff development practices and team development facilitates a cohesive implementation of the project in a coordinated manner, with the availability of the necessary expertise required in the specific tasks within the project timeline. As a result, it becomes easier for the project team to work seamlessly towards the achievement of the project goal and objectives.

The last group is the technical support group whose key functions is to monitor, plan, audit, and conduct project recovery. This is one of the most important groups of PMO, since it ensures that the project is implemented within the planned timelines, resources budget, and with the quality attributes expected by the clients. As such, many researchers refer the role played by this group as mainly oversight and supervisor, since it relays any communication to the respective parties for actions whenever necessary (Hill, 2008; Kendall & Rollins, 2003). As a result, the technical support group plays a central role towards the success of any project, as it needs to provide the necessary guidance in order to foster success in the projects.

 

2.4 PMO Success Factors

For PMO to be successful, researchers have established a number of things that need to be put in place in order to facilitate seamless operations of the PMO unit (Crawford, 2010;  Hobbs, Aubry, & Thuiller, 2008).  Clifton (2015) suggested seven factors that determine the success of PMO, which include change and stakeholder management, tools and framework (resources management), effective documentation, progress controlling and quality, risk management, training and capability training, and communication and collaborating.

2.4.1 Change and stakeholder management

Research has shown that, most projects come up with certain changes, and hence effective change management practices are paramount (Kiani, 2015; Pemsel & Wiewiora, 2013; Mulenburg, 2012). As such, for an effective PMO, it is important that an effective framework for change management be put in place in order to ensure a smooth transition. Quite a number of studies have pointed out that stakeholder resistance is among the key challenges that derails projects (Meyer, 2010; Hydari, 2012; Desouza & Evaristo, 2006); and thus an effective stakeholder management plan ought to be put in place as well. This implies that, for an effective PMO, it is clearly evident that an effective plan and framework on how to manage the changes brought, alongside the stakeholders of the project.

Based on Aubry, Hobbs, Muller, & Blomquist’s (2010) suggestions, it is important that the project be properly diagnosed in order to identify the changes required in time, so that such changes can be communicated to the stakeholders effectively. Considering any project is intended to bring a certain positive change, levering change management practices that focus not only on the capital framework, but also people within the project has always been considered by researchers as a recipe for successful project management. As such, it is important that PMO unit considers these changes and an effective communication plan be put in place so as to foster the change acceptance by the stakeholders (Aubry & Hobbs, 2011;  (Young, 2013; Pemsel & Wiewiora, 2013). Although it has not been clearly established on whether the difference between the role of PMOs and project managers, who are also responsible for team behaviours, researchers tend to point out the role of PMO in managing changes as the most critical success factor for most projects  (Esquierro, Valle, Soares, & Vivas, 2014; Kutsch E. , Ward, Mark, & Alga, 2015). As a result, it is important that by doing so, it is clear that successful PMO ought to consider leveraging effective change management practices.

2.4.2 Tools and framework (resources management)

Determining the most effective tools and frameworks for adoption in a particular project is an important success factor for PMOs. As such, PMO should be structured and how resources need to be distributed (Pellegrinelli & Garagna, 2009; Maylor, 2010). Since the nature in which a PMO is structured has often been associated with its effectiveness, it is upon the leadership in a PMO to determine whether to adopt centralised, decentralised or flat organisational structure based on need analysis (Liu & Yetton, 2007; Kendall & Rollins, 2003). In addition to PMO structuring, determining the nature of resources required and how such resources are distributed is yet another important factor that determines the success of PMO.

Moreover, the PMO must also be able to identify and determine the most appropriate tools and processes that are effective for various projects. For example, the PMO needs to determine whether to adopt critical path evaluation tool, cash flow analysis, Gantt charts, SWOT, or work breakdown structures based on the nature of the project (Julian, 2008). Essentially, the PMO must be able to ensure that the necessary resources are availed in order to ensure that they are able to leverage the pertinent tools based on the nature of the projects.

2.4.3 Effective documentation

Project documentation is an important function of the PMO, and hence establishing an effective documentation system is an important success factor. This involves establishing project charters and master plans for the entire project (Hurt & Thomas, 2009; Gerard, 2014). Since the project charter contains the project proposals where the goals and terms of operations are defined, while project plan indicates how the project goals would be achieved by providing a detailed map on how the project would be executed (Desouza & & Evaristo, 2006); PMO should be able to provide for secure and effective documentation system. Considering that the project charter shows the deliverables in the project and the roles and responsibilities of the various project stakeholders, with a clear and effective documentation system it becomes easier to track and monitor the progress of the project. It is therefore important to note that, for effective project implementation and monitoring based on the blueprint shown in the project charter and project plan (Cheng, 2009; Aubry, Hobbs, Muller, & Blomquist, 2010; Hill, 2008). Without an effective documentation in any project, researchers agree that chances of project failure are high because it becomes difficult to coordinate activities and track down the project development, since the initial plan, guidelines, and deliverables may not be well coordinated (Hobbs & Aubry, 2007). As such, it is critically important that PMO must adopt an effective documentation system in order to allow for cohesive project development.

2.4.4 Progress controlling and quality checks

Progress controlling and quality checking is one of the fundamental functions of PMO, and hence the need to establish the necessary mechanisms that would enable the business unit to perform these functions more effectively. The processes of planning, monitoring, and reporting are critical for any successful project. It is therefore vital that PMOs establish a framework that guides in tracking down whether what was planned is what is done during the implementation (monitoring), so that effective reports on the progress can be established, almost on real-time basis (Hobbs, Aubry, & Thuiller, 2008; Hurt & Thomas, 2009; Kutsch, Ward, Mark, & Alga, 2015). This explains why majority of organisations which have a PMO leverage a state-of-the-art technology (both hardware and software) that helps PMO in tracking whether the deliverables that were planned are being achieved. Quite importantly,  Pansini, Terzieva, & Morabito (2014) noted that progress controlling and quality plan also helps in ensuring that benefits are accurately tracked down in order to ensure that the project deliver the planned value disposition. From this perspective, therefore, it is clearly evident that for a PMO to be successful, it must leverage a system for progress controlling and quality checks, so as to ensure that the project is implemented within the planned parameters, and in case of any discrepancies the problem is identified in time and mitigation measures put in place in order to ensure that the project succeeds as planned.

2.4.5 Risk management

Researchers agree that risk management is one of critical success factors in any project, since when the potential risks are poorly assessed and controlled there is high likelihood of the project failing (Project Management Institute, 2013). As such, it is important that PMO leverages an important risk management system that ensures that the potential risks are accurately assessed so as enable the establishment of an effective risk control system in the bid to foster success of the project. This should be done during the planning stage, so as to be in a position to establish the necessary mitigation measures that would reduce the risks identified so as to foster chances of success for the project (Santos & Varajão, 2015; Tsaturyan & Müller, 2015). Although researchers agree that risks in various projects are different, and hence homogeneity in project risks is usually non-existent, it is important that PMO focuses on the specific aspects of the project in order to ensure that the possible risks are clearly identified in time (Unger, Gemünden, & Aubry, 2012; Dinsmore & Cabanis-Brewin, 2010). From this point of view, therefore, PMO must be well structured and facilitated to ensure that the possible risks are identified in timely manner, and the necessary control measures established.

2.4.6 Training and capacity building

Training and capacity building are often associated with the equipping of staff members with the necessary skills needed to carry out a particular activity (Crawford, 2010; Aubry, Hobbs, Muller, & Blomquist, 2010). In project management practices, training and capacity building central to successful project implementation, since without skilled and effective team to execute the project activities, chances of project failure are quite high. It is the role of PMO to determine the necessary skills and expertise required in executing a particular project, it needs to offer both supervisor and support services to the project team by offering the required training and capacity building needs among the team members (Artto, 2011). While a study conducted by Julian (2008) revealed that about 40% of projects fail categorically because of poor skills integration into the project, the type of skills and expertise required in one particular project to another, even in the same organisation. For successful PMO, therefore, it is important that training and capacity building services be readily available in order to ensure that the suggested projects are seamlessly executed with the relevant skills and expertise being readily available. By having a ready training and capacity building team, it becomes easier for PMO to execute its core functions, which include control, supervisory, and support roles for project managers and their teams.

2.4.7 Communication and collaborating

The planning and coordination of communication activities plays a central role in determining the success of a project (Maylor, 2010; Young, 2013). Researchers agree that open and continuous communication where the stakeholders embrace collaborative approach towards the success of the project is one of the success factors in most projects. As such, it is important that PMO leverages an extensive communication system whereby the involved stakeholders are able to share information freely whenever needed. Since some projects involve virtual teams, ensuring that there is communication system where information is freely shared by the team members within the project play a very important role towards fostering success of the project (Hobbs & Aubry, 2007; Julian, 2008). Research has shown that, uncoordinated projects often end up failing, and thus the need for collaboration and open sharing of information is fundamental for sustainable project management (Pemsel & Wiewiora, 2013; Liu & Yetton, 2007). This involves all the phases of project execution ranging from initiation to planning all the way to completion, where the necessary stakeholders are involved so as to foster synergy among them in order to avoid resistance to the changes brought about by the project.

2.5 Project Management Methods, Tools, and Techniques

2.5.1 Methods

White & Fortune (2002) suggested a number of project management methods that are available for use in project-based organisations. Among these projects include projects in controlled environment (PRINCE), structured systems analysis and design methodology (SSADM), the European risk management methodology (RISKMAN), and the RIBA plan of work. The PRINCE method is “a de facto process-based method for effective project management, used extensively by the UK Government, and is widely recognised and used in the private sector as well, both in the UK and internationally”  (PRINCE2.com, 2017). The PRINCE mainly focuses on business justifications, product-based planning approaches, and flexibility that can be applied at any stage within the process of project timeline. On the other hand, structured systems analysis and design methodology (SSADM) involves logical data modelling, data flow modelling, and entity event modelling. The key steps involved in using structured systems analysis and design methodology (SSADM) include the feasibility study, investigation of the current environment, business system options, requirement specification, technical system options analysis, developing logical design, and completing the physical design  (Crawford, 2010).

Another method called RIKSMAN involves a documented methodology approach designed to support the analysis and controlling of project risks, and was initially developed by the European community through a programme called EUREKA (Carter, 2014). This methodology was inspired by the need to capture value in a project by focusing on foundational elements, implementation and evaluation of a project where the main potential risks are not only identified, but also a framework on how to manage them put in place accordingly  (Cabanis-Brewin, 2014). The RIBA plan of work, on the other hand, was established in Europe, whose key focus is mainly to organise the briefing process, design, construct, maintain, operate, and build projects using a number of stages. Using this methodology, all the tasks are detailed out, and the outputs/deliverables in each stage defined (Hill, 2008). While these methods may seem similar or different in various aspects, their fundamental aim is to ensure that projects are executed and completed successfully. While some of the projects were just recently developed, not much of literature has been available to determine how effective or ineffective they have been in practical world.

2.5.2 Tools

Among the most common project management tools include critical path analysis (CPA), cash flow analysis (CFA), SWOT analysis, Gantt charts, and work breakdown structure (WBS) (Crawford, 2010). Critical path analysis is a powerful tool that is used in scheduling and managing complex projects. Using this tool it becomes easier for project managers to prepare schedules, and plan for resources in a project (Gerard, 2014). Quite importantly, research and practice has shown that critical analysis tool helps to monitor the project, while also helping in seeing where remedial actions are required or needed in order to ensure that the project remains on course based on the planned resources and scheduled time of completion.

Cash flow analysis (CFA) is yet another critical tool used in project management, which entails a critical evaluation of the money required to facilitate the completion of a project, and the rate of return after the project completion in order to determine its viability  (Hatfield, 2008). Through cash flow analysis, PMO team is also able to determine the feasibility of the project based on the organisation’s resources. As a result, CFA tool has often been considered as a very useful tool that many researchers consider being quite effective in planning, scheduling, monitoring, and evaluation of the project.

Gantt chart is yet another project management tool that illustrates how the various project activities are scheduled with regard to their time of initiation and completion  (Kendall & Rollins, 2003). Gantt charts are visibility tools that researchers consider to be easy to use, yet so much helpful in ensuring that throughout the project timeline, there is a set schedule for each activity in order to ensure that all the planned activities are completed within the expected time  (Maylor, 2010). As such, Gantt charts make it easy for project managers to know the specific time for completion of each activity.

Further, SWOT analysis is yet another quite useful tool in project management that enables project managers to be in a position to identify the key strengths and weaknesses of their organisations, as well as the opportunities and threats brought about by the external environment  (Young, 2013). As a result, SWOT analysis tool enables managers to be able to plan, schedule, and execute projects based on internal competencies and resources, as well as the external pressures. As such, SWOT analysis tool is an important tool in project planning, since it enables project managers to be in a position to identify ways through they can exploit the available opportunities based on their strengths, as well as how they can avoid threats based on their strengths and weaknesses.

Lastly, the work breakdown structure (WBS) is another very important project management tool that defines the work required so as to produce a particular amount of deliverables (Hobbs & Aubry, 2007; Tayntor, 2010). According to  Boland, Cherry, & Dickson (2013), WBS recognises the importance of teamwork, and hence the various activities within a project are broken down into various structures which are then assigned to specific teams. Through WBS, project managers are able to identify the various skills and expertise required from project initiation to its completion, so as to facilitate a holistic approach towards the entire project.

2.5.3 Techniques

Among the most popular techniques that have been in practice for the past several decades include the cost-benefit analysis, decision analysis, sensitivity analysis, implied preferences, and expressed preferences. Cost benefit analysis (CBA) is one of the most popular techniques in project decision making, as it involves an evaluation of the amount of benefits that would accrue from the completion of the project. Researchers agree that, CBA helps project managers to be in a position to evaluate the viability of a project based on its expected benefits and costs associated with it (Tayntor, 2010). However, this method has not been without any shortcomings, as it fails to emphasise on future costs, while giving much emphasis on short-term gains (Badiru, 2007; Snyder & Dionisio, 2018). Nonetheless, it has been a quite useful tool in evaluating the worthwhile of projects before they are executed. On the other hand, decision analysis technique involves the development of the various possible project designs, and using the least simple whose outcomes are clearly shown. The decision analysis technique advocates for ignoring of complex projects whose outcome and execution methods are unclear, since chances of failure in such circumstances are high. Through decision making technique, project managers are encouraged to ensure that only engage into projects whose implementation methods are clear and deliverables are clearly established.

Sensitivity analysis, on the other hand is a technique that entails the determination of how different values of the independent variables affect a particular dependent variable under a particular set of assumptions (Snyder & Dionisio, 2018). In project management, sensitivity analysis is an important technique that project managers employ in determining the impact of various variables within the project in order to select and deploy the most valuable combination of variables into the project. On the other hand, implied preferences entail the analysis of choices by comparing their impact on the client behaviour (Chemuturi & Cagley, 2010; Kumar & Ritter, 2007). This technique has been quite helpful in determining the preference of a project design based on client expectations and behaviour. Conversely, expressed preferences are decision making techniques that are expressed in hypothetical situations where hypothetical surveys are conducted to determine its preference by individuals. As such, the project managers goes ahead and implements the most preferred project design with anticipation that it would be appealing to quite many stakeholders.

2.6 Models of PMO

PMO is itself a typical project management model which researchers say it has revolutionised project management practices over the last three decades. Nonetheless, researchers agree that the models and typologies of PMO vary based on the requirements of the organizations (Olateju, Abdul-Azeez, & Alamutu, 2011; Pemsel & Wiewiora, 2013).

2.6.1 Typology 1

The first typology was established by Dinsmore & Cabanis-Brewin (2010) where they suggested three models of PMO, which include project support office, project management center of excellence, and program management office. The first one was the project support office which offers internal consulting for project management operations, where the main activities focused include the planning and scheduling operations, project management tools, and project documentation (Santos & Varajão, 2015). Basically, this model suggests that PMO should mainly offer support services in the above mentioned three areas in order to ensure that the entire project is executed effectively. While this model has been considered as an effective one, it falls short of project monitoring activities, which are critical for any success project.

The second model in typology 1 is the project management center of excellence (PMCOE), whose key focus is on the functions related to up-to-date methodologies, skills and competencies development, process standardisation, and ensuring that the project complies with the contemporary practices  (Dinsmore & Cabanis-Brewin, 2010). Based on this model, PMO is restricted at capacity building, both on capital and human resources, so as to ensure that the project runs more efficiently, delivering outstanding output based on the project goals. The last model under this typology is the program management office, whose key focus is to promote complete authority to PMOs by giving them the autonomy to recruit and develop project managers, select a project team, and lead in the implementation of the project. Using the program management office, the office of PMO in an organisation is entirely responsible for the project development practices within the organisation, as it act as the control system for all project-related activities  (Santos & Varajão, 2015; Kumar & Ritter, 2007).

 

2.6.2 Typology 2

The typology two PMO was established by  Kendall & Rollins (2003), where they proposed four key models of PMO under this typology, which include the project repository model, the project coaching model, the enterprise PMO, and the ‘deliver value now’ model. The first model is the project repository model whose key focus is on tools and data within a project. Under this model, it assumed that there are already existing set of cohesive tools for the project design, management practices, and reporting system (Santos & Varajão, 2015). An extension of the project repository model is the project coaching model whose key focus is to provide training, mentoring, and any other support service to the project managers  (Dinsmore & Cabanis-Brewin, 2010). This model therefore can be considered as being based on support functions of PMO, as it advocates for capacity development in the project team so as to enhance cohesive implementation of the project activities.

The third model in the second typology is the enterprise PMO model, whose key focus based on supervisory functions of PMO, since it entails the practices of overseeing the project functions and management so as to ensure that everything is done effectively, starting from planning all the way through implementation to the project completion  (Santos & Varajão, 2015). Essentially, this model can be considered as holistic approach towards offering supervisory services to the projects by PMO unit within an enterprise in order to offer the necessary evaluation and guidelines so as to achieve project success. The last model under typology 2 is the ‘deliver value now’ model whose focus is on the entire project portfolio linked to the organisational goals and assets. Under this model, the executive support in an enterprise, so as to ensure that the project is executed within the organisational values and asset base, so as not overstretch the financial capability of the organisation.

2.6.3 Typology 3

Hill (2008) suggested five PMO models, which include the strategic office, the basic PMO, standard PMO, advanced PMO, and center of excellence. The strategic office model is based on the capabilities to ensure professionalism in the application of widely accepted project management practices in an excellent manner. As such, this model works on benchmarking principle, where the management practices that have been proven to be appropriate in certain projects are adopted  (Santos & Varajão, 2015). On the other hand, the basic PMO involves multiple project oversights where the control of the ability to provide aggregate oversight for multiple projects in relation to the performance of various project managers. As such, the basic PMO is embedded on the selection of the most appropriate project team, led by a project manager with proven experience in the field in order to foster the success chances of the project.

Further, the standard PMO model advocates for centralised control, oversight, and support of the project management environment as the main business competency area (Hill, 2008). Similarly, advanced PMO works almost the same as standard PMO, only that it integrates business interests and objectives into the project environment, which leads to the creation of a projected business environment  (Dinsmore & Cabanis-Brewin, 2010). The last model is the center of excellence, which focuses on the strategic business units within an enterprise, and has direct access to the organisational chief executive officer. According to this model, the PMO unit provides strategic directions that influence the organisation’s project management operations. With the establishment of the center of excellence, it becomes easier for organizations to execute projects because there is readily available expertise in various areas which provide technical support to their organizations whenever the need for a project arises.

2.7 Empirical Evidence on PMO Impact in the Performance of the Public Sector

A number of empirical studies have been conducted to determine the effectiveness of PMO in project management in the public sector. Although there is scanty empirical research on PMO in UAE, reports indicate that the country leads the way in the implementation of PMO in the Gulf Region, having started the adoption of PMO about a decade ago  (Clifton, 2015). A research conducted by  (Hindi, 2013) where data was collected in the Public Works Ministry reported that the adoption of PMO in the ministry has largely contributed towards the adoption of effective project methodologies, tools, and knowledge management practices. This report also pointed out the effectiveness of PMO in fostering team development in construction projects in the country’s public sector, leading to increased project success reaching 78%, among the highest success rates in the region. Moreover, a study conducted by Zeyed & Al Ameri (2016) using a sample of 19 project-based public firms in Abu Dhabi and Dubai with a research sample of 450 staff members from these organisations revealed 95% of the organisations had established their own PMO whose five top roles included strategic management alignment, developing project management methodologies and competencies, monitoring and controlling, organisational learning, and developing project team structure and communication improvement. The study by Zayed & Al Ameri also pointed out lack of flexibility in some of the PMO models adopted in UAE public organisations.

However, despite the benefits that PMO has brought into the public sector of UAE, a study conducted by Soliman (2015) revealed that among the key challenges that still continues to persist in the implementation of PMO in the country’s public sector include politics, change resistance by stakeholders, lack of alignment, inadequate training and other resources, and low accountability. Due to the high level of bureaucracy in most public organisations, Soliman’s study pointed out that most of the PMOs are not independent, and are often influenced by politics and thus derailing their optimal performance. A similar study conducted by El-Sayegh (2014) further confirmed project risk management practices being the key challenge faced by most public sector organisations in UAE revealed that risk management was prevalent challenge that many organisations in the public sector face, and this has largely derailed effectiveness of success in the organisational projects. Moreover, a study conducted by  Ajmal, Malik, & Saber (2017) in UAE found out that leadership and team management practices were key challenges in the public sector, and hence the need for effective PMO. This would foster increased diligence in project planning, coordination, and controlling.

In other countries, a study conducted by White & Fortune (2002) investigated the role of project management in the UK, where data was collected from 236 project managers in public organisations. After being requested to compare the effectiveness of various project methodologies, tools, and techniques, majority of the managers revealed that the projects they managed were very successful. This was reflected when 41% of the participants pointed out that their projects were fully successful based on time, budget, and specification requirements. However, some drawbacks like slowed planning, skills deficiencies, and challenges with standardisation were pointed out.  Similarly, a study conducted by Arnaboldi, Azzone, & Savoldelli (2004) in the Italian ministry corroborated by the findings by White and Fortune. In their study, Amaboldi and his colleagues explored how PMO was employed in the Italian treasury ministry, and how successful it has been. Based on the findings obtained, it was revealed that PMO played a significant role in fostering project success in the treasury ministry of Italy, and hence it was a recipe for successful project management practices in the ministry. Based on the lessons learned from the empirical research, in order to avoid project failure, it was important that continuous communication and establishment of stringent control system be put in place. Although a study conducted by Hobbs & Audry (2008) on PMO use in UK revealed that there was no significant impact on project success in the public sector, the authors pointed out that the PMOs lacked capacity building center and effective project monitoring and control system.

Further, a study conducted by Abbasi & Al-Mharmah (2000) in Jordan where 50 industrial public organisations were surveyed to determine the type of project methods, tools, and techniques and how they achieved success was also investigated. From the findings obtained, project management methodologies and tools like WBS and CFA, and techniques like CBA, implied preferences and expressed preferences were poor applied. However, those organisations which adopted PMO methods, tools and techniques showed significantly higher project success rate compared to their counterparts which did not apply the PMO methodologies. Among the key areas where PMO typology was considered to have had largest impact in the performance of projects included planning, scheduling, monitoring, and costs and specification requirements. As a result, it was easy to standardise projects through the use of PMOs as reflected in the findings by Abbasi & Al-Mharmah (2000). On the other hand, a study conducted by  Olateju, Abdul-Azeez, & Alamutu (2011) in the public sector of Nigeria on whether the implementation of project management tools and PMO typology had any effect on the performance of the organisations. Based on the findings obtained, WBS, CPA, and project sensitivity were not well established in the public sector in Nigeria, and hence project success rates were fairly low. Among the areas where most of the challenges are experienced include the budgeting, specification requirements, and poor scheduling. However, specific challenges like cultural blocks and poor financial support by the government.

Moreover, an empirical study conducted by  Hazel & Jacobson (2014) in the Department of Defence and NASA revealed that adopting PMO methodology in executing projects was a key recipe for success, with key areas of focus being scheduling, monitoring, and specification establishment. By adopting PMO, it was easier to establish the project charter and plan in virtual teams, and thus contributing largely towards coherence in the implementation of the project plan. Moreover, the effectiveness of PMO in Bangladesh manufacturing industry was found by Cabanis-Brewin (2014) to be equally useful in project success, which conforms to a study conducted by Hazel & Jacobson (2014) in the banking industry where majoroty of the successful organisations had leveraged PMO methodology in their project execution. By leveraging PMO in the government projects, failure in projects reduced by 23%, and improvement in project deliverance within the budget increased by 35%. In addition, productivity improved by 20%, and this reflects how PMO has been quite impactful in the success of projects in the public sector of Bangladesh. A study conducted by Kutsch, Ward, Mark, & Alga (2015) revealed that for successful PMO integration there must be positive will from the government institutions to implement the PMO typology.

Further, an empirical research conducted by Esquierro, Valle, Soares, & Vivas (2014) in Brazil’s Department of Municipal Water and Sewage System (SEMAE) to explore the extent at which PMO has been applied in the department revealed that PMO plays a central role in ensuring the success of strategic projects on the conservation of water resources. From this empirical study, it is evident that the actions taken by PMO strongly influenced the success of the project. These findings corroborated with a study conducted by Santos, Santos, Tavares, & Varajao (2014) in the public project management in healthcare sector which found out that PMO was an important typology that contributed towards reduced project failure, alongside promoting prediction and diagnosing of projects in order to identify their feasibility and viability. However, the authors found that clear communication between PMO and healthcare stakeholders is important as it ensures cohesive implementation and evaluation of the impact of the project. As such, from this point of view it can be argued that project management office is a central strategy for success in many public sector organisations, and those organisations which experience failures even after the implementation of PMO needs to focus on building the capacity of PMO unit in terms of capital and human resources.

2.8 Summary of the Empirical Researches

So as to give an overview and summary of the empirical findings reviewed in this paper, table 2.2 shown below was developed. The author(s), year of research, country, and the key findings were the main focus in the summary of the findings.

 

Table 2.1 – Summary of the empirical researches

Author/ Researcher Year Country/State Findings
Hindi (2013) UAE PMO in fosters team development in construction projects in the country’s public sector, leading to increased project success reaching 78%, among the highest success rates in the region
Zayed & Al Ameri (2016) UAE using a sample of 19 project-based public firms in Abu Dhabi and Dubai with a research sample of 450 staff members from these organisations the researchers found that 95% of the organisations had established their own PMO whose five top roles included strategic management alignment, developing project management methodologies and competencies, monitoring and controlling, organisational learning, and developing project team structure and communication improvement; although the researchers found that PMO practices were lacking in most of the organizations in UAE.
Soliman (2015) UAE The researcher found that among the key challenges that still continues to persist in the implementation of PMO in the country’s public sector include politics, change resistance by stakeholders, lack of alignment, inadequate training and other resources, and low accountability.
El-Sayegh (2014) UAE Project risk management practices is the most common challenge faced by most public sector organisations in UAE; and this has largely derailed effectiveness of success in the organisational projects.
Ajmal, Malik, & Saber (2017) UAE Leadership and team management practices are key challenges in the public sector, and hence the need for effective PMO.
White and Fortune (2012) UK With a survey using a sample of 236 project managers in public organisations; the researchers found that PMO was quite useful in various project methodologies, tools, and techniques leading to success of many projects based on time, budget, and specification requirements.
Amaboldi et al. (2014) Italy The researchers explored how PMO was employed in the Italian treasury ministry, and how successful it has been; where they found that PMO played a significant role in fostering project success in the treasury ministry of Italy, and hence it was a recipe for successful project management practices in the ministry
Hobbs & Aubry (2007) UK The authors found that there was no significant impact on project success in the public sector, the authors pointed out that the PMOs lacked capacity building center and effective project monitoring and control system
Abbasi & Al-Mharmah (2000) Jordan The researchers surveyed 50 industrial public institutions to determine the type of project methods, tools, and techniques and how they achieved success; where they found that project management methodologies and tools like WBS and CFA, and techniques like CBA, implied preferences and expressed preferences were poor applied.
Olateju et al. (2011) Nigeria The aim of the study was to determine whether the implementation of project management tools and PMO typology had any effect on the performance of the organisations; where the researchers found that WBS, CPA, and project sensitivity were not well established in the public sector in Nigeria, and hence project success rates were fairly low.
Hazel & Jacobson (2014) USA By focusing on the DoD and NASA, the researchers found that adopting PMO methodology in executing projects was a key recipe for success, with key areas of focus being scheduling, monitoring, and specification establishment.
Cabanis-Brewin (2014) Bangladesh Adopting PMO contributed to the success of projects leveraged by public organizations in Bangladesh. By leveraging PMO in the government projects, failure in projects reduced by 23%, and improvement in project deliverance within the budget increased by 35%.
Esquierro, et al. (2014) Brazil The researchers explored how effective and useful PMO had been in Brazil’s Department of Municipal Water and Sewage System (SEMAE). The findings obtained revealed that PMO plays a central role in ensuring the success of strategic projects on the conservation of water resources.
Santos et al. (2014) UK PMO was an important typology that contributed towards reduced project failure, alongside promoting prediction and diagnosing of projects in order to identify their feasibility and viability.

 

2.9 Research Gap and Conceptual Framework

While it was revealed in this review that PMO plays a central role in the success of project management practices in the public sector organisation, scarce empirical evidence on the implementation of PMO in UAE’s public sector. With the aim of this study being to examine the extent at which PMO has been adopted in UAE and its impact on the overall project management success, the extent at which PMO strategy is adopted in government institutions in UAE. However, despite empirical research analysis showing that PMO has contributed towards increased project success rate in most public institutions, very scanty such evidence was available in the context of UAE. Essentially, most of the studies (e.g. Soliman, 2015) point out critical challenges that prevent effective operations of PMOs in most, with very little empirical research on the PMO models adopted, key functions, and the subsequent outcome. Whilst there are some public institutions in UAE which have yet adopted PMO, this study seeks to establish whether adopting PMO in public organisations results into different results from those which have not yet, based on the success rate of their projects. Unlike in developed countries where PMO frameworks are clearly established, the available research on PMO in UAE context reveals that the implementation of PMO typologies is not well established, and hence it has not been easy to determine which PMO model works the best in the country. Conducting an up-to-date research to determine the type of PMO models that work the best for public organisations in UAE is necessary.

Moreover, with studies showing that no PMO does not operate on one-size-fits-all, successful adoption of a particular PMO model in other countries does not necessarily mean it would succeed in UAE. The functions and roles of PMO in the project execution in public institutions in UAE are further explored. Moreover, this is followed by analysis on the impact of PMO adoption in project execution on key project management projects starting from planning, scheduling, monitoring, control, risk management, capacity building, budgeting effectiveness, and timeliness in project completion. As shown in figure 2.1 below, this study also explores the PMO models adopted in UAE’s public sector organisations. An evaluation on the models that have achieved the highest rate of success would also be explored in this study. As such, the conceptual framework shown below was adopted to guide the researcher in this study.

Unlike traditional project management practices where organizational functional units conduct projects without necessarily engaging the other units in the organization; PMO is a holistic approach where the office holders in the PMO unit advise and facilitate the process of the project planning and implementation through various models like a project support office, project management center of excellence, program management office, project repository model, project coaching model, strategic office, and ‘deliver value now’ model among others. Establishing a center of excellence PMO model has also been considered by researchers (e.g. ) to be critical in the success factor in many projects. This is because with a specialised body that is responsible for the development of project framework, chances of success become quite high for the projects to succeed. In addition, there is better change and stakeholder management for organizations adopting PMOs.

Figure 2.1 – The Conceptual Framework

 

 

No

 

 

 

Yes

PMO Model(s)

– Project support office

– Project management center of excellence

– Program management office

– Project repository model

– Project coaching model

– Enterprise PMO,

– ‘Deliver value now’

– Strategic office

– Basic PMO

– Standard PMO

– Advanced PMO

– Center of excellence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this study, much of the focus would be to compare the effectiveness of PMO adoption and its absence in various organizations in UAE; with regard to the various functions in project management. Since researchers agree that project management involves changes in organizations, much of the focus in this study would be given on change on stakeholder management effectiveness in organizations that adopt PMO in UAE in comparison with those which have not adopted it (those which still rely on traditional PMO management practices).

Another key area of focus in this study will be on tools and framework (resources management) between organizations that have PMO and those without. As earlier pointed out, project management success is largely determined by how effective PM tools and frameworks are designed and implemented so as to deliver value both to the project owner and the clients (Pellegrinelli & Garagna, 2009; Maylor, 2010). In this study, a critical focus would be made on the level of effectiveness for the management of resources between organizations that adopt PMO, and those which mainly rely on traditional methods.

As earlier pointed out, effective documentation is an important success factor in organizations, since it involves development of project charters and master plans for the entire project (Hurt & Thomas, 2009; Gerard, 2014; Desouza & & Evaristo, 2006). With a well developed project charter or master plan, it becomes easier for an organization to track the actualisation of the deliverables as shown in the charter/master plan; and thus it plays an important role in showing the inputs in a project and the expected output. A comparison between those organizations which have adopted PMO and those with only traditional project management practices in terms of the effectiveness of documentation in their projects. This is because effectiveness of documentation was pointed out in this review as a success factor in projects.

Progress controlling and checks is yet another important project management practice that contributes to the success of projects. Progress controlling and checks are critical in the project execution phase, since it is important to track down whether the planned deliverables are achieved and identification of any unexpected challenges and opportunities during the planning of the project  (Esquierro, Valle, Soares, & Vivas, 2014). In this study, an exploration of whether progress controlling and checks is more effective when organizations adopt PMO or when they rely on traditional project management practices where no team of experts is set aside to offer controlling and check progress for the project.

Further, risk management is also another important function in project management which determines the success of projects to a great extent. Since risk management involves the proactive determination of the possible risks and unexpected barriers to the success of a project and establish a mitigation framework (Hill, 2008; Santos & Varajão, 2015; Tsaturyan & Müller, 2015); the effectiveness of project risk management is critical determinant of the overall success of the project. In this study, much of the focus would be given on how effective project risk management is done in organisations that adopt PMO and those which have not adopted PMO.

Training and capacity building is another critical success factor in project management, as it facilitates the availability of expertise and required skills towards the implementation of the project  (Aubry & Hobbs, 2011; Julian, 2008). Determining the necessary skills and competencies required in the project is therefore an important success factor for the success of many projects. However, although studies (e.g. Chemuturi & Cagley, 2010) point out the importance of PMO in training and capacity building, since the dedicated team in project management offices tend to be more experienced in determining the best training and competency building practices that would guarantee success in the project. As such, in this study a comparison between PMO and traditional project management practices towards the success of projects in organizations through training and capacity building practices.

Lastly, communication and collaborating have been pointed out by researchers as key determinants of success in many projects  (Badiru, 2007). This is because communication and coordination plays a central role towards integrating knowledge and expectations for all the stakeholders in a project. As a result, it makes it easier for project team players to work harmoniously towards the target goals in the project. However, although many studies (e.g. Kendall & Rollins, 2003; Julian, 2008; Hurt & Thomas, 2009) point out the importance of communication and coordinating towards the success of projects, very little empirical research is available on communication and coordination is more effective in organizations that have adopted PMO than those which still practice traditional project management practices. This study therefore seeks to conduct a comparison between how communication and coordination is effectively leveraged between organizations that adopt PMO in UAE and those which do not.

2.10 Chapter Summary

As revealed in this review, PMO is identified as the revolutionary project management design whose role towards project success cannot be underestimated. Among the key functions of PMO as pointed out in this paper include the selection of the most appropriate project management method, tools, techniques, develop metrics and standards, govern the project, offer equipment support, resource planning, skills and capacity development, team development, monitoring, scheduling, and control of project execution. While this review has revealed a number of models of PMO, there was no the best model since each of the models works best in different circumstances. As such, although review of various empirical researchers in the public sector in different countries revealed a positive relationship between PMO adoption and increased project management success, different PMO models achieve success in different circumstances.

In this light the reviewed literature materials, this study seeks to explore whether public sector organisations in UAE have adopted PMO design in project management, where the various models adopted and their effectiveness in fostering project success as shown in the conceptual framework adopted in this study. In the next chapter, the research methodology adopted in data collection based on the research objectives and conceptual framework is presented. The research design, strategy, and methods employed so as to answer the research questions in this study are explore in the next chapter, with reference to the conceptual framework established.

 

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