One common, free and open Project Management Methodology for Europe

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    Nicos KourounakisNicos Kourounakis

    On February 1st & 2nd 2018, the European Commission and the Center of Excellence in Project Management (CoEPM²) ran their inaugural PM² Conference. The conference brought together representatives from EU Institutions, Public Administration from Member States, PM² Practitioners, Service Providers and PM² Methodology Experts to learn from each other. And it announced the EU’s vision for a common, free and open project management methodology for Europe. The inaugural PM² Conference was a resounding success.

    A few weeks after the conference, we talked to Mr. Nicos Kourounakis, the PM² Methodology Lead Consultant at the CoEPM² the for a wide-ranging discussion about the past, present and future of PM².

    With the first conference behind us, can you share with us some of your insights about the conference and about PM².
    The conference really was a resounding success, and that was true of all its dimensions. The organisation and hosting were excellent, the programme was rich, the speakers excellent, and the participants, who came from 33 countries and 17 different types of private- and public-sector organisations, were of a very high calibre.

    However, the engagement, enthusiasm and positive energy of the participants was equally special, as was the way they welcomed our initiative, expressing their thirst for something new in the project management domain along with their eagerness to volunteer and contribute to the initiative’s community-based dimension.

    Finally, it was not only a very successful conference, it was also a very special one, as we brought Europe together in Brussels to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the PM² methodology!

    For those of our readers who are not familiar with the Methodology, could you tell us what PM² is?
    PM² (read “P-M-squared”) is a Project Management Methodology developed and supported by the European Commission (EC) and used and sponsored by many other EU Institutions. Its purpose is to enable project teams to manage their projects effectively and deliver solutions and benefits to their organisations, partners and stakeholders.

    PM² is a lean and easy-to-use methodology which captures the experience EU Institutions have gained from managing thousands of projects, change initiatives, programmes and grants. It was custom developed to fit the specific needs, culture and constraints of EU Institutions and Public Administrations, but also incorporates elements from a wide range of globally accepted project management and agile best practices, standards and methodologies. This makes it suitable for use in any type of organisation or project.

    The first version of PM² was developed and piloted in 2007–2008 with the help and creative input of a number of EC staff and consultants. Ten years later, PM² is the chosen methodology for the majority of EU Institutions. In short, it has been a success story.

    What were the main reasons the PM² Methodology was developed?
    Recent decades have seen project management recognised as an important Critical Success Enabler (CSE) for organisations. It is now taken as given that investing in improving project management within the EC is a good decision and of high and long-lasting strategic value.

    Harmonising the way projects are managed throughout an organisation is always an important step in the journey towards improvement. Within the EC, internal audit recommendations indicated a clear and definite need to consolidate the varied approaches employed within the organization’s many semi-independent DGs and Services into a single, common methodology. The PM² Methodology was put together to provide a standard project governance model and project lifecycle along with a set of management activities, guidelines and working templates, and—later on—a set of effective mindsets for project teams.

    But there are other methodologies out there. Why develop PM²?
    Anyone who has ever been involved in setting up a Project Management Office (PMO) and rolling out methodologies within organisation knows all too well that selecting and tailoring a third-party proprietary methodology can prove cumbersome, complicated and quite political (particularly in an environment such as that of the EC). This is even more true in organisations with a large number of stakeholders from different sub-organisations, business domains and backgrounds (e.g. policy, IT, grants management, etc.).

    It was these difficulties, plus an internal survey involving a broad and varied sample of EC staff and consultants, that informed the decision taken a decade or so ago to develop a methodology customised to the specific needs, culture and constraints of EU Institutions and Public Administrations.

    Since then, PM² has evolved into the methodology it is today by integrating lessons from the EC and other EU Institutions, along with globally recognised best practices, into a single lean publication entitled the PM² Methodology Guide. The result is a simple and intuitive but powerful methodology suited to use in any type of organisation or project.

    What are some of the strengths of the PM² methodology?

    PM² is a simple but complete methodology. Although it does propose some unique management activities, its true strength lies in how it packages and presents accepted project management best practices to its users or project teams. And it does this very effectively by providing separate guidelines on how to use the methods, tools, techniques and artefact (documentation) templates in separate lean publications.

    Often, project frameworks assume that projects will be run within a dedicated project organisation and culture. However, this is decidedly not the case within the majority of Public Administrations and European Institutions as well as in many other large organisations with strongly hierarchical functional structures. PM² recognises this context, and by encouraging the assignment of clear project roles and responsibilities to the functional hierarchy, it mitigates conflicts by shifting the project power and decision-making into the project governance itself. This is why PM² is ideal for managing projects in matrix organisations.

    In terms of specific strengths, I would like to single out three aspects of the methodology: its governance structure, the PM² mindsets, and the emphasis on the effective management of transition and business implementation activities. To flesh these out a little, the powerful PM² governance model proposes a set of formal management roles and clearly allocates management responsibilities to the appropriate roles, the mindsets are attitudes and behaviours which help project teams focus on achieving their projects goals, and transition and business implementation activities are an area that is all too often neglected in project management methodologies.

    Do you also acknowledge some weaknesses in the current version of the PM² methodology?

    Every methodology has its strengths and weaknesses, and PM² is no exception! However, at the end of the day, though, any “weaknesses” are also part of the successful balance the PM² Methodology offers.

    Let me highlight something which relates to the way in which the methodology is presented in its publications, and more specifically to the brevity of the PM² Guide and the simple language it uses.

    PM² publications are quite lean—for example, the PM² Guide presents the entire methodology in just 80 pages plus appendices. And though less is often more, this is quite unique in the “project management publications market” and comes with certain trade-offs. This is not to say that this brevity is a problem. In fact, we believe that the value of a methodology lies in its ability to add value to its users by being “fit for purpose”, and the extent to which it is actually used. So “super complete and all-encompassing methods” are actually useless if they are not used, or not used properly.

    This is why PM² deliberately avoided becoming yet another “encyclopaedia” of everything you ever wanted to know about project management. Instead, PM² has been written with its users in mind, from their perspective and addressing their needs. It sets out to present some basic (and more advanced) best practices in a simple and non-intimidating way which will encourage users to apply them in their projects.

    To achieve this, we thought carefully about what we needed to expand on and what level of abstraction to use. And we wrote everything in what is referred to within the European Institutions as “Euro-English”—basic, simple English which is compact, to the point, and free of idiomatic expressions and sophisticated vocabulary.

    Still, although we have received a lot of feedback which confirms that the simplicity and usability of the PM² Guide has in no way compromised its effectiveness, the lack of detailed analysis of some aspects of project management may require some of its users to also seek more information in other project management publications (and there are many good ones out there).

    The value of a methodology lies in its ability to add value to its users by being “fit for purpose” and by actually being used.
    Do you have plans to develop the PM² Methodology further in the near future?

    We published the PM² Methodology Guide as an Open Edition for the first time in November 2016 through the EU Bookshop. It came out then as “v.09—Final Public Draft”, which allowed the community to provide us with feedback and corrections.

    We now plan to publish the updated PM² Guide—Open Edition v.1 in the first half of 2018, along with the first open version of our Agile PM² Guidelines.

    We will then set about gradually delivering on our commitment to make available to the world all our other publications with the same open licence. These will include our Guidelines for using the PM² templates, a series of publications related to PM tools and techniques, and high-level guidelines for our PM² Programme and Project Portfolio Management, too.

    And just to be clear on this, I’d like to emphasise that all our PM² publications will be published with an “open source” licence, encouraging our PM² community to re-use, change, improve, extend and share alike their changes and improvements .

    Information “wants to be free”, so we are playing our role in sharing it!
    How widely used is the PM² Methodology within the EU Commission and EU Institutions?

    PM² has been adopted by the EC, the Council of the European Union, the European Central Bank, the European Investment Bank, the Committee of the Regions, the European External Action Service, the European Court of Justice, the European Parliament (PM²-EngageGen), and many EC Services and EU Agencies.

    And although we cannot know how many projects are being managed using PM² at any given moment, we do know that a wide range of projects including IT projects, organisational change projects, real-estate & building projects, conferences and even policy projects are all making use of our Methodology.

    Also, our publication downloads, the number of support request we receive, and the exponential rise in the number of training courses and certifications taking place within EU institutions allow us to state that PM² adoption and use is rising sharply. In fact, we can now say that PM² is the de facto Project Management Methodology of the EU Institutions.

    What is the Open PM² initiative and what is the rationale behind its launch?

    Although PM² was originally developed to address an internal need, word of this well-documented, tried-and-tested methodology that could be used with minimum tailoring, thus reducing rollout costs and time, soon spread beyond the EC.

    Launched in DIGIT in 2016 and supported by the ISA2 (Interoperability Solutions for Public Administrations) Programme, the Open PM² Initiative aims to make the PM² Methodology and its benefits to stakeholders and users available beyond the original target group of EC Project Managers.

    The Open PM² Initiative provides open access to the PM² Project Management Methodology to all EU Institutions, Contractors, Members States Administrations, businesses and EU Citizens.

    Open PM² can help establish common project management processes and a common language for projects within and across organisations. In so doing, it has the potential to boost the effectiveness, efficiency and success rates of projects in Europe. It can act as a catalyst for the modernisation of European Public Administrations and increase project management maturity within the EU.

    We believe that the prosperity of Europe depends on the effectiveness and efficiency with which its Institutions lead and implement change and collaborate both among themselves and with Member States and service providers.
    The Open PM² vision is thus to enable better project management within the European Union and to establish a common project management language for projects within and across organisations along with common governance, processes and documentation templates.

    PM² is an object lesson in using “free” and “open” elements to exploit synergies and save time, resources and the total cost of ownership.

    How can the PM² Methodology help improve the management of EU-funded projects? Is there a road map in place?

    Given the importance of external (meaning EU-funded) projects, which account for almost 80% of the EU budget, PM² aims to contribute to increased project management competency and project efficiency and success in this area by permitting better monitoring and control of EU-funded projects and grants.

    With this goal in mind, we are working closely with policy and projects officers on integrating PM² into their project work. The benefit and value to the beneficiaries, who are usually consortia from academia and industry or Europe-wide consultancies, is clear in the adoption of a common approach. Our willingness to freely share a recommended methodology which the Commission both understands and acknowledges as valuable can create numerous additional benefits in the way a consortium is organised and increase collaboration efficiency as it becomes a common methodology for everybody involved. It will also reinforce collaboration among institutions in the future.

    Do you think that PM² training and certification will be opened up to beneficiaries and contractors in the near future?
    Professional Certifications are popular with professionals and play an important role both as an incentive to invest in a subject in more depth and as recognition of the time and effort thus invested.

    At present, PM² Certifications are only available to the staff of EU Institutions and to specific categories of Service Providers who work within these institutions. The internal certification programmes have been up and running since 2012 and are offered through Prometric, a global provider of computer-based testing and assessment services.

    In the light of the number of requests we receive for PM² certification, it is highly likely that certification will be extended to people outside the EU Institutions in the near future. We are also looking into ways of extending access to certification to EU Member States Public Administrations.

    Regarding training, don’t forget that the published Open PM² material can be used freely to create training programmes and offer consulting services, the only requirement being that the source is acknowledged. And several providers are already offering both training and consultancy.

    For our part, we will continue to encourage, promote and facilitate these initiatives through our leadership and promotion of our vision of PM².

    What next? Are there any other PM² conferences and activities in the pipeline?
    The EU Institutions are committed to providing strong leadership and to supporting Open PM², a crucial vision for the future of Europe. The continued sponsorship of Senior Management was clearly demonstrated in the level of political support the PM² Conference received and in the enthusiasm of its attendees—enthusiasm that has been matched by the Open PM² Community and Member States.

    The goals of the 2018 PM² Conference were twofold: providing the participants with insights into how the EU Institutions are investing in better project management for the benefit of Europe and its citizens, and reinforcing the Institutions’ clear commitment to project management and to Open PM².

    We intend to establish this conference as a recurring landmark event for the EU and for project management. Of course, in our efforts to further align our strategy with the interest and needs of the Open PM² and broader PM Community, we are also counting on the initiatives, feedback, ideas and contributions of our community.

    How will the Community be coordinated? How can members contribute?
    The Open PM² model is inspired by the open source community and by Creative Commons licensing.

    Our goal is to bring the Open PM² community together and enable the sharing of knowledge and experiences by connecting PM² practitioners, trainers and experts with project managers engaged in both the public and private sectors of all the Member States.

    We will be coordinating the community by means of an online platform, which will facilitate community building, communication and collaboration, enabling proposals for improvements to develop organically within the community, while simultaneously benefitting from the leadership we can provide in this domain.

    The Open PM² Methodology will be free to evolve in multiple directions. In the initial stages at least, the CoEPM² will remain responsible for integrating these new developments into the baseline Methodology.

    Any special messages?

    I would like to invite everyone interested in making an impact in the evolution of project management to get involved in the Open PM² Community! Your support and feedback is important.

    Together we can achieve our goal for a better Europe, a more project-oriented Europe enabled by a shared, free and open Project Management Methodology.

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