OCTOBER 11, 2007
F. WARREN MCFARLAN MARK KEIL JOHN HUPP
The AtekPC Project Management Office
A rain had started in the early evening of March 3, 2007, and the streets of Metropolis were cold and grey where the AtekPC headquarters were located. As John Strider, CIO for AtekPC, packed up his briefcase at the end of the day, his thoughts returned to the new Project Management Office (PMO) that he had approved several months ago. During his tenure of over twenty years at AtekPC, Strider had never witnessed the kinds of pressures that were now facing the personal computer (PC) industry. Strider recognized that the industry was in transition and that his Information Technology (IT) organization would be involved in some critically important projects in the days ahead, as AtekPC sought to take a leadership role in these changes. It was that thought which brought to mind the PMO initiative. If it were implemented right, this PMO could be a big help to AtekPC, but Strider had concerns about what might happen if they tried to push too hard with this idea. Instead of a help, it could become another item on his growing list of problems. There were so many questions on his mind: How much PM is enough PM? How much PMO support is enough PMO support? When do you get to the point that the PMO structure and process is enabling productivity and contributes to a more successful outcome with fewer mistakes and a higher quality result— whatever you define success to be at the beginning? And when does PM involvement become administration for its own purposes? When do you cross the line? Strider thought that he understood what this PMO could do for AtekPC, but the initiative was still in its infancy. It needed time to prove itself. On the one hand, his management team had hired some experienced people with real talent to spearhead the PMO program. On the other, they were new to the PC business and to AtekPC. They didn’t understand how powerful the culture was here, he thought. As Strider expressed it, the PMO had to become a part of the AtekPC culture, and that required small changes over a long period of time. If the PMO found itself fighting against the culture, it would definitely fail. As CIO he was keenly aware of the many initiatives and responsibilities that he had to cover with his limited resources, and he knew the PMO was only one of these. He couldn’t let things drop just to build up this new PMO. It all had to be done together. Strider knew that his people who were working on the PMO were frustrated that they could not move faster. He, too, was tempted by the thought of rapidly loading up the PMO with more resources and knocking out projects. But in his opinion, that would be a bold and short-lived initiative—too much, too soon, too fast. ____________________________________________________________
Professor F. Warren McFarlan, Professor Mark Keil of Georgia State University, and John Hupp (MSIS 2007) prepared this case. Certain details have been disguised. HBS cases are developed solely as the basis for class discussion. Cases are not intended to serve as endorsements, sources of primary data, or illustrations of effective or ineffective management. Copyright © 2007 President and Fellows of Harvard College. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, call 1-800-545-7685, write Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA 02163, or go to http://www.hbsp.harvard.edu. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the permission of Harvard Business School.
The AtekPC Project Management Office
Strider closed his briefcase and headed for the elevator. His IT senior management team had been with him many years. He felt confident that he could lead them on the right...