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Getting a perfect balance isn’t as important as making sure that there’s some effort towards identifying where the organization’s projects and people get stuck.  The tools to make a matrix environment work are always the same: processes and communication.  A skilled implementer can identify processes and procedures that establish what’s important to the organization.

Giving up the matrix?

Not everyone is a fan of the Matrix Organization.  In the last few years, a number of business leaders have voiced the thought that perhaps the Matrix Organization thinking isn’t the best plan.  “Divide personnel into dedicated project teams,” they say “and you’ll be happier for it,”  or “Organize projects to work within each department and give them to the department heads.”  For more on this, take a look at this article by Rob Enderle to see someone who thinks the Matrix model should be retired.

In a number of organizations I’ve visited lately, I’ve seen matrix models that have been skewed in one direction or another and each situation causes me to make recommendations that are a bit different in how to deploy Project Server and the Microsoft EPM solution.

If there is no centralized PMO at all then that becomes my first recommendation.  I’ve had some organizations approach me saying that they want to use Project Server just to reduce license costs but don’t have any intention to work together.  That doesn’t make a lot of sense.  The whole idea of a centralized enterprise project system is to bring data together for analysis and display to allow projects to be managed together.  If you don’t have any intention to do that, stick with individual Desktop licenses.

In some organizations the Matrix model has been displaced by a return to silo thinking.  This kind of thing can happen when there is a big organizational change or external stimulus from, say, a big change in the economy.  When pressured, some managers will fight for survival by any means possible.  I’ve seen several large organizations recently where department heads successfully described the PMO and their personnel as “redundant project resources” and lobbied to return control to the department heads.  

The result of such changes can have the exact opposite effect of what was intended.  True, costs drop for a short period, but the loss of efficiency of people whose job it was to generate efficiency through shorter, cheaper projects often carries a rebound awhile later.  Still, with large organizations, it can take months or even a year or two before these effects are realized.  In the meantime, the Matrix collapses and the power of Project Server can be inhibited.

In the more progressive organization, new emphasis might be placed on the PMO with a newfound respect for its capabilities and, perhaps, even a new level of authority in the face of a challenging economy.

Restoring (or establishing) balance

For those working on or about to work on EPM deployments, here are a few things to think about with regard to the Matrix Management environment you encounter:

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