Project Management Institute

PMI Straight Talk with Sunil Episode 1

Participants
Sunil Prashara, PMI President & CEO
Murat Bicak, PMI EVP of Strategy 
Mike DePrisco, VP of Global Solutions 

Sunil:
Hi everyone. Sunil here. I'm sitting in San Francisco, lovely hotel, decompressing after an amazing board meeting, my first board meeting with the PMI Board of Directors. We had a fantastic day. It was highly intensive, but a very successful day as well.

Sunil:
For backup I asked a lot of my team to join me. And I needed that, because some of the topics discussed were topics which I personally didn't have a whole lot of experience in 'cause I'm only into my 30th day, so I needed my folks around me to help me out.

Sunil:
Right now I'm sitting here with Murat and with Mike. And I thought it would be a good idea to learn a little bit about what they do. And I thought if I'm going to learn I may as well share that with you as well. So, we have got Murat here and I know that Murat, you look after strategy, so would you like to tell me a little bit more about what that means for PMI and what that means for you specifically?

Murat:
Absolutely. So, in the PMI context, if you think about an organization, and we have been an amazingly successful organization that's been in place for 50 years, we have a lot to think about how do we get to the next 50 years. And be very successful as we have been in the past. So these are the questions that we need to ask for the strategy domain. So, where do we play? How do we win? What capabilities do we need to have over the next 50 years so that we can actually continue being sustainable, being relevant, being indispensable for our stakeholders?

Murat:
When you think about strategy at PMI over the last two years, we also started bringing different capabilities under strategy such as Innovation is a new group that we've starting forming last September, and that team is growing. We have M&A and Corporate Development and that's a capability that we needed, because we needed to do alliances and maybe joint ventures and potentially acquisitions in the market. So, that's another team that we're building. We have Brand and Thought Leadership which is aligned to our strategy so when we go out to the market we talk about the challenges or the opportunities or the thought leadership and do that in a very strategic manner. We started building the Data Analytics capability under strategy, because we, like every other organization, have a lot of information that we need to process, understand, so that we can put the right products into the market.

Murat:
And also, finally, there's another group that I'm responsible for which is what we call the Advocacy group, which is the team that goes out and works with organizations and governments, because at the end of the day what we put out in the market for our stakeholders needs to be aligned to what governments and organizations in the private sector really need.

Sunil:
Where'd you get all the input from for this? I mean, is this just coming from you?

Murat:
No.

Sunil:
Or are you getting input from…

Murat:
Absolutely. I mean, we are very lucky because we have hundreds of thousands of members.

Sunil:
Right.

Murat:
We have millions of stakeholders that we touch. We have, at this point we have 1.5 million certificate holders and then we have the market. So, my group is responsible for market research, understanding the input through surveys, interviews, trend analysis, going to the Advocacy group and getting input from the organizations that we have, and we synthesize all of that and essentially distill it to a few things that we must [do].

Sunil:
And that helps you create, formulate a view about the association of the future?

Murat:
That's right.

Sunil:
Then once you've kind of got that view, do you share it with people? Do you sign it off with somebody? Once you've got that view, how do you get that blended in the organization?

Murat:
That's a great question and that's where the Transformation team comes to play. As you know, we've kicked off a transformation initiative and we did that to be able to deliver more value to our stakeholders.

Sunil:
Right.

Murat:
And so for example, some of these ideas that we identify as opportunities for PMI become a program or a project and they get integrated into the Transformation. They may be for example a new product, such as the PM Edge, a product that we have started prototyping with and launched it last year. That's a project. Or they may be capabilities that we must have to serve, for example, our chapters better.

Sunil:
Right.

Murat:
And we’re building a lot of infrastructure right now as you know, for example to give the chapters tools and web capabilities that currently they have to go out and get from the market. So, we said, "Why can't PMI do that for our chapters?"

Sunil:
Oh, right.

Murat:
So, we've asked that question and there is now an initiative that looks…

Sunil:
So, you've got this overarching desire to know what the association of the future needs to be.

Murat:
Right.

Sunil:
And sitting underneath that there's a set of initiatives and projects of transformation. How do you prioritize which ones are the most important? Which ones are the ones that are important for you today?

Murat:
Right. So, we prioritize based on what we hear from the market. So, for example we have the opportunity to travel the world as we just did. We're in San Francisco right now. Yesterday, we had the opportunity to meet with the chapters and we hear a lot of input and feedback from our chapters. We have the opportunity to learn from the market what is missing. So, we then go into a prioritization assessment. And one of the things, for example, that we heard very clearly was the need that when you look at our product portfolio, it needed to change.

Sunil:
Right.

Murat:
How did it need to change? We needed to put some products in place that are more digestible if you will, more practical, more consumable for what we call the next generation of project professionals.

Sunil:
So, okay. I get product and I get the association of the future. So, product is one, but you also said you had an Innovation Team and an M&A Team and a few other teams as well. What are the other things apart from product that you think are important for our strategy today?

Murat:
PMI is a very complex organization.

Sunil:
Yeah.

Murat:
And I think that…

Sunil:
You can say that again.

Murat:
PMI is a very complex organization.

Sunil:
You did say it again. Okay. [laughs]

Murat:
No, but it's actually a good thing, because if you think about competitiveness and the reach that we have, we owe it to our complexity to some extent.

Sunil:
Right.

Murat:
There's a balance between a good complexity and a bad complexity. I think that's always something to think about; however, in our case we have so much penetration through our system that we reach for example alliance opportunities, partnership opportunities that many organizations don't have.

Sunil:
Right.

Murat:
So, part of the responsibility of our Innovation team is to identify who might we partner with who potentially has a thought leadership or a new thinking in their IP domain that we might take and deliver to our stakeholders? Who might be a person or an organization to be associated with so that we can actually bring a different value to the external ecosystem that we work with as well as our immediate members and stakeholders?

Murat:
From an M&A perspective, similarly we're looking at alliance opportunities. We're looking at opportunities potentially as an acquisition opportunity as you know. In the past we've acquired a company called gantthead.com, which became projectmanagement.com and that gave us a presence that we didn't have. With that acquisition, we actually immediately were able to reach an online customer base of hundreds of thousands of individuals and those are some of the opportunities that we're constantly considering.

Sunil:
So Mike, let me turn to you.

Mike:
Yes.

Sunil:
You don't look as stressed.

Mike:
I hide it well.

Sunil:
Is that what it is? Tell me a little bit about your organization and what do you do.

Mike:
So, I oversee our Global Solutions function at PMI. That includes all of our product, so when you think about certification and membership, our live events, online events, that's all of the product, the services and offerings we make available to our members and credential holders. Also included in that is our chapters. We have more than 300 chapters around the world that chapter organization reports into the solutions group along with volunteer programs and services, our academic programs, our content organization and application development.

Sunil:
Wow.

Mike:
So there's quite a bit over a hundred people.

Sunil:
And how do you make yourself look so cool when you've got all this going on?

Mike:
That's right.

Sunil:
It's obviously all under control, then.

Mike:
Well, you know what, it's an important part of our business, there's no question about it.

Sunil:
Yeah.

Mike:
We have a great team that helps get all of that work done day in and day out.

Sunil:
How are you organized? How's that structured?

Mike:
So, we have a number of directors and managers that help lead the organization. They are the individuals that are really out interacting with our members, our credential holders, our stakeholders who really see PMI as the place where they go to receive knowledge and networking and information to help them advance in their careers. These are people, our team members that are dedicated to the success of our customers and work tirelessly to develop the programs in conjunction with those individuals that deliver programs that really deliver value for them. And allow them to take back to their organizations and deliver value to their organizations.

Sunil:
Right.

Mike:
So, it's a challenging job, there's a lot going on, but it's exciting and it's a great opportunity to be able to work toward making an impact. To those individuals that trust PMI with their career goals and aspirations.

Sunil:
And is there kind of a feedback loop so that they come and feed back to you what's happening in the marketplace which, Murat can tap into as well. Is there some kind of integration there?

Mike:
Yeah, absolutely. You know, Murat and his team has brought this whole idea of sense and respond to our organization and how critical it is for us to continue to really be customer-centric and really understand what are the pain points, the challenges that our members and credential holders are experiencing in their organizations, particularly around how work gets done.

Sunil:
Right.

Mike:
So, through our programs, through our services and offerings, it's critical that we're really listening to our customers and understanding what's working, what's not working, and developing and optimizing our products and services so that they really hit the mark.

Sunil:
When I was doing my research into the footprint, global footprint of PMI, I noticed that, you know, there were pockets where it's very strong in the world, and other places where it's not so strong.

Mike:
Yeah.

Sunil:
Not so relevant.

Mike:
Yeah.

Sunil:
Why is it so inconsistent, what's going on in the world?

Mike:
It's a great question, and I think we see differences based on region for sure. Take for example China, where we have seen heavy penetration of PNP with over 200 000 PNPs in China. It's a developing economy, developing country, there's a strong need for construction, manufacturing and so forth, and it's a good fit, what we offer to the market. In other parts of the world, in other Asia-Pacific regions for example, where maybe innovation is more of a focus, we don't always have the right products to address the needs of that market. So, we see penetration a little slower. And we see that in different regions of the world as well. Competition is also something that we see in different parts of Europe that limit our penetration.

Sunil:
So for example, I would have thought India, which is also a developing country, but its focus there is very much on apps dev.

Mike:
Yeah.

Sunil:
And I would have thought that plays more to an agile type environment than perhaps PMI's. Is that a fair comment?

Mike:
Yeah, I think it's fair and I think that's where we have a gap, I think, in our product portfolio. And we're trying to address that gap in numerous ways. We have a certification, the agile certification professional, we've continued to evolve the PMP to bring more agile methodology and frameworks to those certifications. But, big picture, we have a significant gap I think in the agile space. That's something that we, as PMI, I think we're trying to address through a variety of ways, whether it's partnering with organizations, whether it's looking at some potential acquisitions that would allow us to move faster in the agile space. Or through alliances, partnerships, or building, building our own products and services. What we want to help our practitioners do is develop and expand their toolkit, right?

Sunil:
Okay.

Mike:
So that whether it's predictive, whether it's hybrid, whether it's agile or design thinking or dev ops, we want to be that source, that authority, to help our practitioners get work done. So, picking the right methodology for the right project at the right time, is ultimately where we want to help our practitioners get to.

Sunil:
On that how, you mentioned a few ways to address the how. I think you said you could develop your own and you talked about some agile products.

Mike:
Yeah.

Sunil:
Methodologies that PMI have developed, and then I think you said that you could partner.

Mike:
That's right.

Sunil:
And you could acquire.

Mike:
Or acquire.

Sunil:
Talk to me about that, are you actively involved in those three, or are you working with Murat? Are you responsible for developing those new services?

Mike:
So, in the product area certainly work together work with Murat and the strategy team. One of the big initiatives we're working on this year is to really optimize our product portfolio and our offerings to ensure that they remain relevant and something that our practitioners and the organizations that they serve really need. So, we have a number of initiatives going on relative to our certification portfolio. We're looking to optimize the PMP to bring more agile information and content to the PMP and we hope to announce an exam change shortly so that we can let the market know what's coming.

Mike:
Our CAPM exam, we're looking at different ways to optimize the CAPM so that it can truly be an entry level credential for individuals that are working on project teams and are new to the project management profession. But as Murat mentioned earlier, we've developed some new digital products like PM Edge, which is really geared toward individuals that are new to project management, they may have been asked to join a team, they have limited understanding of project management terminology, and they're looking for some quick, bite-sized learning opportunities.

Sunil:
Get stuff done.

Mike:
And we have a new product in the market called PM Edge, we're seeing great uptake in the amount of people that are coming to that product to learn a little bit about product management. And then that gets them started with understanding who PMI is and how project management can add value to their career. For me, success is we're producing awesome products and services that are really meeting the needs of our members and our credential holders. It's resulting in individuals coming back to and looking at PMI as the source, as the essential source to help them in their career. I mean, that's where I think we want to get to.

Sunil:
Yeah.

Mike:
And I think for me too it's about broadening and optimizing our product portfolio. Filling in those gaps where we have gaps, whether it's in the agile or design thinking, or dev ops and so forth. We really need to fill those gaps, so for me, it's about refining and optimizing our current products that work, and also bringing into the PMI family some new products and offerings that address some of those gaps.

Murat:
When we've started this journey, we've asked the question, PMI is obviously a very relevant organization. How do we make the person who is the project, either a project management specialist, project manager or whatever they might be called, but essentially what they do is deliver strategy and deliver strategy to a result and that they make it happen, right? We asked the question, how do we make this person essential?  And that's our strategy. If we can achieve that, we have been able to bring PMI to the next 50 years successfully. That's what we worry about. We found out in the market based on surveys and interviews and we've actually gathered input from more than 10,000 individuals and synthesized it. And what we found was that the PMBOK guide is really great. It's relevant, but there is more that PMI can do, especially in areas where people prefer to, Mike’s point, really get to the how very quickly.

Murat:
And what's the opportunity in those areas for PMI to offer value propositions or products. And again, we don't have to do it by just creating it ourselves because there's always the opportunity to build it, to partner with someone who has it, or to buy an existing offering. And that's what we're doing. We need to make sure that we don't go into the market with a one holistic approach and hope that it actually works in China as well as in South Africa. We need that input.

 

Sunil:
Yeah. I, that's a really good point. I think regionalization is something that we should think about. I mean, I'm very new to the organization, but I have been getting feedback from various chapters that I’ve visited. And you know, they want to be heard more. So I think it's something, that's somewhere where I can help because I can open up the channels for communication so that their voice is heard.

And I was just in Singapore. And the chapter had there said, look, we shout very loud, but by the time the voice gets to all the way to Philly, it's a whisper. I thought that was a very interesting statement for him to make. And that's somewhere where we can, I can hopefully amplify the sound and make ourselves heard more globally.

Also, during my travels, I've heard people say that they don't want the PMI organization to compete with what they're doing. Why are they saying that? I mean, what, what's the issue here?

Murat:
We've seen an example where we had representatives from Alibaba, Amazon, SAP, Google, that are normally competitors to each other. But these individuals within the PMI context can come together and, you could call that co-opetition and they can come together and develop a product with the help of PMI, with their feedback, which we committed to do and then launch it into the market.

I think that's the kind of strategic shift that we're doing. I think when PMI, for example, looks at and enters a space, we shouldn't think that this is a very fixed pie. Right? For example, take an example in the CAPM space. PMI has developed a course that's called PM Basics to provide a training, online training, to individuals who are interested in learning the language of project management. And maybe some of them are going to get certified with the CAPM certification. When we do that, we actually expand the market. We expand the pie, we make the CAPM more known globally. We advocate for that certification. So net net, although it may look like, oh my God, is PMI going into the space and am I, are we going to be competing against PMI? That's not our purpose because at the end of the day, we are a purpose driven organization. Our goal is not to make more money.

Sunil:
So that's like co-opetition.

Murat:
Exactly. Another example of co-opetition is we take a pie, we grow it, and everybody in our ecosystem, our REPs, they can all feed off that pie.

Mike:
High tide lifts all boats. Right? Yeah. I think an added element to the co-opetition piece, particularly with training is that I think it also elevates the, the overall quality and optimizes the outcomes that we're driving towards for our practitioners because we hear from our members and our customers, they want to come to PMI and know that there's going to be high quality offerings, whether it's through our REP system, whether it's through PMI directly or any other partner that we may engage with. So I think it's another element that helps drive that whole idea of co-opetition and, and how we might be able to deliver some additional value.

Sunil:
So I'm going to try and summarize the conversation. If I missed anything, jump in.  But I think we're living in a world of transformation and change. The whole world is evolving. PMI has been extremely successful over the last 50 years and has built a global presence, has been tremendously relevant and essential to many transformations for the last 50 years. But the world is moving fast and moving faster from a technology perspective than it has ever moved before and will continue to accelerate. So you have AI, you have all these different capabilities that are coming in now that are changing the world of the traditional project manager. They need to have multi disciplines, multi methodologies that they can tap into depending on the type of situation or the project that they may be asked to do. Your organization has a fantastic platform, Mike, from which to build upon.

You've got PMP, you've started with a bunch of other initiatives. And on top of that you're thinking about partnering, and on top of that potentially even acquisition. And we've done that a few times. And we've learned lots of lessons from, from doing that. So I see. And you also see that there is regional differences in different parts of the world and different levels of maturity layered on top of that, what we're doing, is Murat’s organization is taking inputs from around the world and formulating what the next steps could be for us to take. And as a result of those next steps, there's a transformation sort of underlying some of the thought leadership, Murat, that you're bringing and your team is bringing to the direction that that PMI needs to go.

Okay guys, that was absolutely a fantastic conversation for me personally. I learned a hell of a lot there and it's really helped me accelerate my learning. And I do know the areas where I might be able to help. So thank you very much.  Thank you. You can now take the rest of the day off.

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