Project Management Institute

Accelerating quality control

Monica Sacco, PMP, program manager, Project Management Skills Acceleration program, IBM, Buenos Aires, Argentina

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ILLUSTRATION BY JOEL KIMMEL

Monica Sacco, PMP, program manager, Project Management Skills Acceleration program, IBM, Buenos Aires, Argentina

As one of the world’s oldest technology organizations, IBM knows it has to keep up with the fast-changing software and hardware industries. With change accelerating, the U.S.-based company and PMI Global Executive Council member has strengthened its project management capabilities to keep pace. IBM created its global Project Management Center of Excellence in 1997 to ensure project delivery excellence around the globe.

Since then, the center’s Project Management Skills Acceleration program has helped advance practitioners’ abilities and careers, becoming a driver of project success at IBM in an era of growing complexity. Last year, it was recognized with the PMI Continuing Professional Education Provider of the Year Award. Monica Sacco took the helm of the worldwide program in early 2014, after working in a series of increasingly senior roles at IBM during the previous nine years.

I help IBM practitioners increase their skills and move forward in their project management career. I’m responsible for planning, executing, monitoring and controlling the program, as well as promoting the development of project management skills across all of IBM’s business lines and geographies. I help facilitate the communication and relationships among our stakeholders—the participants, mentors and more than 60 study-group facilitators—to ensure that participants are making progress.

What are the challenges of overseeing this worldwide program?

Because of the different time zones, my day might start at 6 a.m. and end at midnight. But the biggest challenge I face is ensuring the program fulfills all the different development and experience requirements and professional goals. Different cultures have different priorities, and maybe even different certification requirements.

Because of the different time zones, my day might start at 6 a.m. and end at midnight. But the biggest challenge I face is ensuring the program fulfills all the different development and experience requirements and professional goals.

How do you address those challenges?

By deploying what I believe are the three most important management practices: teamwork, networking and empowerment. Teamwork ensures that our mentors and facilitators provide constructive feedback to our participants. Networking ensures that all our stakeholders remain active through regular communication. And empowerment allows mentors and participants to decide the best way to move forward in their project management career—so that they become accountable for their own success.

We provide guidance for mentors, managers or facilitators on how to do that. Although we have recommendations, they decide what is best for themselves and the best way to help others move forward.

How does your program accelerate the development of project management skills at IBM?

We have three initiatives: the PM Vitality Initiative, the Project Management Boot Camp and the PMI Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam Study Groups. The vitality initiative focuses on new IBM employees who need to gain project experience. The boot camp gives participants the education and skills needed for an IBM project management certification. We have five levels of certification at IBM: from entry level to thought leaders. To get the higher-level certification, practitioners also have to have a PMI certification.

In the PMP® Exam Study Groups, we promote peer collaboration to help prepare practitioners for the PMP exam. Twice a year, we offer study groups over 14 weeks in six different languages. We’re also working to extend this program to other PMI certifications, such as the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® and the Program Management Professional (PgMP)®. We’re always looking for ways to improve our training program.

Are all IBM practitioners required to go through your programs?

It’s not mandatory, but all programs are available for employees who need to strengthen their project management capabilities in a short amount of time. Maybe they’re assigned to a complex project, or maybe they have a project that’s first of its kind and so they need to speed up their skills.

Our program is only one part of IBM’s Project Management Center of Excellence. This project management office (PMO) provides the curriculum, project management methodologies and tools. In addition, it guides the PM Knowledge Network, a community of practice where members of the project management profession hold Lunch and Learns and IBM PM Community news updates.

Who teaches the practitioners? How do you identify the mentors?

All our programs are mentor-based. Those relationships help participants develop their skills and complete their education. The participants attend workshops, but they also do a lot of shadow work with their mentors and managers to achieve the project management experience they need. Every year, we have more than 2,500 project practitioners in our program from around the world, and each practitioner has his or her own volunteer mentor. Mentors are experienced project managers at IBM, and all of them are volunteers who have gone through the same training they’re teaching their mentees. We measure the program’s success by the growing number of people who achieve a project management certification year after year. PM

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Small Talk

What’s the one skill that every project manager should have?

The ability to be proactive and make the right decisions at the right time—rather than waiting for things to happen.

What’s the best professional advice you ever received?

A manager once told me that, just as I was doing with my small child at the time, I should teach others to walk alongside me to create trust and respect, and to drive them to achieve shared goals.

What’s one of your cherished leisure-time activities?

I love to cook food from all over the world. Every weekend, I try new recipes for my family and friends.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

PM NETWORK SEPTEMBER 2015 WWW.PMI.ORG
SEPTEMBER 2015 PM NETWORK

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