Building a global community

Peter Taylor, PMP, head of the global PMO, Kronos, Coventry, England

 

Peter Taylor, PMP, head of the global PMO, Kronos, Coventry, England

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ILLUSTRATION BY JOEL KIMMEL

Kronos delivers workforce management tools to tens of thousands of organizations around the world. In recent years those tools—to control labor costs, minimize compliance risk and improve productivity—have shifted from an on-premise software model to the cloud. With projects becoming larger, increasingly global and more complex, Kronos realized it needed its own workforce management solution: a global project management office (PMO). The PMO launched in late 2014 to support about 200 project managers around the world.

To lead the PMO, Kronos tapped Peter Taylor, whose project management career began in the home computer industry in the 1980s. “I was the classic accidental project manager,” he says. Since then, he has led several PMOs and written 15 books about project management.

The organization is undertaking a significant change as we move from being primarily an on-site software licensing provider to a pure software-as-a-service provider of solutions in the cloud. Today we have more than 16,000 customers running in the Kronos Cloud, and we're being asked to help our customers with larger and more complex projects and programs. Our customers require consistency of language, approach and methodology around the world. Some of those organizations themselves have sophisticated PMOs in place, so a peer-to-peer conversation was required. So Kronos invested in the global PMO to raise its project managers’ capability and create an immersive project community.

How does the PMO deliver consistency?

To help achieve continued consistency, we launched our Project Academy this year. It's made up of five pillars: foundation, baseline, development, community and career.

Foundation involves project managers’ roles and responsibilities. With baseline, it is about the expected competencies—we have five levels of project managers and two for program managers. The development aspect involves training, mentors, coaches and both internal and external certifications. We task our project managers to become Project Management Professional (PMP)® certified, but we also have certification in Kronos’ own project management and implementation methodology, Kronos Paragon. The community pillar is all about establishing connections and offering opportunities. For example, we reach out to our project managers who may enjoy experiencing project management somewhere else in the world. The last pillar defines career paths in the project world or elsewhere within Kronos.

How else does the PMO support its project managers?

We have a competency tool to help our project managers understand their strengths and weaknesses. We have a mentoring program where our senior project managers support the junior project managers. We have an external coaching program. As far as the projects for our customers are concerned, we run health checks on our projects to assess what was good and what could be improved.

How involved with specific projects is the PMO?

The core PMO team is very small—five program managers—so we cannot get actively involved with the nearly 5,000 projects each year. Our involvement is by exception, and the exceptional activities are reviewing lessons learned, running health checks, looking at customer-satisfaction feedback, learning from project experiences and supporting junior project managers. Our responsibility is to empower the project managers to do the right job for our customers.

How do you measure the PMO's impact and value?

Success is far more complicated than the triple constraint. It comes down to customer experience. If our project managers use all their tools, technologies, skills and experience so that the customer is satisfied and recommends Kronos as an organization, then that is the true measure of success.

We have other, more financial-oriented measures, but that's not really what the PMO is about. It's about a definition of success that's very subjective to the customers: Are they happy, and do they feel we've supported them in the right way? Have they seen value in their investment? One way we determine that is through a two-point customer satisfaction feedback: one mid-project and another at the end of the project. Customer satisfaction is so important to Kronos that our executive team, led by our CEO, reviews these feedback reports.

New PMOs can have difficulty securing buy-in from stakeholders. How have you addressed that challenge?

One thing a PMO can do completely wrong is to become the project police. If it's only about process, the PMO will be unpopular and fail. A second thing is to be the wrong sort of project firefighter: If you're constantly putting out fires, you're doing it wrong. Firefighters spend very little time putting fires out; they spend most of their time trying to prevent fires. We focus on what we're trying to achieve rather than just trying to solve problems as they pop up. To that end, we have an annual PM Summit and additional virtual summits with all project managers. On a biweekly basis we have a web-based session to share experiences and celebrate successes.

Every PMO has to be unique to its organization. Yes, there are templates and guidelines, but it's a living thing. You've got to be constantly listening to all your stakeholders: customers, executives and project managers. The PMO has to flex accordingly. You can't be rigid. PM

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Small Talk

What's the one skill every project manager should have?

The ability to look at a project from a high level and avoid getting dragged down into details.

What's the best professional advice you ever received?

If you can manage a project so there are no surprises, then you're in control.

What book has special significance for you?

Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy. It's funny, it's short, but it also has some neat ideas about how to avoid procrastination.

PM NETWORK MAY 2016 WWW.PMI.ORG
MAY 2016 PM NETWORK

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