Building a PM pipeline for your organization

HCA's experience building a project manager assistant (PMA) program


Nikki Meyer

Hospital Corporation of America

Project organizations frequently struggle with maintaining the needed project management staff to support the portfolio. Building a pipeline of talent can provide an organization with a built-in supply to keep up with future demand. Creating this pipeline is valuable, as it keeps a pool of talent ready to step in when needed. In addition, maintaining this pool provides senior PM staff with “Project Management Assistants” as they grow and learn about project management.

Why Build a PM Pipeline?
Recruit and Train the Resources
Conduct the Interviews
Managing Your Pipeline Program
What about ROI?
Staffing Model
Contractor Conversion Process
Operationalize the Program

Market changes over time make it difficult to keep senior level resources. There are always opportunities in the community for skilled project managers. Often this results in challenges surrounding hiring and keeping good candidates.

These efforts should be executed the way a project would be executed. A charter is helpful in ensuring everyone in the organization understands what is and is not a part of the program. What are the mission, objectives, approach, roles, authority, responsibilities, and success Measures?

You will want to consider the appropriate staffing model. Are you looking to increase capacity, improve speed to market, and manage costs? Will you be seeking a return on investment? How do you manage issues in the short-term to produce benefits in the long term?

What characteristics should you look for? Do you look for the “soft skills” or something else? Having good organization skills and being detail oriented is important. A team player with a great work ethic is valuable. This can be approached by looking at is as “we can teach people the technical skills easier than the soft skills.”

Given the above, how would you recruit? Will those under consideration be contractors or FTEs? What kind of characteristics do you need? Will you gather information via phone screens? How do you interview? Where do you get the candidates from? How will you train them? Who will manage them? Once they are on board, how do they get assigned to projects? How do you find your ROI? When should you hire them as FTEs?

What benefits may result from such an approach? The PMA can be working on project planning, risk monitoring, deliverable management, meeting setup, agendas and minutes, status reporting, management of artifacts, and financial/budget management.

This potentially leaves more time for the PM in performing resource estimation, managing stakeholders, coaching and mentoring, managing vendors, tracking benefits, uncovering lessons learned, managing organizational change, managing defects, and mitigating risks.

In a centralized situation, results over time may include higher quality project delivery:

Higher customer satisfaction,
Better accuracy in project time and budget projections,
Fewer new CTE/FTE PMs, and
Better work/life balance.

Benefits of a centralized approach may be:

Consistent recruiting/interview process,
Consistent onboarding and skill training/development,
Collaboration among peers,
Consistent best practices,
Exposure to multiple line of business, and
Larger pool of resources to respond to critical needs.

Risks of using a decentralized model include:

Inconsistent recruiting/interview process led by a hiring manager,
Inconsistent training/development,
Less peer collaboration,
Varying task assignments,
Varying progression within the organization,
Being stuck in a single line of business, and
Having a small pool of resources in times of critical needs.

In an environment of high turnover due to resources being promoted into PM roles, which create backfill needs at a higher than normal pace, it is necessary to have a consistent and proven process model for hiring, skills training, continued development, implementation of best practices, exposure to multiple lines of business, maintaining the ability to respond to critical needs as they arise, and supplying the organization with well-trained entry-level PMs. A centralized PMA Program is the optimal model.

Information about Hospital Corporation of America (HCA):

HCA has a Project Management Center of Excellence

  • There are approximately 100 PMs in the department
  • There are 6 other PMOs at HCA
  • There are 9 primary Business Units
  1. Clinical Data Access
  2. Outpatient Services
  3. Sarah Cannon Cancer Center
  4. Data Analytics
  5. Infrastructure
  6. Field Operations
  7. Web and Digital Media
  8. Clinical Informatics
  9. Back Office and Security

© 2015, Nikki Meyer
Originally published as a part of the 2015 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Orlando, Florida, USA



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