From the ground up

Paulo de Tarso Barros, PMP, project management office (PMO) manager, Grupo Edson Queiroz, Fortaleza, Brazil




Paulo de Tarso Barros, PMP, project management office (PMO) manager, Grupo Edson Queiroz, Fortaleza, Brazil

All companies want to grow. But success can create its own problems. Since its founding in 1951, Grupo Edson Queiroz has become one of Brazil's largest holding companies, spanning an array of industries including energy, manufacturing, communications, and food and beverage. Faced with siloed subsidiaries operating with their own logic, Grupo began integrating operations in 2010. It launched a PMO that year to facilitate the transition and ensure that all project activity is aligned to strategy, and it hired Paulo de Tarso Barros—a project practitioner with more than a decade of experience—to lead the PMO.

Before, all of the organization's companies operated on different IT platforms. In 2010, Grupo Edson Queiroz began a huge transformation: the integration of all these companies on one platform. Between 2010 and 2013, the PMO was totally focused on the implementation of an enterprise resource planning system and other supporting projects. Then, in 2013, we started to establish monitors and controls over all projects in the entire group.

What did the project monitoring reveal?

Business units were asking for new projects without seeing the whole picture. For example, the manufacturing unit asked to buy a new machine, but without an analysis of what the best machine would be and what benefits it would bring to the entire company. Business-unit leaders were using their intuition to choose projects, not making a rational business case. As a result, there were projects that weren't delivering the right benefits to the group.

In Brazil, we've been facing tough times economically and politically, so we want to ensure that our projects deliver the right benefits using the right resources.

How did the PMO respond?

We changed course. Before our focus was on delivering projects, but in 2014 we decided that we would look at the benefits realization of every single project. The PMO had to deliver benefits, not just more projects.

So we implemented portfolio and change management practices, and a business-case analysis for every single project. After that, we decided to implement another PMO, a corporate PMO, that would be responsible for corporate projects only—the projects seen by the shareholders as contributing the most to strategy—and to ensure those projects’ benefits are realized. We also started to develop a culture of continuous learning.

Describe a couple of examples of corporate and non-corporate projects.

We're overseeing 15 corporate projects. One is the implementation of a sales and operations planning (S&OP) methodology. Its main objective is to make the company more productive and make better decisions about what to produce, when to produce it and the amount of investment needed to produce it. Another corporate project is structuring all the business units so that they're in legal compliance. When you're not in compliance with the Brazilian government, you have to pay huge fees—a percentage of gross profit every single month.

We have about 60 to 70 smaller, non-corporate projects throughout the organization that are overseen by other PMOs, such as the IT PMO and the product-development PMO. They're responsible for the business units, and I report to the executive suite.

Does each PMO have its own set of project managers?

We decided not to have the project managers report to each PMO but to the business leaders, the directors and managers of each business unit. Stronger relationships get built when they work together that closely. Of the 16 project managers, six work on corporate projects. And we say “project leaders,” not “project managers.” Since 2010, we have been facing change after change, so we need people to act as change agents and as leaders.

How do you measure the success of the PMO's focus on benefits realization?

We identify the business indicators that the C-suite, the board and the owners use to determine the health of the business, and then we connect them with benefits realization. We have different kinds of business indicators: financial, quality, performance and operational.

For example, with our S&OP project, the intention is to grow our earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), so EBIT is a financial indicator. Another business indicator is the level of our stock of products. We intend for the S&OP project to ensure we have the right amount of stock. So we link these indicators to benefits, and every month we measure how they're performing.

How are you promoting a project management culture?

Formal training is 10 percent of our effort to foster this learning culture. The other 90 percent of the effort is about the day-to-day: learning by experience, and reflecting on lessons learned and best practices. Our organization is 65 years old, so it's a challenge to change mindsets.

Every day I show different project leaders the benefits of developing a learning culture in their teams. The first step is making the business units aware of the importance of the learning process—that learning contributes to performance, which contributes to results. PM


Small Talk

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

Leadership, the ability to guide people to change.

What's the best professional advice you ever received?

Know yourself and take control of your emotions. When you're trying to create change, sometimes you have to have tough conversations. But you can't accomplish anything if you fight with your clients or colleagues.

What's your favorite leisure-time activity?

I love cycling, and on weekends I bike in the mountains. It gives me energy to face the challenges of the week.




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