A clear-eyed view

Alicia Moreno, customer PMO manager, ATOS, Monterrey, Mexico




Alicia Moreno, customer PMO manager, ATOS, Monterrey, Mexico

With more than 36,000 restaurants in more than 100 countries, a global organization as sprawling as McDonald's has an endless stream of IT projects. It needs a team that can execute those projects as effectively and efficiently as possible.

That's where Alicia Moreno comes in. She oversees the ATOS project management office (PMO) that delivers about 100 IT projects for McDonald's each year. Although she began her career as an engineer, Ms. Moreno, who holds a bachelor's degree from the Monterrey Institute of Technology in Mexico, quickly found herself taking on a project oversight role on engineering initiatives. Since then, she's transitioned steadily from project manager to program manager and—as of 2007, the year the PMO was launched—PMO manager.

What programs are in your McDonald's portfolio?

There are five IT programs including security, infrastructure and operations. The operations program includes the improvements we make to existing infrastructure—for example, if we need to increase cloud storage, migrate data centers or improve the disaster recovery plan. The operational projects are the really large ones. Each one takes about a year to complete.

Each of our program managers now reviews all the projects in their respective program. Now reporting has more meaning, and the governance and final decisions ownership are clearer.

What oversight do you provide as PMO manager?

When I receive new IT project requests from our client, I review them from a high-level perspective, decide which program each project should go to, and assign a project manager to it. Then, the PMO provides the client with reports on the statuses of projects and programs, and I provide the overall portfolio report.

How were this client's projects handled prior to the ATOS PMO? How has the PMO changed that?

We weren't monitoring our overall project activity. Our team wasn't classified into programs matching the client programs. Before, each project was reported to the final requester, and the management team was not aware of the changes they requested. And since we reported to a single source for all projects, sometimes things were missed.

After we divided the team into the five programs, we were able to better monitor the projects, from getting the project request to closing the project. Each of our program managers now reviews all the projects in their respective program. Now reporting has more meaning, and the governance and final decisions ownership are clearer.

We also have just one point of decision making on the client's side, and we create a synergy between their projects and what we do with them.

How did the PMO improve the team's project management processes?

We created new tools to track the delivery of each project phase, so we can tell the client exactly what we need. The tools track when we receive a project request and when we start on it and so on. So now we know if the team is running late. And when we go over schedule on the initiation phase, we can see where the problem is: if we're taking too long to get the project started, if we haven't received all the information from the client, if we don't yet have our solution in place, or if one part of the project has been completed but the client hasn't yet provided the needed approval.

When we come across lessons learned, we now document and file them in a single repository so the team can go there and see what was done in the past. We also hold meetings where we review all the lessons and closure documents.

What's the biggest hurdle you've overcome as PMO manager?

Getting the stakeholders to understand the life cycle of the projects is one of the biggest challenges we have.

We made sure to involve them in the process. For instance, by monitoring the phases in a project or program, we've been able to tell the client we're spending too much time in the planning phase because we don't have the correct feedback from them. Putting all that onto paper has been a great challenge and success.

How has the PMO helped improve customer service?

Before the PMO, the client answered a survey about a project, and only the project manager saw it. We also didn't monitor how many surveys we received. Now, we know how many we're getting back and share them with the entire team. We can see which projects are doing better and which ones aren't, and if we're down one point in ratings or up one point.

As a group, we have a better perspective of how the client thinks we're doing and have more answered surveys than before. On a scale of 1 to 5, the client recently gave the PMO a 4.3. PM


Small Talk

What is the one skill that every project manager should have?

The ability to understand project risks and what can be done to mitigate them.

What's the best professional advice you ever received?

Look at someone you admire, and imitate them.

What's your favorite activity off the clock?

Photography. With your eyes, you see the whole picture. But when you photograph, you just take a small piece and make it beautiful.

What's an especially meaningful book for you?

The Clan of the Cave Bear. It's the story of a girl in prehistoric times who struggles with new ideas and changes. She eventually becomes the leader of a new clan. It's about changes, evolution and leadership.




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