Education versus training


Robert Chaves, PMP, is vice president of project management at Fifth Third Bancorp, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. The financial services company has $105.2 billion in assets and 19 affiliates with 1,123 full-service banking centers.

photograph by JOE HARRISON

Institutionalizing project management practices in a corporation of more than 20,000 employees takes time. At Fifth Third Bancorp, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, we only chartered our project management office (PMO) two years ago. However, in that time, our executive team has recognized the advantages—in cost savings, improved quality and time to market—that a PMO delivers through the standardization and socialization of processes.

We developed our PMO through collaborative relationships with our customer base and key governance departments throughout the company. Our success is built upon these associations, which is why the PMO is seen as a partner by IT and the business lines.

Early in the development of the bank's PMO and project management process, Fifth Third recognized the importance of education, rather than just training. Our project managers are viewed as the future leaders of the organization, so we looked at what leadership competencies were valued within the bank's culture. We then benchmarked those competencies to industry-accepted project management skill sets and identified behavioral indicators to which we directly mapped our class roster. Doing this ensured our classes would go well beyond simple training into educational and leadership development. We are committed to teaching more than theory, and have adopted a Harvard Business School case study approach to our classes. Students dissect past bank projects and learn from on-the-job examples of project successes and challenges.

Students dissect past bank projects and learn from on-the-job examples of project successes and challenges.

Working closely with human resources, our PMO is constantly working to improve the career track for project managers. They have a clear understanding of how to progress from an apprenticeship to a senior-level position. Armed with the mix of general and product-specific knowledge that our program provides, they can actively manage their careers to move through the career path vertically or make a lateral move.

The benefits of institutionalizing project management are realized when a company starts to use a common language. When various departments start looking at problems using the same structured approach, it provides the basis for repeatable processes that tend to produce consistent outcomes, increase quality and reduce rework.

Quality cannot simply be inspected or audited into projects. It must be a planned effort executed throughout the project life cycle. With the help of our quality assurance and business analytic team (a subset of the PMO), we are weaving value into our homegrown methodology by creating standards that every project must address. We also are making business analytics and quality assurance an integrated part of the PMO's educational offering and providing the company with the automated tools necessary to structure testing and quality assurance work. This approach to managing projects has resulted in a 33 percent reduction in the effort needed to design, develop, execute and report on testing during a project's life cycle. Consistent and repeatable system and performance testing has helped the organization reduce production defects and outages, resulting in better customer service. PM




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