Sky-High Expectations

Emaar’s PMO is Driving Elite Customer Experiences at Some of Dubai’s Most Famous Buildings


2020 PMO of the Year Finalist



From left, Mohammad Kaiser Azad, Bashar Mohammad Kassab, Ahmad Al Falasi, Fadi Al Shakhshir and Khaleel Baba, PMP



—Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

From the 154th floor of the Burj Khalifa, visitors can soak in panoramic views of Dubai’s stunning skyline.


Established: 2017

Size: 25 full-time employees

Portfolio size: 54 projects

People travel from all over the world for the privilege of relaxing in the world’s highest lounge—and when they arrive they expect to be wowed. The same holds true for the building’s residents, who call some of the world’s highest occupied floors their home.

“Whatever he wishes or requests, we need to treat him as a world-class customer,” says Ahmad Al Falasi, Emaar Properties PJSC, Group Operations, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Emaar Properties Group Operations is responsible for managing the towering Burj Khalifa, the massive Dubai Mall and several other luxury destinations across Dubai. The company must deliver consistently exceptional experiences to earn and maintain the loyalty and recommendations of these elite customers. And their standard is always climbing higher.

To maintain an edge in the region’s competitive retail and residential markets, Emaar Properties Group Operations launched a five-year transformation plan in 2016. The program was built around five pillars: financial outperformance, customer centricity, operational excellence, digital innovation and people focus. The company also launched a project management office (PMO) to keep the entire organization focused on achieving these big-picture goals.

“We had big dreams,” says Fadi Al Shakhshir, Emaar Properties PJSC, Group Operations. “We had really good strategic objectives, and we needed to have a proper, established PMO to ensure the execution of our plans.”


—Fadi Al Shakhshir, Emaar Properties PJSC, Group Operations


Emaar Properties Group Operations teams were already focused on delivering stellar customer service. But they saw plenty of opportunities to improve—if the company could narrow in on where its investments would create the most value. So the PMO was tasked with filling and assessing the pipeline of projects and making strategic recommendations about which to prioritize.

“The PMO acts as the center of excellence,” says Khaleel Baba, PMP, Emaar Properties PJSC, Group Operations. “It collects all the ideas and opportunities generated by the business units and reviews them. Qualified opportunities will be turned into business cases. The management reviews these business cases and makes decisions on the new projects to be initiated.”

For instance, two of the company’s strategic priorities are increasing customer satisfaction and improving overall financial performance. Boosting energy efficiency promised to help Emaar Properties Group Operations check both boxes by reducing its costs while also passing savings onto its customers.

“To any resident, if you take his service fee bills, energy is almost 50 or 60 percent of his total bills,” Al Falasi says. “So, if I reduce energy, I’m reducing lots of his bill.”

It’s a win-win. But in Emaar Properties Group Operations’ sprawling facilities, reducing energy consumption isn’t as simple as replacing old lightbulbs. To determine which projects would deliver the greatest ROI, the PMO had to measure everything from maintenance costs to equipment performance—and compare those results across the board.

Emaar Properties Group Operations needed data. It also needed technologies that would streamline its operations. So the company launched a digital transformation program focused on implementing four main technologies: internet of things (IoT), automation, AI and remote monitoring.

One key project focused on integrating IoT with the existing building maintenance system in the Burj Khalifa to track and analyze the performance of the building’s HVAC system. The data created allowed the company to automate 86 percent of maintenance tasks and perform more predictive maintenance, which led to a 40 percent reduction in maintenance hours.

“Digital transformation was a useful tool for us in order to be able to gather live data about how our buildings are performing, and it helped us a lot in our decision-making process,” Al Shakhshir says.



—Dubai Mall

One project that made a significant impact honed in on energy-centered maintenance. Using technology to proactively assess the operational parameters of assets and maintain them—rather than allowing them to become less efficient over time—helped Emaar Properties Group Operations maximize their functionality and reduce energy waste and maintenance costs.

“We implemented the program across the front facilities, and the savings that were achieved in the maintenance was around 25 percent, which was more—way more—than we expected,” Al Shakhshir says.

The PMO also uses this data to compare performance across buildings and against external benchmarks to find new opportunities to increase efficiency. Overall, Emaar Properties Group Operations has set a target of reducing consumption of electricity, district cooling and water across its properties by 20 percent by 2021. Between 2016 and 2019 the company had already cut consumption by more than 13 percent across all categories (See “New Heights,” page 59). And more improvements are yet to come.

“We always introduce ideas and programs targeting reducing the energy cost, as well as the maintenance cost in our facilities, while maintaining the service quality at the highest level possible,” Al Shakhshir says.


Data-driven decisions don’t always rely on AI and IoT. The PMO also uses project metrics to improve project delivery. Its deep project database enables teams to learn from the past, estimate cost and schedule more accurately, and set realistic expectations about a project’s financial returns.

“We always collect this information, and we put in place improvement plans to ensure that we avoid these pitfalls in the future,” Al Shakhshir says. “The PMO team is the driving force for continual improvement.”

The PMO also hosts ongoing roundtables and brainstorming sessions to drive knowledge transfer across the organization. In addition to improving project results, this process advances the company’s people-focused strategy. The goal: enhance knowledge and skills that will increase staff satisfaction and productivity. To that end, the PMO developed and delivered a competency-based program and training matrix aimed at strengthening knowledge across Emaar Properties Group Operations.


—A digital tool that allows residents to report problems

To gauge the effectiveness of the training, the PMO plans to measure how well employees are able to translate the new learning into solutions that create direct business value.

“The corporate PMO works to develop an individual development plan for our employees and arrange all the relevant trainings for them to achieve the targets,” says Baba.

The PMO also conducts annual surveys that measure employee satisfaction. With the information it gathers, the PMO intends to make changes to the work environment that will boost employee engagement and productivity—and encourage team members to learn and grow.

“The PMO encourages the mindset of continuous improvement within all employees,” Baba says.


—Khaleel Baba, PMP, Emaar Properties PJSC, Group Operations


To keep its choosy customers coming back for more, Emaar Properties Group Operations has to stay in lockstep with their expectations. So the PMO also conducts regular surveys that provide insights into their needs.

“At the end of every year, we run the customer satisfaction surveys to understand what kind of service level they expect,” Al Shakhshir says. “We build our plans for the following year based on the feedback.”

Customer data also has inspired Emaar Properties Group Operations. It helps the PMO create new green spaces for residents, roll out an integrated digital platform that helps the company quickly resolve resident problems, and develop a value-add home maintenance program that increases the long-term value of customer properties.

“The PMO team keeps their eyes on what is new,” Al Shakhshir says. “What new things we need to do or what kinds of new programs or technologies we need to introduce.”

Overall, satisfaction metrics have surpassed expectations. Since 2018, Emaar Properties Group Operations has achieved its targets in mall tenant, mall shopper, mystery shopper and resident satisfaction levels. And Al Shakhshir is optimistic about the future.

“We expect the PMO team will continue the journey and increase the value that is created for our customers,” he says.

Al Shakhshir is also proud that the PMO has done so much to bring the organization together around a single set of strategic goals. Having unified teams and departments has transformed the way people work, Al Falasi says.

“It’s even more than a behavior for us,” he says. “I think PMO is part of our life.” PM


Source: Emaar Properties PJSC, Group Operations



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