Evolution of the European Commission project management community of practice

Abstract

This paper describes the evolution and outlook for the European Commission project management community of practice (PM CoP).

The European Commission has over 30,000 staff divided over about 40 independent directorates general. The PM CoP has succeeded in bring together both IT and non-IT project managers on a voluntary basis.

The PM CoP was created in 2008 following a Project Management Institute sponsored conference. The PM CoP has held 7 events to date. The strategy, overview and conclusions of each event are presented in this paper. The PM CoP has been a great success and continues to attract new members.

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Exhibit 1

The 2008 Conference on Project Management

On 28 October, a high level conference was organised to focus exclusively on Project Management practice within the Commission. (Exhibit 1) The objectives of the event were to:

  • demonstrate the current practice of project management across different DGs of the European Commission
  • explore how project management best practices acquired by DGs that are advanced on project management can be shared by other DGs
  • provide a discussion platform for the European Commission officials on how to further improve Project Management capabilities within the European Commission
  • create a networking opportunity for programme and project managers in the European Commission that can be developed further

Project Management in the European Commission

The Director, Secretariat General (SG) introduced the 1st session of the event by presenting the results of a research study conducted by his directorate on how and where Project Management was being used across the Commission. He started by highlighting the need for the discipline within the Commission given that so many activities are project-based. The research showed that a number of directorates general were using Project Management regularly. The Director-General of DG Competition, delivered the keynote speech. He explained how and why his directorate-general was transformed into a project based organisation and expressed his support for improving project management practice within the Commission.

Key Messages from the 2008 Conference on Project Management

The key messages from the event can be summarised as follows:

  • The participants and presenters show a strong interest to promote and cultivate a project management culture
  • Senior management support is key for project management success
  • Everyone is looking forward for exchange of knowledge to contribute to the improvement of project management practices
  • Participants are very motivated to establish a project management community of practice
  • The internally developed methodology PM² is considered as a starting platform to establish a common project management methodology
Conclusions

The launch of a more formal network to share Project Management across the Directorates-Generals was announced. Informatics, SG and Human Resources HR recommended that this networking opportunity or ‘Community of Practice’ would:

  • Build Commission expertise in Project Management
  • Provide peer support and learning opportunities
  • Learn from successes inside and outside of the Commission

Project Management Community of Practice (PM CoP) – The 1st Meeting 9 December 2008

Following the 2008 PMI sponsored Conference on Project Management, the PM CoP was born. The event was facilitated by Informatics, SG and HR and 34 project/program managers involved in project management participated. The participants benefited from extensive networking opportunities and used the occasion to share best practices on project management.

Overview of the 1st Meeting of PM CoP

The highlights from 2008 founding conference were presented including the invitation to create a Community of Practice (CoP) in project management.

Through an open session discussion that followed, the participants focused on seven topics:

  • How do we see the CoP evolving: What are the next steps for the CoP?
  • Start considering PM from the product (or result) point of view
  • From Existing to Improved PM in the Commission: create an inventory of PM Methodologies used.
  • How to find sponsors for PM
  • IT projects
  • How to promote PM
  • Management of works contracts
Conclusions
  • INFORMATICS endorsed the PM CoP initative and briefly outlined INFORMATICS’s support for future events.
  • INFORMATICS is willing to share its experience with Project Management, contribute with its PM² model and enable collaboration through the Collaborative space.
  • It is emphasised that HR and SG will be equal partners with INFORMATICS in the PM CoP initiative.
  • There was a need for an organisational support for the future events in order to establish the continuation of the next events.
  • The events had to be promoted and supported at management level.

PM CoP: INFORMATICS, HR and SG in partnership

INFORMATICS, officially communicated with HR and SG to establish a partnership for the evolution of the PM CoP events. The result is:

  • INFORMATICS will support the next events with providing its key experience in methodologies and in particular with PM². This collaboration will be supported by a Collaborative space and forum for enabling online exchange of ideas and interaction
  • HR will provide organisational support by assuming the logistical organisation and facilitation of future events
  • SG will promote the events towards the various directorates general and will sponsor this initiative

PM CoP – The 2nd Meeting 1 April 2009

The event was facilitated by HR and INFORMATICS while 44 project/program managers involved in project management participated. The PM CoP collaborative space was presented. This collaborative space and its forum are proposed to be the day-today communication and collaboration environment.

The PM CoP operational structure and the mode of operation was presented, elaborated and established with the participants. Several Working Interest Groups (WIGs) were defined to focus on specific project management topics.

Conclusions
  • The PM CoP collaborative space is presented
  • The online forum is now operational for the participants
  • There was an agreement on the way of working
  • The main WIGs were established
  • It was agreed to present PM² at the next CoP event.

PM CoP – The 3rd Meeting 3 June 2009

This event focused on the internally developed PM² methodology. The event was facilitated by HR and Informatics and 34 project/program managers involved in project management participated.

Overview of the 3rd Meeting of PM CoP

The PM² methodology was presented. It was well received and the CoP members thanked Informatics for the considerable effort to deliver the extensive collection of templates and guidelines.

The afternoon session was devoted to the 5 Working Interest Groups (WIG). 4 of the 5 WIG made progress towards becoming autonomous. Each WIG has a point of contact and has identified actions to be worked on and presented at the next PM CoP in September.

PM CoP – The 4th Meeting 22 September 2009

The event was facilitated by INFORMATICS and SG and 50 project/program managers involved in project management participated. A diverse set of project management related presentations were made by INFORMATICS, SG and IAS. The evaluation feedback was very positive. However, the newly created WIG did not generate enough interest from the members. It was therefore decided that INFORMATICS would stop facilitating them.

PM CoP – The 5th Meeting 29 October 2009

The event was facilitated by INFORMATICS and HR and 80 project/program managers involved in project management participated. This lunch time event discussed the management of sub-contractors with an external speaker from UNISYS. The participants especially appreciated the timing of the event which was included in the series of HR lunchtime training sessions. This event was recorded and can be replayed from the CoP collaborative space.

PM CoP – The 6th Meeting 20 January 2010

The event was facilitated by Informatics and SG and 80 project/program managers involved in project management participated. The event focused on the management of non-IT projects with a variety of speakers from several DGs as well as external speakers from the PMI and IPMA. The meeting was very well perceived by the participants.

Overall Summary

The PM CoP has been a great success. There is clearly a need to bring this community together as can be seen from the increasing interest of Commission staff. This evolution is the result of the close collaboration between Informatics, SG and HR. (Exhibit 2)

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Exhibit 2

All of the material presented and discussed at the PM CoP events is published on the collaborative space. Thus all staff have access even if they cannot attend the events.

The Way Forward

INFORMATICS, HR & SG will continue to coordinate +/- 4 PM CoP events each year. In this context a conference on project risk management is being prepared for mid-2010. Contributions and proposals for presentations related to project management from individuals and other directorates general are always welcome for future events. This community does provide an opportunity to discuss certain Informatics proposals informally.

As we move forward towards a transformed Commission, effective project management will become a key enabler. It is anticipated that the Commission will gradually move towards a more flexible staffing structure for projects and that PM will be recognised as a career path for IT staff.

Project management training courses:

In addition to driving forward the community of practice, the Commission continues to extend the range of project management training courses in classroom and e-learning formats which are available for staff.

Classroom courses

  • General project management skills
  • People skills for project managers
  • Project roles and responsibilities
  • PMI certified associate project manager
  • PMI project management professional

e-Learning courses:

  • Project Management Fundamentals
  • Project Management Advanced
  • PMP Preparation
  • PMP Exam Simulation
  • IT Project Roles and Responsibilities
This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI or any listed author.

© 2010, Rob Maclaren
Originally published as a part of 2010 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Milan Italy

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