Project Management Institute

Fast times

Lori Ellsworth, Compuware Corp.,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada




Meeting budgets and deadlines is all well and good, but it's not enough for Lori Ellsworth.

“If the project doesn't deliver a quality product or it's the wrong decision for the business, it doesn't matter if the project is on time or on budget—it still won't be perceived as a success,” says Ms. Ellsworth, vice president of Compuware Corp.‘s Changepoint Solutions.

Projects have to deliver value. And the way she makes that happen at the IT giant is through project management—especially now.

Project management can be perceived as onerous overhead, but it's critical to the success of the business.

“In this economy, you have to be able to move quickly, and you can't move quickly without visibility,” Ms. Ellsworth says. “So we live and breathe project management every day.”

What's your approach to project management?

I lay out a high-level vision and a roadmap that incorporates multiple projects over the long term. I also manage communication with customers, stakeholders and analysts, so it's critical for me at an executive level to have the confidence that my team can deliver what I say we will deliver.

That confidence comes from how we manage projects all the way up to the strategic portfolio level. Our executives evaluate the portfolio from an overall business strategy perspective to evaluate their investments and make sure every project is aligned with the business goals.

Project management is about being able to identify key deliverables needed to service the customer and to deliver them in a timely fashion.

How are project management methods and strategies communicated throughout your organization?

We have a project management office (PMO) that supports all projects. We also have compiled a strong history of project data we rely on for best practices. From the beginning of each project, we take time to review progress and tweak our approach to estimation and delivery. Those review data are added to the project database, which helps us fine-tune our processes, establish metrics and continue to improve the accuracy of our projects.

How does project management tie into the strategic objectives of the company?

Our approach is driven by business requirements. Strategic business goals seed project planning to ensure we are choosing the right projects. Then we manage project deliverables to the traditional project management metrics of time and budget, business value and quality.

Has the economy impacted the way you manage projects?

Because we've historically had an efficient project management process, we are in a position to understand our resources and where they are allocated to maximize their use across projects. Like everyone, though, we have a set amount of money to invest, and we need to make the right decisions and leverage our resources to get the best deliverables in the most efficient manner.

Now we use agile methodologies to deliver several more iterative projects to customers throughout the year. We engage customers throughout these projects to show them what we are building, offer visibility to internal and external clients, and collect feedback on our progress.

What advice do you have for other companies on how to make the most of project management?

You have to understand your level of project management maturity and start implementing methods at the right place. If you try to do too much too soon, you will overwhelm the organization. Project management can be perceived as onerous overhead, but it's critical to the success of the business. You need to promote the value of the structure and how that translates into the success of the business. PM

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