The project pipeline .
IN THE VOLATILE energy industry, there's little room for error. Roberto Newton Carneiro, CIO at Comgás, Brazil's largest natural gas distributor, relies on sound project management principles not only to accommodate tight deadlines and budgets, but to help ensure projects deliver direct and measurable results.
For almost five years, he has overseen many high-profile, highly complex IT business solutions projects, including the implementation of major infrastructure management and several large outsourcing initiatives. He leads a team of 30 employees and more than 80 contractors, all working on a vast portfolio of projects aimed at helping the company maintain its competitive edge in the marketplace.
How does Comgás manage its projects?
Our approach is not limited to project management but expands to portfolio management as part of a broad IT governance model. Our main objective is to guarantee that every IT investment brings value to Comgás as well as ensuring that each particular project meets its core objectives.
We have a project management office that is focused on delivering IT projects and we try as much as possible to stay in line with A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide).
What unique challenges do you face managing projects in the natural gas industry?
We operate with narrow margins, which means that projects must always meet their time and budget targets. They also need to fully realize their projected benefits, or we risk losing profitability. The tightly regulated business environment requires that project status, outcomes and post implementation reviews be constantly presented to regulators. This adds time and complexity to the project schedule.
And fierce competition and accelerated business expansion put constant pressure on project teams to deliver results without delays and ensure that the planned benefits are fully realized.
How do you decide which projects should be a part of your portfolio?
We are going through a series of reviews by internal committees of the IT demands within the organization and assessing these demands against the value that they can bring to the organization. This review process will enable us to prioritize those projects and investments that will deliver the greatest value and ROI to Comgás, so we can best determine which projects and improvements should receive investment. Our portfolio management approach requires every project within the organization to be directly related to a strategic goal as part of our business case and planning stage.
How do you manage risk?
Risk management is an important part of our project management practices. Prior to project initiation, we list all of the possible risks and rank them according to the probability that they will occur, potential harms to the organization if they do occur, and any mitigating factors. No project in Comgás starts without risk assessment.
What have been your biggest struggles?
One of the hardest challenges we face now in particular is the completion of a large customer relationship management and billing solutions project that was delivered last year but failed to meet some of its objectives.
It was the most important project delivered at Comgás for the past year, and one of the reasons the project failed was that project management techniques were poorly used. We decided to reopen the project to fix the problems, enhance what we recognized as deficiencies or limitations in the original project plan, and develop all the missing parts using a more strict approach to the project management methodology. We are already seeing good results. PM
DECEMBER 2010 PM NETWORK