Following the Compass
Jorge Stone, PMO Director, GM Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico
ILLUSTRATION BY JOEL KIMMEL
TITLE: PMO director
ORGANIZATION: GM Mexico
LOCATION: Mexico City, Mexico
Any global strategy has to be translated to suit local conditions. At GM Mexico, it falls to Jorge Stone to ensure technology projects hit the mark by aligning with both corporate strategy and the country's specific needs. CIO since 2015, Mr. Stone oversees IT operations, portfolio and strategy in Mexico, one of the GM's five biggest markets. His IT team of about 100 people executes 30 to 40 projects each year. Prior to joining GM Mexico five years ago, Mr. Stone worked as a project management office director in both the IT and food industries.
What is involved in planning and executing GM Mexico's IT strategy?
GM's global strategy serves as our compass. We continually align and prioritize GM Mexico's objectives and initiatives with GM's very defined three-year strategic roadmap. Those initiatives might be an enterprise resource planning implementation for accounts payable, a business intelligence solution or a customer relationship management solution. We work with our local business partners, like our manufacturing, finance and sales teams, to define the initiatives’ adoption and implementation for the local market.
What's an example of a Mexican project that supported GM's global strategy?
Last year, we implemented the first vehicle owners’ portal and 4G connectivity platform in the Mexican market. It provides Wi-Fi and data services in vehicles and gives owners real-time status updates about their vehicles. This allows us to communicate much more closely with customers. The project was aligned with a GM strategy to deploy Wi-Fi and 4G-enabled services and connectivity for all vehicles—and a larger strategy to earn customers for life. Two years before launching the platform, the Mexican business partners began planning the project together with the global corporation to ensure strategic alignment.
What was a key challenge on the owners’ portal project?
Adapting the platform so that it had the right content and features for Mexican customers was challenging. We had to define a common set of requirements for the platform while also accounting for the local market's requirements. We addressed that by having the right project sponsor who owned and drove the project with the right levels of engagement and authority. We also had to have the right project manager from the IT team to rally the troops and execute the solution. And we worked with other regional markets to find out their best practices and then adopted and adapted those practices here. In the end, we kept a certain degree of freedom for the local market. About 80 percent of the project involved global processes, and the other 20 percent involved unique customizations for the local market.
How do you work with the rest of the C-suite to ensure alignment?
It's about collaboration. It's about having open and ongoing dialogue between me and the rest of the executive team. We constantly discuss our strategic plan and our priorities for the current year and coming years to avoid surprises. No one is ever surprised if a new initiative requires support from my team or if an IT project encounters challenges. The executive team acts as a team.
What is the primary challenge in your role?
Managing expectations and priorities. You can't always be in a fire-drill mode. You have to manage expectations around deliverables and timelines. You have to have a sound strategy and a planned approach to deliver it. Also, you have to know when to [involve] yourself into a crisis and when to let the team address it. It's about finding that balance.
What project delivery approach do you use?
We use GM's project management methodology, which borrows a lot of concepts from A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide). It gives us flexibility to use the approach that is best suited to any one project—whether it's waterfall, agile or hybrid. Typically, we take an agile or hybrid approach.
Our projects tend to be shorter than six months. We break them down into two or three releases, and then within each of those releases we have several sprints. We use an agile delivery approach and early prototyping because otherwise there's a risk of getting too far into implementation and then finding out it isn't exactly what we were expecting.
How do your project management standards and approaches help to ensure success?
We define the requirements and deliverables at a high level with our business partners, and then we refine them during the sprints. We have clear targets to get from one phase to the next—initiation, planning, execution and closure. Along the way, we measure progress and track metrics. And we have strict controls to ensure quality—that we actually delivered the value we expected. PM
What is the one skill every project manager should have?
Accountability. Making sure that nothing falls through the cracks.
What is your favorite travel destination?
The Mexican Pacific Coast. It's peaceful and relaxing.
What do you wish you had known at the start of your career?
That a career never stops—you have to keep looking to improve and challenge yourself.