An organization's global reach won't last if it can't ensure quality and consistency across borders—and the enterprise. In overseeing QuintilesIMS’ global technology solutions programs, Veronica Lum Kok Yin, PMP, helps to keep her organization's project management standards intact. QuintilesIMS provides clinical and commercial support and IT solutions to healthcare organizations around the world. With almost 20 years of project management experience in the IT industry, Ms. Lum now has worldwide project and program management responsibilities for commercial support of QuintilesIMS’ clients.
What does your position entail?
There are three parts to my role. I oversee the program management for delivery of our cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) solution to improve commercial outcomes for pharmaceutical and life sciences clients. Since 2013, I've set up our Asia Pacific project management office (PMO), which is part of the global PMO within our commercial solutions group. I also have the role of quality manager for Asia Pacific, along with six quality managers on my team. Together we roll out project management best practices and operational excellence training.
What do the CRM programs involve?
Our CRM solution delivers a cloud-based mobile device application that helps sales representatives efficiently communicate with healthcare professionals. It also collects product detailing and other information from face-to-face sales calls and sends it to the clients’ headquarters for marketing and sales analytics. Each CRM program can take two to four years and involve six to 12 countries, depending on the client's strategy. A local project manager in each country is part of my team for country-level projects.
Why have a project manager in each country?
When you're running a regional or global program to improve a client's commercialization capabilities, you need the support and knowledge of local project managers. We leverage them for their language skills and their understanding of local business and regulatory compliance requirements. They also understand how pharmaceutical and life sciences organizations, such as hospitals, medical practices and pharmacies, are structured in their respective countries.
How does the PMO help ensure project success?
The PMO establishes a set of industry best practices and trains our commercial delivery teams—such as project managers, who in turn guide business analysts, configuration specialists, data specialists and support teams. It provides them all with easily accessible procedures and templates to support project delivery and the customer help desk. The PMO also created an automated in-house portfolio system that provides performance status information on all our projects. Status updates are integrated into the overarching portfolio system, which improves project visibility, resource prioritization and collaboration.
How do quality managers work with project managers?
They train the local team members, including project managers, on best practices, procedures and templates. Every year, our quality management team reviews the results of our project audits to determine how to improve our processes and templates. We review these audits within the global PMO.
How has the training benefited project management?
Sometimes we identify team members with no project management experience, such as business analysts or support specialists, tasked with managing an IT project. Training through the PMO quickly prepares them to plan and execute a project with confidence. We've seen an increase in people using project management best-practice templates after training. We've also seen more “green” traffic-light dashboard status signals in project managers’ weekly status reports as they adopt best practices.
What's the biggest challenge you face?
Having virtual teams work together as if they were in one location. It's always best to have face-to-face interactions with the customer to build rapport and relationships. So our project and program managers try to have as many in-person meetings as possible—like kickoff meetings, requirements workshops and acceptance tests. When that's not possible, we do video conferencing.
How do you manage geographically diverse teams?
We established an escalation path. If local project managers are not able to solve a particular problem, they escalate it to the relevant departments in various countries, or to me. Also the project managers submit weekly and monthly status reports to program managers and to customers. With one glance at the dashboard, everyone can see which projects are on track and which are in danger. For communication management, we have weekly internal meetings with the project and program managers and with the clients.
What's the advantage of virtual teams?
We can handle project tasks on a 24-hour basis by leveraging expertise from all over the world. We have team members in Australia and New Zealand who start the day addressing project issues, then they pass those issues to team members in Singapore, China, Japan, Korea or India, and then later in the day they can pass any information to our teams in France, Italy, Poland and Spain and subsequently the United States. We solve a lot of problems by managing global project activities collaboratively. PM
What advice would you give to project managers?
Follow up with every stakeholder on a daily or weekly basis to mitigate risks before they become issues. As a project manager, you have to be like an orchestra conductor, seeing and hearing what everyone is doing and leading them to create music.
What's a meaningful book for you?
The Collins Business Secrets books offer very useful and concise tips. For example: Tailor your communication to your audience.
What's your favorite hobby?
I create abstract visual art and jewelry. Sometimes I invite friends over to make their own jewelry.