A new prescription


 Joel Verinder, PMP, Texas Health Resources,
Arlington, Texas, USA                                   


>> As the PMO, we provide transparent data to the executive decision makers. This information validates that the portfolio is aligned with the strategic direction of the organization, while enabling leaders to truly run IT like a business.

SOME PROJECTS just shouldn't make the cut, especially in an industry facing severe financial restraints. But at Texas Health Resources, every project requested of the IT department was approved—until Joel Verinder, PMP, stepped in as portfolio management office director.

Leveraging experience gained across sectors ranging from airlines to telecom, he has transformed the existing portfolio management office (PMO) into a business-driven one aimed squarely at helping ensure each of the not-for-profit's 14 hospitals benefits from the organization's limited IT resources.

How has the organization's approach to portfolio management changed?

The PMO‘s initial charter focused on people, process and tools, but the executive leadership wanted increased adoption and business value. When I came in, I swung it around to focus on business needs first, and figure out how project management processes and templates can help solve problems. We got some quick wins early on, which helped us gain momentum. Eventually we evolved to focus on resource planning and prioritization.

Why did the PMO focus on resource planning?

Texas Health supports 14 hospitals with a centralized PMO and a single IT group with 575 people. There's always a big need for our services, and we were often overwhelmed with requests. The IT team members had developed a “just get it done” mentality, and they didn't feel like they had a voice. It caused us to start asking questions about whether we were working on the right projects and whether we could do a better job.

We worked with the IT governance team to create a prioritization model, which included the refinement of a strategic IT council. The council includes an executive representative from each hospital, along with several physicians, and a few other IT representatives to provide technical direction and answer questions.

Now, the council considers every project proposal and ranks it against the current portfolio and existing resource constraints. The PMO also presents monthly data to the council about resource availability. Before a project is approved, business owners must bring their case to the council and be able to define the anticipated ROI, whether it's financial, regulatory or patient safety. Every business case is expected to have metrics to define success. And six to nine months after implementation, business owners must report back on the results to the council.

What kinds of results have you seen?

Today, we support 85 projects, and overall IT morale has improved. But it took some time. In the first couple of council sessions, it was a struggle to prioritize projects. Eventually, with all the talk about healthcare reform and new reimbursement models, people started to understand the resource constraints we face.

We're taking a more holistic systems approach, with the goal of meeting the needs of all the hospitals in the network. And because business owners are now presenting project results to the council, it gave visibility to some of the small projects that have delivered tremendous ROI.

What lessons have you learned that might benefit other PMO leaders?

The most important aspect of project management revolves around change management and how you communicate that change to your stakeholders and project teams. If you can't translate your vision to the organization, that's a risk. And if the business owners don't see value in what you are doing, you won't exist for long.




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