A Sharper Vision
Project Management Offices Help Three Organizations Set Strategic Priorities
2018 PMO of the Year Award Finalists
BY SARAH FISTER GALE
The 2018 PMO of the Year Award finalists prove that all organizations—in all sectors—can benefit from a more strategic focus. One finalist is an Australian telecommunications giant. Another offers financial and insurance services to southeast Europe. And the third provides public education to students in a U.S. state.
Each organization's project management office (PMO) helps ensure initiatives align with strategic goals—and drives greater value across the enterprise by tapping into the power of project management.
In 2012, Telstra, Australia's largest telecom company, commissioned an assessment to see how well the company managed large, strategic projects. The results weren't great: Roughly 30 percent of its investment programs and projects were not meeting their goals.
“We weren't delivering a strong return on capital, and some of the delivery practices and processes weren't strong enough,” says Rob Loader, PMP, director of capital planning and delivery, Telstra, Melbourne, Australia.
In response, the organization launched the Capital Planning & Delivery PMO as a dedicated capability within the finance and strategy function. The overarching goal: instill discipline around strategic capital planning and improve the overall effectiveness of the company's capital investment management. The PMO now spans 24 full-time staff overseeing a portfolio of 1,265 projects worldwide with an annual value of more than AU$3.77 billion.
For Telstra, a PMI Global Executive Council member, the PMO has helped elevate the value of project management, says Mr. Loader. As PMO leader, he is a director-level executive reporting to the deputy CFO and is a member of the finance senior leadership team. “We have visibility and advocacy at the very top of the organization,” he says. “We're not just a PMO that governs templates and reports. We are at the forefront of driving a three-year rolling strategy for Telstra.”
—Rob Loader, PMP, Telstra, Melbourne, Australia
The PMO team has implemented an enterprise-wide portfolio management approach to track and improve ROI on all invested capital. The PMO also ensures that sponsors have the necessary training to support the best possible project outcomes, he says. Those efforts have paid off. As of 2017, more than 75 percent of projects score above benchmarks for schedule, budget and quality. The company also saved AU$220 million over the past three years, thanks largely to a more rigorous go/no-go stage-gate review process.
“We've been able to ensure that the best projects with the best returns have been prioritized and executed with the right people,” Mr. Loader says. “That allows us to be first to market on specific initiatives in a very competitive environment.”
Raising the Stakes
Like most financial services and insurance companies, Triglav Group is focused on delivering long-term benefits. When the company launched a PMO a decade ago, the initial focus was on improving administrative oversight, such as developing project templates and guidelines. But over the past few years, the PMO has taken a wider view to capture a more enterprise-wide and strategic perspective.
Today, the six-member PMO team oversees approximately 40 projects at any time. Every project manager reports directly to the PMO, and initiatives that are managed directly by the business units also are assigned a PMO staff member as a project supervisor. The result is improved knowledge sharing as well as a consistency of culture and project management methodology across the portfolio.
“Thanks to our knowledge, expertise, commitment and passion, we deliver results,” says Jaka Borstnar, director of project portfolio and change management, Triglav Group, Ljubljana, Slovenia.
—Jaka Borstnar, Triglav Group, Ljubljana, Slovenia
The PMO team is also directly involved in building Triglav's four-year strategic plan—as well as deciding which projects to prioritize based on strategic goals. “We review all initiatives and determine which will deliver the highest value-add for the company,” he says.
That hands-on approach, from inception through project execution, has ensured projects routinely finish on time and on budget while achieving the strategic goals defined in each project plan, Mr. Borstnar says. “Our process for selecting projects, executing projects and tracking the benefits of projects gives Triglav a competitive advantage.”
Finance and insurance
Making the Grade
At Tacoma Public Schools, project success isn't measured by revenue earned or dollars saved. Its enterprise project management office (EPMO) is interested in driving community benefits by improving graduation rates, feeding hungry kids and making sure teachers have the resources they need to focus on supporting their students.
In 2013, the U.S. school district, which serves 30,000 students with 5,000 employees, launched an EPMO to implement more formal project management principles for when new initiatives are rolled out.
“It was born out of a commitment from the board of directors that the money voters approved to spend through a technology levy was going to be utilized in a very transparent and efficient way,” says Briela Copeland, CAPM, program manager, Tacoma Public Schools, Tacoma, Washington, USA.
During its first year, the EPMO oversaw projects valued at more than US$1.5 million, including the launch of a multi-year summer initiative, which now serves nearly 5,000 students. It also has managed the rollout of computer kiosks in every school, online portfolios to track student progress, the digitization of enrollment forms and the launch of a program to support students who are struggling to graduate. The team also initiated the first high school project management class using the PMI Educational Foundation curriculum.
Some stakeholders initially questioned the EPMO's value, arguing that it would merely duplicate what administrators already do. But the EPMO team won over skeptics with a district-wide communication campaign and early project delivery wins, says Ryan Howland, PMP, project manager, Tacoma Public Schools. “Administrators, teachers and office professionals have all found that having a project manager on our projects really helps them think through all the aspects of a project plan and to manage it in a more holistic manner.”
Since the introduction of project management processes, the graduation rate increased above the Washington state average—to 85 percent in 2016 from 55 percent in 2010. The district also has gained a reputation for project excellence, with school district leaders from across the country looking to Tacoma as a model for PMO delivery in the education community.
“The enterprise project management office brings all departments together to solve problems collaboratively,” says Toni Pace, district assistant superintendent, Tacoma Public Schools. “Before the EPMO, project work was done sporadically. Now, through the EPMO, project work is scheduled and unified in a way to ensure projects get done efficiently and under budget.” PM
—Toni Pace, Tacoma Public Schools, Tacoma, Washington, USA
Tacoma Public Schools
Tacoma, Washington, USA
And the Winner Is…
Find out the 2018 PMO of the Year at PMO Symposium 2018 in Washington, D.C., USA, scheduled for 11-14 November.
After the announcement, head over to PMI's YouTube channel to watch videos on each finalist, and look for full case studies in future issues of PM Network.
Calling all PMOs
Honor PMO excellence in 2019. Visit PMI.org/Awards