Project Management Institute

Power trip



Project management was making a solid difference at Wärtsilä, a global provider of complete life cycle power solutions for the marine and energy markets.

Looking to leverage those hard-earned best practices, Wärtsilä started a project management office (PMO). Since then, the company has developed and harmonized project management practices across the corporation and its branches in 70 countries.

“Without good project management practices, Wärtsilä would not be as successful as it is today,” says Antti Kämi, PMP, vice president of project management in Wärtsilä's power plants division and chair of the corporate PMO.

What is Wärtsilä's approach to project management?

Every project has at least four key gates, and at each gate a governance board makes sure certain requirements have been met before it can move forward. For example, in development projects, the first gateway requires a formal business case to support the project delivery. At the execution gate, the project plan is reviewed to ensure it meets customer and internal expectations.

This project model helps us plan better projects, keep projects on track, and enables better communication and engagement with the customer about project progress and expected outcomes.

Our biggest challenge is assessing and understanding all of the requirements necessary to manage the project, the stakeholder expectations and the risks.

What role does the PMO perform at your organization?

Through the PMO, we arrange project management training for everyone working on projects. We are developing a web-based project planning and tracking tool, and we're instituting formal project management processes for the whole organization.

This year, we're also focusing more on portfolio management practice to ensure that we're choosing the best projects. Because resources are limited, we want to be sure our projects align with our strategic priorities.

How do you ensure that alignment?

We focus on stakeholder requirements as early as possible, and we do a lot of up-front planning and due diligence.

We also have a process of classifying projects based on their complexity. The most complex ones are given greater project management resources, and the project team is brought in sooner—often during the sales process—to begin the transfer of knowledge and to educate the team about customer expectations.

This is an important step for buy-in on these projects, as the client and the project team start building their relationship sooner.

Can you share an example of a time when this approach has paid off?

In November 2011, we were completing a fast-track power plant project in Timor-Leste that had to be able to generate electricity by the country's independence day.

Delivery of the combustion engine to the project site was on the critical path for the project, so as part of the preplanning, we identified several strategies to set up the power plant in the shortest amount of time once the engine arrived. As it turned out, the engine delivery was delayed. Thanks to our preplanning efforts, we were able to complete all other possible tasks at the project site, and the first unit started up just 10 days after the arrival of the engine. The team was then able to get the plant operational in time for the important independence day delivery date. PM

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