Premium on Alignment
Adriana Vincze, Strategic Planning and PMO Director, Groupama Asigurari, Bucharest, Romania
ILLUSTRATION BY JOEL KIMMEL
Adriana Vincze sweats the details that form the bridge between strategic goals and execution. At insurance company Groupama Asigurari, she helps determine strategic priorities—and then ensures project managers can deliver on them.
TITLE: Strategic planning and PMO director
ORGANIZATION: Groupama Asigurari
LOCATION: Bucharest, Romania
The organization was formed in 2009 after Groupama acquired and merged three Romanian insurers to form the country's largest insurance company. With Romania becoming the European Union's fastest-growing economy, Groupama Asigurari soon realized it needed “to manage change within a VUCA-D environment—volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous and disruptive,” says Ms. Vincze.
In 2013, the organization set up a project management office (PMO) and hired Ms. Vincze to direct it and drive projects' strategic alignment. The PMO oversees delivery of 15 to 25 projects a year, with budgets of up to €2 million. Ms. Vincze has over 15 years' project management experience, much of it in the insurance industry.
How do you help achieve your company's strategic goals?
Every quarter, our leadership team reviews our priorities to ensure they're fully aligned with strategy. And whenever we deliver a project, we don't stop there. We monitor the project's benefits at three, six, nine and 12 months after going live.
How do you interact with the C-suite to deliver strategy?
Strategic planning and the PMO have been part of the C-suite since 2013, and I work closely with my peers in a very collaborative process. The PMO is responsible for strategic alignment, monitoring progress, enhancing governance and accountability, and optimizing execution. Executives feed the project portfolio: During annual planning, we jointly identify the initiatives that each executive needs to complete in order to deliver the strategy. And then each quarter we prioritize them.
What delivery approach do you use?
We use agile, waterfall and a hybrid of the two. We look at the pros and cons for each approach on every project and then decide the best approach for that project. We use agile mostly on IT applications. Last year, we started using a hybrid approach on a more consistent basis. By the end of 2018, we plan to have a set of criteria for project managers to determine the best approach for any given project.
What does the project portfolio look like?
There are three kinds of projects, generally. Transformational projects impact the business in both the medium and long term, growth projects contribute to the top line in the short term, and then there are mandatory projects for regulations and compliance.
How does project management at Groupama Asigurari look different today compared to when you arrived?
Back in 2013, we had what we call business project managers: employees running and delivering projects. Project management was not their fulltime job. They needed to get familiar with project management methodology and acquire the competencies and skills. So we started to introduce them to a standard project management methodology using a learn-by-doing approach to help them better fulfill their duties. We had our fulltime project managers work alongside them on specific projects so they learned the methods and tools. After a year and a half, we formalized our project management methodology based on PMI standards, in a very pragmatic way.
Do you still have both full-time and ad hoc project managers?
Yes, in addition to our four full-time project managers in the PMO, we have three full-time IT project managers and 20 business project managers. They take on a project management role for a limited time, which also gives them a professional development opportunity. Having a mix of full-time and business project managers helps identify project talent in our organization. It also helps with project success because often the business project managers are the projects' beneficiaries and end users, so they're really invested in delivering successful projects.
How do you determine the benefits of project management to your organization?
We have two indicators to determine if we're on the right path: how quickly and how well we execute. We look at the project life cycle and consider the deviation between the baseline and the project's end. Sometimes the deviation can be easily explained, like changes and opportunities we could not identify at the beginning of a project.
But we also look at how well we evolve as a learning organization. We look at the people taking on project management roles and the competencies and skills they develop along the way. Some of the people who had rudimentary project management skills five years ago can now easily take on full-time project manager jobs. That's happening because we invested in our people's development and offered them opportunities.
How have you seen executives' views on the power of project management evolve since the PMO launched?
I'd say two ways, mainly. Since we've adapted a PMI-based methodology for project approval, execution and monitoring to our culture, they see the added value of the governance for managing change. More broadly, they see the value of project management when it comes to big transformational strategic projects, as well as smaller ones. PM
What's the one skill every project manager should have?
Resilience: the ability to cope with adversity.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
When a computer doesn't load a page fast enough.
If not project management, what would you do?
Fundraising for social causes.