Project Management Institute

From chaos to control




Telecom giant Ericsson has spread throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, creating production units, research and development facilities, and training centers. As market share in the region grows, so has the company's focus on project management. In fact, the role of project manager has become one of the most important at Ericsson.

The organization decided to projectize years ago, and the project management office (PMO) was seen as the entity needed to bring business visibility to the project portfolio by establishing metrics based on net sales, gross margin, unadjusted margin, and top-and bottom-line figures.

At that time, the Central American and Caribbean division was lacking control of its project portfolio metrics. So, in April 2009, I was appointed leader of the region's PMO to turn things around.

As quickly as possible, I assembled a leadership team consisting of colleagues with strong project management backgrounds. Our mission was to implement solid project management practices, from reporting mechanisms to change control board practices. The PMO developed an overall strategy that would align with organizational objectives, based on three goals:

  • Bring financial visibility and control to Ericsson's Central American and Caribbean division
  • Create a new project management culture at the organization
  • Build a company that is “future-proof”

“It was important to engage all the management team and come up with the right focus areas,” says Sherif Abdel Sayed, PMP, a member of the leadership team.

We created a governance model that would bring visibility to our business. This was accomplished through biweekly meetings with executives, during which we addressed the mission-critical projects that needed attention.

At the PMO management level, one of my primary responsibilities was creating an extremely collaborative atmosphere. I needed to ensure each individual could contribute specific skills in a synergetic environment.

To see what areas needed improvements and to secure buy-in, “we had to prioritize the quick wins,” Mr. Sayed adds.

We identified many tasks that would show results quickly. For instance, before the PMO was in place, almost every project manager had different goals. After the office was established, they had common objectives to work toward. In addition, we set up a change control board to identify, document, approve or reject any project alterations.


Our team needed to be flexible and adaptable. We requested feedback regularly from the critical-path method teams, continuously reviewed progress in key focus areas, and adjusted our priorities to ensure the strategy was meeting business workload and new requirements. Through weekly meetings, the project team could review our strategy in terms of daily operations.

People Skills Come Into Play

PMOs aren't just about project management processes. I wanted to make certain my team members had the ability to discover and communicate the shared values and visions that form the common ground on which a PMO stands. I proposed a two-and-a-half-day summit in August at a remote site in Panama to the company's high-level executives. They agreed.

In addition to learning about methodology, attendees honed the people skills necessary for success, such as:

  • Respect for the team and organization
  • A strong sense of responsibility
  • Empathy, the ability to listen to other people and understand where they are coming from
  • Openness to alternative solutions, new opportunities and advancement
  • Willingness to participate
  • Trust in project managers and the organization as a whole

“I strongly believe that the project manager's attitude dramatically affects the project and the project team attitude,” says Arturo Cazali, PMI-SP, PMP, one of our project managers involved in the PMO creation. “This organization needs project managers who are honest and competent, and can also inspire people. We have learned that actions speak louder than words.”

Getting Credentialed

One of our initial goals was to increase the number of project managers with the Project Management Professional (PMP)® credential. The PMO leadership team reached out to The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas). UT Dallas was a logical choice. During the Panama Canal expansion, the university held intensive training programs for project managers and senior leaders. It also currently offers programs accredited by the Project Management Global Accreditation Center for Project Management Education Programs and is a PMI Registered Education Provider.

The trainers conducted several exam-preparation review sessions for our PMO team members to assure they were familiar with A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) and associated principles, tools and techniques.

As a result, the PMO achieved an outstanding success rate on the first exam attempt. The number of PMP-certified project managers dramatically increased from less than 10 percent to over 60 percent in a matter of a few months. More importantly, the whole organization became engaged and excited about this project.


Luis Roberto Garza Alatorre, PMP, is director of the operations transformation program for Ericsson's Latin American division in Panama City, Panama. Previously, he was director of the company's PMO for Central America and the Caribbean.

Many Happy Returns

After months of implementing project management practices, building a strong PMO and increasing the number of PMP-certified project managers, we are continuing our journey to better results. The visibility and control over projects in our portfolio have increased, as have profit margins.

Culture is everything, and with the proper project management techniques and strategy, a dedicated PMO can lead an organization down the right path. PM


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