Making a Difference

By Actively Engaging Stakeholders, Three Project Teams Deliver Big Change—And Big Benefits

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BY SARAH FISTER GALE

Projects have the power to transform. And this year's PMI Project of the Year finalists channeled that power to move communities, companies and customers in new directions.

One team deployed a digital platform that promises to dramatically change the way consumers order quick-service food—and how they see the company. Another rebuilt a healthcare center destroyed by a hurricane, restoring much-needed services to the area's military veterans. The third expanded a massive pulp-production facility, while ensuring the environmental and financial health of the surrounding community.

Here's a first look at the three finalists:

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FINALIST

Digital Acceleration

McDonald's transformed the dining experience in the 1940s. But the fast-food giant was at risk of falling behind on digital trends—until March 2017. That was when the company's president and CEO told shareholders that, in an effort to modernize the customer experience, McDonald's would deploy a mobile order-and-pay app in 20,000 restaurants globally by the end of the year.

And the project team delivered on that promise. Customers can now order food, access special offers and pay from their mobile devices, and pick up their order at the counter, in the drive-thru or have it delivered curbside.

“This was our opportunity to truly be a digital disrupter,” says Amy Martin, PMP, senior director and leader of the global program management office (PMO) at McDonald's.

The team closed the project a month ahead of schedule and under budget. And the company is already seeing a serious ROI: In the U.S. alone, the app has accrued 20 million registered users, with more than 110 million offers redeemed.

The team credits the performance to enterprise-wide support for the mission, right from the start. “Out of the gate we had complete alignment between the technology, digital and operations teams,” says Scott Badskey, the PMO's director of portfolio and process management. “All three organizations became a unifying factor that helped us knock down silos.”

Project: Digital Acceleration

Organization: McDonald's Corp.

Estimated budget: US$164 million

Actual budget: US$154.5 million

Project headquarters: Chicago, Illinois, USA

Timeline: March 2017-December 2017

Scope: Deploy a new digital platform to more than 20,000 restaurants, allowing customers to order from their mobile devices or via in-store kiosks, and receive orders via new delivery capabilities

Highlights: The project came in under budget and a month ahead of schedule. At the end of 2017, the app had more than 20 million registered users in the U.S. alone.

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FINALIST

Horizonte 2

When Fibria decided to expand its pulp mill in Três Lagoas, Brazil, its leaders knew the project was a game-changer for the company—and the community.

“It was a huge project,” says Julio Cesar Rodrigues da Cunha, project and engineering director at Fibria.

And the team had to pull it off in the middle of the country. The mill is 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) from the nearest port, and infrastructure issues made transporting equipment and materials difficult.

The company took a new, more integrated approach, collaborating across divisions to manage complicated procurement logistics and oversee the build-out—all while sharing frequent updates internally. Along the way, the company also tried out new innovations, such as incorporating robots and machine learning in its tree nursery to increase efficiencies.

The project called for nearly 9,000 workers, which swelled the population of nearby towns. To ensure the company and community would grow together, Fibria invested BRL8 million in public safety, health, education and infrastructure projects for the surrounding area. In the process, the company built a powerful skilled labor force, with vocational training of more than 2,000 people.

The team delivered the project two months ahead of the original schedule, roughly US$500 million under budget—and without a serious accident. “From day one, safety was the priority,” Mr. da Cunha says.

Project: Horizonte 2 pulp mill expansion

Organization: Fibria

Estimated budget: US$2.7 billion

Actual budget: US$2.2 billion

Location: Três Lagoas, Brazil

Schedule: May 2015-August 2017

Scope: Build a second production line at the Três Lagoas plant, increasing capacity to 3.3 million tons of pulp per year and making it the world's largest bleached-eucalyptus pulp production line

Highlight: The project closed two months ahead of the original schedule, under budget and with a top-notch safety record.

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FINALIST

Project Legacy

When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, it destroyed the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facility in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Thousands of veterans were left without reliable access to healthcare, forced to make do with temporary clinics scattered around the city. “Those were pretty difficult times,” says Liz Failla, supervisory project engineer for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The project scope to build a new medical center included a 1.6 million-square-foot (148,000-square-meter) facility of eight buildings across a 30-acre (12.1-hectare) campus. It was dubbed Project Legacy as a tribute to veterans and to the community's resilience, says Ms. Failla.

To get stakeholders on board, the team brought in veterans to review design plans and held meetings to engage community members, some of whom had grown skeptical of promises to rebuild after the storm, she says.

The team came through, delivering the new facility on time and under budget. Offering more than 65 clinical, ancillary, administrative and support services, it has fast become an integral part of the city's up-and-coming bioscience corridor. And with exterior walls designed to withstand winds of up to 130 miles (209 kilometers) per hour, the center is built to last.

Project: Project Legacy healthcare facility

Organization: Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System

Estimated budget: US$616.36 million

Actual budget: US$530 million

Location: New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Timeline: 2009-2018

Scope: Build a medical facility serving 70,000 veterans on a 30-acre (12.1-hectare) campus

Highlight: The project was delivered under budget, with on-time activation of the replacement medical center, which now offers more than 65 services.

AND THE WINNER IS…

The 2018 PMI Project of the Year Award will be presented at PMI Global Conference, 6-8 October 2018 in Los Angeles, California, USA.

To apply for the 2019 Project of the Year or other professional awards, head to PMI.org/awards.

A CLOSER LOOK

Check out future PM Network issues and videos on PMI's YouTube channel for in-depth case studies of each finalist.

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