Project Management Institute

Strategy in flight




Emad Naeemi, PMP, strategy and PMO officer, Bahrain Airport Co., Muharraq, Bahrain

As the strategy and PMO officer for the Bahrain Airport Co. (BAC), Emad Naeemi doesn’t just implement the organization’s strategy. He helped develop it.

From mid-2013 to early 2014, he and the senior management team at BAC, which manages Bahrain International Airport, went on several retreats to determine the strategic objectives necessary to achieve the organization’s mission: operate a world-class, high-functioning airport for a proud country. (“If you ever come to our airport,” Mr. Naeemi says, “you’ll get from your plane to the street in 10 to 15 minutes. It’s very efficient.”)

With a strategy in place, Mr. Naeemi and a colleague began creating BAC’s project management office (PMO), which establishes processes, develops competencies and governs all projects. The PMO oversees about 60 project managers who handle roughly 170 projects each year.

What organizational needs does the PMO aim to address?

There were two needs above all. First, the company needed a clear overview of all the work going on. Some projects were running ad hoc, and some departments were running more or less in silos. And then there was the need to improve project management competencies. The central goal is to increase efficiency in implementing projects.

How exactly does the PMO provide solutions?

Our PMO is responsible for all of the company’s projects and for ensuring that they fall under the company’s strategic objectives. We provide on-demand project management support. We establish project management methodologies and standards with different departments, such as the infrastructure development, finance, human resources, and information and communications technology (ICT) departments. We track and report projects to senior management. We’re also responsible for promoting project management best practices. We do that by facilitating project management training and certification, and by coaching project managers.

How did you and senior management determine the kind of PMO BAC needed?

We presented different options to senior management—different roles the PMO could play. One of them was a basic PMO that just provides on-demand support. Another option was a hybrid PMO where we not only provide support, but also help the departments establish their project management methodologies, collect the statuses of the projects, facilitate project management training and provide mentoring.

The third option was what we called the advanced PMO. It involves everything in the hybrid, plus being the source of project management resources. So when, say, ICT wants to initiate a project, that department would borrow a project manager from the PMO.

Senior management decided to go with the second option. It’s great to start as a hybrid while the PMO matures. We might evolve into a more advanced PMO in the near future.

How does the PMO ensure projects’ strategic alignment?

We created six different program boards within the PMO, one for each of the company’s six strategic objectives. All of the projects under each board share the same strategic objective. We also have a steering committee that will oversee all of those boards and will align and prioritize projects within each.

What does your training of project managers aim to address?

General project management competency—being able to plan and plan and plan before going and doing things ad hoc. Also, prioritizing—how to prioritize tasks within projects instead of trying to do everything at once.

We want to show that the PMO isn’t there to point out project managers’ mistakes. We’re there to help them achieve success.

What’s the greatest challenge you’ve faced while implementing the PMO?

Buy-in. Getting project managers to buy into the PMO. We’ve proven to senior management that the PMO will bring in benefits, but with the project managers, we’re trying very hard to show those benefits and that we’re not creating an extra level of bureaucracy to fill out more forms.

How do you demonstrate that, especially since the PMO is new?

We created a communications plan to launch the PMO. We sat down one-on-one with each project manager and his or her functional manager, answered all of their questions regarding the new PMO, and explained its benefits—it will help improve your competency level, it will help certify you so you’ll have a better career, it will help you resolve issues you’re facing.

Are you trying to have all practitioners earn the Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification?

Yes, mainly PMP® and Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® certifications. We believe this will prepare project managers for what needs to be done and how it needs to be done to ensure that we achieve projects on budget and on time.

You previously worked as a web developer and designer for years. How did you transition from IT into project management?

I realized I was more interested in managing IT projects than the technical side, so I took a university course on project management and really liked it. When I graduated, I got the CAPM® credential, which few people in this region had at that time. Then I started volunteering for the PMI Arabian Gulf Chapter Bahrain Branch, which opened a lot of doors for me. PM


Small Talk

What’s the best professional advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t take no for an answer. There’s always a way.

What’s the best book you’ve read recently?

The Autobiography of Malcolm X. You see how a person changes—just as organizations can evolve and mature.

Favorite thing to do in your spare time?

Design websites. Creating something from scratch that almost every single person in the world can access feels empowering.

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