Successfully developing project management capability in a global corporation



In major global corporations, there are many different types of projects, ranging from multi-billion dollar capital construction projects to small IT enhancement type projects costing a few thousand dollars and even within the IT function there is a complete range of projects from the transformational to the simple application change. The challenges we faced in raising the capability of our organisation were:

  • the range of projects,
  • the variety of locations across the globe where projects staff are located and
  • the very different nature of the businesses to whom IT projects are delivered.

Even with those challenges it was felt there was a worthwhile prize in raising our project management capability and that we should embark on this journey. We have been on this journey for 5 years and have seen marked improvements in the adoption of common language and processes used by our Project Managers. When we add to this accreditation and the up-skilling of project mangers, we have improved our delivery of projects. We have taken part in regular Gap Analysis studies and have moved from 3rd quartile to 1st which now means we are embarking on the toughest part of the journey i.e. to stay 1st quartile and ensure we continue to progress within the quartile.

Our approach has been to take simple but significant steps in a consistent way ensuring we were always aiming for our vision of right projects, right way with right people. A key to our success was taking the project management community with us so they were part of the design of the journey and had ownership of the process and skills needed. The key areas we leverage to ensure adoption and embedding of the journey are - develop a community within the organisation, develop a common framework which fits our business model and is based on external best practice and offer opportunities to ensure the project managers develop their capability.


Over the last few years we have developed our project management capability by developing our staff in each of the three keys areas - process, people and tools. We are fortunate that our organisation believes that project management is key to all areas of the business not just IT and in fact we have taken and adopted many of the principles and processes in use across the company. The three areas of process, people and tools are standard across many organisations but we believe you need to adapt each to suit the culture of the organisation. In our case we knew any process had to be relatively simple at the high level so we can drive adoption of the key common deliverables, people development has to fit in many cultures and languages and needs to have a common basis and any common tool must be driven business need. We developed what we believe to be a simple but effective Project Management Standard for use across the IT function globally which was endorsed at the highest level and this is what we base everything we do to develop capability around.

Developing project management through People, Process and Tools


We always knew winning the hearts and minds of the Project managers was the most important element to be successful so this was where we started. We set up a small team as a Centre for Expertise who worked with the key stakeholders to develop and offer the products that project managers saw as being of value to them. This meant we got a clear understanding of the key issues and started to develop a sense of community. In the last two years we have now a web based ‘Academy’ where all staff complete their competencies and plan their development. This also gives a view of the collective capability of the organisation and the identification of gaps to address. We where possible adopt standard industry best practice, eg A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) and Project Management Professional (PMP®), and only develop our own training and other materials where we feel there is added value. We have created a PM community and the next step we want to take is to have a true interactive community which takes on ownership for its own development.


As our company already has a well defined stage gate process we intentionally built our project management process around this and added in the specific key deliverables needed in that process for IT projects. This meant we did not have to introduce new language to the company and also project sponsors would be familiar with the concepts. As part of people development we selected PMP as the accreditation we expected project mangers to attain. This then provided us with opportunity to introduce and promote PMBOK® Guide across the IT organisation. At this stage we have not defined or declared centrally any PM methodology eg. PRINCE as we felt this was not culturally possible in the beginning. What we now find is people add their own more detailed process to our high level process which works well as each business area does have key differences eg refining versus trading and at a lower level it would be very difficult task to declare a common process.

As embedding any process in an organisation takes time, we have engaged key stakeholders to drive adoption and are now starting to measure and report on compliance to the process. Other parts of the IT organisation have taken on board the process as key to input into how they deliver service so we now have a common process across IT from project inception to service delivery – project engagement process. This now helps to drive use of the PM process as certain decisions cannot happen unless all parties have been involved, eg operations, support organisation, procurement.


We have recently rolled out PlanView as a common tool across the complete IT function for both portfolio and project management. In the project management domain we also still use MS Project for day to day activities and low level planning. In a global, dispersed organisation the change management involved in the adoption of a single tool, with a single common process is a major undertaking that is only now starting deliver value. It is extremely useful to be able to view all projects, which areas they are delivering to and which stage of the project they are in. This information is discussed by our global leadership to ensure we are in line with both business and IT strategy. In the project management area we the tool gives us a high level view of all projects, using a consistent process and definition and we hope to develop this further into a knowledge base.


So what would happen if we did not develop capability on these three strands? Firstly and most importantly, the organisation would not have a consistent process for delivering projects and would be unable to compare projects on a level playing field.

The people dimension allows us to develop people in a common way, including language, tools and techniques giving us a supply of high quality personnel who can deliver complex projects on time and to schedule

These three strands, when combined, allow an organisation to grow its capability which in turn ensures delivery of right projects, right way with right people. Consistent application of a high level Project Management Process, a supported common tool across the organisation and project management staff who have access to excellent resources that enable them to continue to develop their skills and knowledge, provide us with a great strength of project management capability which we intend to ensure continues to grow and develop.

© 2007 Catherine Robertson, PMP
Originally published as a part of 2007 PMI EMEA Congress Proceedings – Budapest, Hungary



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