PMO of the Year: The Final Round

PMO of the Year Photo

What does success look like? That all depends on what an organization is out to achieve. And it’s up to the world’s top project management offices (PMOs) to help organizations turn those goals into reality. If the idea is to deliver better healthcare, the PMO might be looking for a drop in emergency room visits. If it wants to keep utility costs low, the break-through could come in the form of innovations that make maintenance more efficient. And if a company wants to increase the eco-efficiency of its buildings—even ones in the middle of a desert metropolis? Slashing water and energy usage is a good place to start.

Each of this year’s PMO finalists had a deep understanding of what success means for their organizations—and how their work aligned to that vision. Here’s a quick look:

DC Water – IT Project Management Office
Washington D.C., USA

Most people don’t associate cutting-edge tech with water and sewage systems. But for DC Water, advanced technological innovation not only helps ensure a safe water supply, it also helps keep bills low. Looking for new ways to do more with less, DC Water leaned into what is now a US$11.3 million project portfolio full of Industry 4.0 tech. And the utility created an IT PMO to help make sure all that cool new stuff delivers on its business purpose.

“We work at the luxury of the business itself. We’re not here to simply deliver technology. We’re here to deliver technology that solves a business problem,” says Tom Kuczynski, vice president of IT, DC Water.

Case in point: A first-of-its-kind tool called Pipe Sleuth uses tech tools including a deep learning neural network model to quickly locate sewer pipe defects. The technology, which DC Water now sells to other utilities, eliminates the risk of human error, reducing the cost of scanning and coding flaws by roughly 75 percent.

The approach also helped DC Water improve its income streams—allowing it to invest in projects that build a better customer experience, whether that’s by ensuring water quality or streamlining the payment system. The PMO has delivered measurable business value, too. Between 2014 and 2019, DC Water’s on-time, on-budget delivery rate increased from 35 percent to 80 percent—all while delivering big-budget infrastructure megaprojects.

Emaar Properties PJSC, Group Operations 
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Mall and the Dubai Fountain come with legendary reputations. To maintain that iconic image for residents and visitors requires Emaar Properties to pay next-level attention to what its elite customer base really wants.

To stay ahead of the curve, Emaar’s Group Operations launched a five-year transformation program with five strategic pillars: financial outperformance, customer centricity, operational excellence, digital innovation and people focus. Launched in 2016, it would take intense collaboration and focus from across all parts of the business, and it was up to the PMO to manage the initiative.

“We had big dreams, we had really good strategic objectives and we needed to have a proper, established, project management office to ensure the execution of our plans in order to achieve our strategic objectives,” says Fadi Al Shakhshir, Emaar Properties PJSC, Group Operations. Many of the opportunities revolved around the Group Operations commitment to sustainability. Decreasing water usage, energy consumption, carbon emissions and waste promised to increase customer satisfaction—and cut costs. So the PMO launched 26 projects in 2018 alone that contributed to a 11 percent drop in electricity use that year compared to 2016.

The payoff for all this strategic transformation? In 2019, Emaar Properties beat its satisfaction goals among four of its mall target groups: tenants, shoppers, residents and mystery shoppers—the last of which gave Emaar Properties an astounding 97 percent approval.

Kern Health Systems
Bakersfield, California, USA

In the United States, navigating the healthcare landscape can be complicated, particularly for patients on a limited budget. Providing access to that care can also be complicated. Kern Health Systems (KHS) needs to be at maximum efficiency to deliver on its mission of to serve 280,000 recipients of Medicaid, the government program to subsidize healthcare for low-income individuals, in California’s Central Valley.

To make the most of taxpayer dollars, the KHS enterprise PMO partners with the organization’s business intelligence team to prioritize projects that promise the most meaningful results. And then it tracks their progress to make sure they deliver the intended outcomes.

For instance, a project that combines services at smaller, specialized facilities gives patients more appropriate, personalized care and also keeps the cost of healthcare services down. The move helped KHS cut emergency room visits by 10 percent and in-patient hospital services use by 22 percent among program participants.

The PMO’s focus on data has transformed the organization. From 2017 to 2019, the portion of projects that delivered intended benefits jumped from 78 percent to 95 percent. And that lets KHS make a bigger impact.

“[The PMO] solves problems. We deliver the priority causes of the organization. We connect the organization,” says Angela Ahsan, PMP, EPMO director at KHS. “Without this glue, it can be a challenge to stay informed, to collaborate, to translate corporate strategies or any business strategy into actionable, actionable plans and results.”

And the Winner Is DC Water – IT Project Management Office

This year’s PMO of the Year was announced at PMI’s Virtual Experience Series on 20 October. Head over to PMI’s YouTube channel  to watch videos on each finalist, and look for full case studies in the January/February issue of PM Network.