Voices on Project Management

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Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with - or even disagree with - leave a comment.

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Organizations Are Recruiting Project Talent—Finally

The buzz at PMI's Global Congress 2010--North America was that organizations are finally looking to hire. And that's good news for project practitioners at any level.

Along with gearing up on the tools, techniques and trends that will give them an edge on the job market, practitioners also went to PMI's Career Central in the exhibit hall.

Recruiters and representatives from IBM, Boeing, Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC), Booz Allen Hamilton and Executive Innovations Inc. talked with practitioners from around the globe about employment opportunities.

Attendees chatted one-on-one with organization representatives about types of available jobs and the skills needed to qualify for those jobs. There was even an area for on-the-spot interviews.

Susan Ayers, PMP, director, business process management office at CSC, told us she talked with at least five people who were so impressive, she was tempted to hire them on the spot. She added she was very impressed by everyone's qualifications and credentials, making them prime candidates for the open positions at CSC.

IBM was there to recruit program managers and project executives, said Faried Abrahams, partner and distinguished engineer at IBM Global Services.

"There is a great need for project managers, especially for seasoned, experienced project managers," he said.

Mr. Abrahams advised job-seeking project managers to gain some real-world time in the trenches. "It's not about MIT or Harvard, it's about the experience," he said. "I'm looking for someone who's not going to run when projects get a little hairy, who will know what to do."  

Of course, congress also allowed practitioners to compare notes with their peers.

"Being at congress is really special. You have all these people with the same skills that you have, doing the same kind of jobs, and you can relate with them," said Gwenn Zoeller, systems development coordinator, Antares Management Solutions. "All of the conversations I've had have helped me with something."

For more resources to empower your career, visit PMI's Career  Central on PMI.org.

Posted by cyndee miller on: October 13, 2010 12:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Great IT Projects Demand Great Governance

As CIO of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Richard A. Spires oversees 91 projects, each with a budget of at least US$50 million.

And the first thing he did was conduct a review of each one of them.

"It took a while but it was extraordinarily useful," he told the audience at PMI Global Congress 2010 -- North America.

To transform great ideas into great project outcomes, you need great governance. But that only comes with the support of empowered executives who understand their role in keeping projects on schedule, said Mr. Spires.

It also helps to have a strong governance board that draws on the expertise of business, IT, procurement and finance leaders.

"I want them all in the same room, and I want them to buy into this program," Mr. Spires said. "A dynamic of trust and interrelationships are formed that can really help. You need governance to keep things moving, to get decisions made, and this way they're no longer working against each other."

In a bureaucratic setting that sometimes seems designed to slow progress, Mr. Spires likes to keep the entire process open.

"I always tell project managers, I want you transparent," he said. "I want the major risks brought up at the governance sessions so they can be dealt with."

Good governance goes hand-in-hand with good execution -- which means establishing an authoritative project management office with full-time, in-house leadership.

As with many presentations at congress, there was talk about agile.

Mr. Spires said people don't always know what they want when a project launches. So project managers should get projects out fast -- but be ready to shift.

Mr. Spires recommends IT programs incrementally deliver operational capabilities with a first release within the first 18 months after funding. But he also conceded implementing agile requires some attitude adjustment -- especially given that DHS is comprised of 22 separate government agencies.

Sometimes that sets off a "culture clash" between individuals who came up through the traditional large program model and those more comfortable with agile processes.

If executed well, IT can be a transformational agent, Mr. Spires said.

That sounds like pretty good advice whether you're working for a massive government agency or a small startup. Let the transformation begin...
Posted by cyndee miller on: October 12, 2010 03:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bill Clinton Says Project Managers Help Tackle Global Challenges

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton sent out a powerful message: Project managers will play a significant role in taking on the toughest global challenges.

"If you're a project manager and you're a professional, there's always going to be something you can do for the next 50 years in the 21st century," Mr. Clinton told the audience Sunday night at PMI Global Congress 2010 -- North America.

Saying he was "fascinated" by project management, Mr. Clinton saw how the profession played a role in his own career.

"The more I thought about coming here, the more I thought about how much my life [in politics] and my work now revolves around good, or not-so-good, project management -- how to allocate money, time and people in a way that achieves the desired objective," he said.

Since leaving office in 2001, Mr. Clinton has headed up the William J. Clinton Foundation, which works to " strengthen the capacity of governments and individuals to alleviate poverty, improve global health, strengthen economies, and protect the environment.."

Mr. Clinton said in six years, the Clinton Global Initiative, one of his foundation's separate initiatives, has raised about US$63 billion in commitments over a 10-year period while impacting the lives of 300 million people in more than 170 countries.

"All these things require establishing and executing projects -- and recognizing when they don't work, because not everything does," he said.

Even projects aimed at the greater good must have a solid plan of action. You have to prove sustainability projects make economic sense, he said.

Turning good intentions into positive outcomes -- that's what project managers do, Mr. Clinton said.

Mr. Clinton identified three specific challenges facing the world today: 

 â€¢ Global instability 

 â€¢ Growing economic inequality between rich and poor countries 

ʉۢ The need for change in the way energy is produced and consumed in the world

"We've got to do something about these three things, and we have to decide who is going to do it and how," Mr. Clinton said.

Mr. Clinton also highlighted the challenges facing Haiti and the projects his foundation launched in the wake of the massive earthquake that rocked the country in January. Calling his efforts in Haiti "the hardest thing I've ever done in my life," Mr. Clinton encouraged project managers to do their part.

"Anybody that wants to come help me develop building standards to make sure that everything we do is both earthquake- and hurricane-resistant, I would be happy to have your help," Mr. Clinton said. "The good news is, every day I live I become more convinced that intelligence, ability and hard work are equally distributed [throughout the world]. Organization and opportunity are not."

As the world begins its economic recovery, Mr. Clinton says he remains hopeful and that "the process of digging out of it will be somehow purifying for us."

Updated October 19, 2010: Ricardo Viana Vargas, PMP, past Chair of the PMI Board of Directors, shares interesting details of President Clinton's remarks at congress in a podcast on his website.

Posted by cyndee miller on: October 11, 2010 04:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra Says Process Continues to Trump Outcomes

The US$80 billion U.S. federal IT project portfolio needs to escape the "deadly loop," said Vivek Kundra in the government keynote address at the PMI Global Congress 2010 -- North America.

Too often, people are spending more energy preparing reports than on executing, he said.

As the United States' first CIO, Mr. Kundra is charged with the strategic direction of IT coordination across the entire federal U.S. government.

On his first day on the job, Mr. Kundra remembers being handed a stack of PDF documents covering the government's vast array of IT projects, some of which dated back to the early 1970s. It wasn't that many were millions of dollars over budget or months behind - they were billions of dollars over budget and decades behind schedule.

The U.S. government was making massive capital investments that didn't produce business results.

The Department of State, for example, has spent US$133 million on security documents for 150 major IT systems in the past six years, he said. The documents comprise 95,000 pages and 50 feet of shelf space. They cost US$1,400 per page. Mr. Kundra joked that reports were filed away more securely than the very systems they were supposed to protect.

"The government has created a culture where process continues to trump outcomes," he said.

The U.S. government has focused on a three-step strategy to improve the process behind government IT projects:

1. Shine light.
"For too long, we've tried to sweep these problems under the rug," he said, but unless CIOs and project managers have candid conversations there will never be solutions.

Government must move away from "faceless accountability," he said. "Because everyone is responsible, no one is responsible."

The Obama administration is taking that directive figuratively as well as literally. It went so far as to put up pictures of every CIO responsible for an IT project along with the project status. "Very quickly, we started seeing change and people started focusing on those investments," he said.

Successful projects should get their share of the limelight, too, so best practices can be shared and simulated. Mr. Kundra called for the creation of a community where our project managers can "practice" in the same way a pilot might go through flight simulation.

It starts from the top. U.S. President Barack Obama, for example, is committed to making sure IT investments are producing dividends promised at the beginning. Mr. Kundra even posted a picture of the president monitoring the government's IT project dashboard.

2. Make tough decisions.
After identifying where problem projects are, the government has to be ruthless in deciding which projects to pursue, Mr. Kundra says. It "should not continue to throw good money after bad money." Instead, it must terminate projects that won't deliver dividends and focus on turning around troubled projects.

"People are too afraid of the color red. It's okay -- red is actually a nice color," he said. But project managers and CIOs must embrace and take on challenges --not pretend there aren't issues.

"The goal is not to be green, the goal is to drive outcomes."

3. Reform federal IT.
The U.S. government must rethink how it manages IT projects. It will look at structural challenges for how it funds and forecasts -- making sure project outcomes are customer-facing and have shorter deliverables.

Mr. Kundra said he'd like to introduce the threat of Darwinian pressure seen in the commercial sectors -- where IT companies are just one click away from extinction.

No matter what sector you're in, the pressure's on -- and the United States' first CIO is no exception. "If we can manage this $80billion portfolio effectively, we can solve a lot of problems."
Posted by cyndee miller on: October 10, 2010 08:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Learning From The Best

Structure, talent and fun -- those were the success factors behind the three finalists for the 2010 PMI Project of the Year.

Last night at PMI Global Congress 2010--North America in Washington, D.C., USA, the National Ignition Facility was named PMI Project of the Year.

Ed Moses, PhD, principal associate director at the facility, said the 12-year nuclear fusion project to build "a miniature star on earth" could not have been possible "without strict adherence to the basic tenets of project management."

"It was one of the most complicated projects ever undertaken by the federal government. Just about every step of this project was unprecedented in scope, scale and complexity," Daniel B. Ponemon, Deputy Secretary of Energy said last night. And still, the project managed to come in "just under budget and just ahead of schedule," he said.

The two other finalists were the Dallas Cowboys Stadium Project, built for the U.S. football team in Texas, USA and the Norton Brownsboro Hospital Project, Kentucky, USA.

This morning, we heard more about all three projects in a panel discussion. Joining Dr. Moses were Mark Penny, project executive for Manhattan Construction Company, which worked on the project to build the Dallas Cowboys stadium, and Janice Weaver, associate vice president, enterprise program management office at Norton Brownsboro Hospital.

Ms. Weaver credited structure and clear roles and responsibilities for helping the team bring in the project on time and on budget. Dr. Moses agreed with the need for process, but also said you need people to make it happen. And Mr. Penny called for a dash of fun -- the team stuck to process and hired experts, but was determined to have fun, too.

Stakeholder management emerged as one of the key challenges for all three projects. For the hospital team, it was the surrounding community.

"The pressure was on from the beginning. The community was watching," Ms. Weaver said. And the stakes were high. "If you don't do it right, it's really a matter of life and death," she said. "It's a new perspective for project management."

Dr. Moses was contending with an ever-changing lineup of government agency leaders, congress and scientists. The project endured nine congresses, three administrations and seven secretaries of the Department of Energy. Project managers can't look at politics as something they stay out of -- you have to find a way to make stakeholders happy, he said.

And for Mr. Penny, it came down to one stakeholder: the "very engaged" team owner Jerry Jones, who decided to add features that took the project from US$650 million to US$1.5 billion. "All the enhancements were from the owner, so did we stay in budget? Absolutely!"

Look for more awards coverage -- including the full list of winners -- on PMI.org.
Posted by cyndee miller on: October 10, 2010 05:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
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