The Meisterplan team was thrilled to be a part of the 2017 PMI Global Conference, which finished up a few days ago. The conference took place at McCormick Place in Chicago. There were well over 3,000 participants from over 60 countries. Every facet of project management, program management, and project portfolio management was represented at the conference.

PMI did an excellent job putting together this massive event. I have to especially give a shout out to the Chicagoland chapter of PMI who volunteered throughout the event pointing people in the right direction, introducing presenters, handing out t-shirts, and so on – always with a friendly greeting and smiles on their faces. I personally had an amazing time at the event, and would love to share my highlights and key takeaways.

Karoline Holicky from Meisterplan was one of the happy attendees at PMI Global Conference 2017.

A Look Ahead into the Future of Tech

“In 1989, when I was inventing the web…” That isn’t a sentence you hear every day. The conference started with a keynote address by the brilliant Sir Tim Berners-Lee. He spoke about the future of tech, and went into detail about one of his projects: inventing the World Wide Web. One of the tips that Sir Berners-Lee offered in relation to project management was the importance of collaboration. He said, “The first part of developing the web was sparking creativity—then came collaboration.” Another interesting fact is that after presenting his proposal for the web, his boss, Mike Sendall, wrote on the proposal, “Vague, but exciting.” Thankfully, Sir Berners-Lee was allowed to continue the project!

From there, the conference continued with many educational sessions over the three days. Of course it is impossible to discuss them all, but here are some that I found the most interesting:

Tim Berners Lee held the keynote at PMI Global Conference 2017

How NASA/JPL and Other FFRDCs Prioritize and Manage Their Annual Plan and Portfolios

On Saturday morning, Darryl Hahn of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory discussed “How NASA/JPL and Other FFRDCs Prioritize and Manage Their Annual Plan and Portfolios”. Hahn called his PMO the “Air Traffic Controller” for the CIO. There are over 200 projects on their 2017 Annual Plan, 125 new projects were submitted in 2017 and 88 rolled over from 2016. Hahn spoke of the “need to understand the true level of capacity available to implement projects on the annual plan.” He then went on to present strategic and tactical approaches for creating and delivering an annual plan and portfolio. He gave tips on how to uncover an organizations’ goals and objectives as well as ways of identifying and weighting priorities to create a list of achievable projects. His PMO uses the following process:

  • Develop the strategic plan

  • Call for proposals
  • Score and prioritize
  • Consolidate
  • Retreat
  • Commit to portfolio

Hahn also gave tips regarding resource management. He said, “No plan survives contact with the enemy,” so he recommended reserving 20% or more resources for “walk-in work,” which in his case is usually newly funded projects or projects that steal funding from weaker ones.

In regards to getting the mix right in a mature project portfolio, Hahn recommended asking the following questions:

  • Did we address all critical and compliance needs?

  • Do we have projects with similar goals or implementations?

  • Are the operational elements aligned with each other and with corporate goals?

  • Did we ensure consistent prioritization relative to baseline?

The session was extremely informative and helpful to PMOs interested in creating an annual plan and portfolio or in improving their current process.

Crossing the Finish Line: How a New PMO Made History

Waterfall and Agile and Lean, Oh My!

Another session on Saturday that was very helpful, especially for PMOs experiencing intense change or growth was “Crossing the Finish Line: How a New PMO Made History”. Scott Hine, PMP, of the US Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy discussed how they started a new PMO in response to the Recovery Act. This PMO was responsible for over 3,000 projects totaling $19 billion. Hine helped identify how a PMO can react to extreme growth as well as scrutiny of its project portfolio. He also discussed how to develop buy-in for new practices from stakeholders and from project managers.

Hine identified their PMO approach as the following:

  • Stakeholder engagement

  • Staffing

  • Project oversight and reviews

  • Auditing procedures

  • Staff training

  • Addressing challenges

  • Adapting policies to achieve goals

On day 2 of the PMI conference, Gina Grear, PMP, Michelle Johnson, PMP, and Sharon Hayward, PMP, all of the University of Notre Dame, presented “Waterfall and Agile and Lean, Oh My!” In this session, they discussed the multitude of project methodologies that are out there, and how that makes it difficult for project managers to decide which method to use. They presented the idea that a hybrid or blended approach may be the best way to meet the needs of your projects, customers and teams. They used real project examples for an overview of the various blends in methodologies and the decision process used by the University of Notre Dame.

Some of the blended methods they presented include:

  • Scrum + Kanban = Scrum-Ban

  • Scrum + Waterfall = Scrum-Fall

  • DMAIC (Lean) + Kanban = DMAI-Ban

From the Ground Up, Building PMO Alignment with Mayo Clinic’s EPMO

How to Use Agile Program/Portfolio Tools to Increase Project Health

Wale Elegbede, PMP of Mayo Clinic, presented a session of interest for companies starting or thinking about starting a new PMO. This session was titled “From the Ground Up, Building PMO Alignment with Mayo Clinic’s EPMO”. Elegbede discussed how they built a PMO for Mayo Clinic’s Center for Regenerative Medicine, and how they aligned that PMO with the company’s EPMO (Enterprise Project Management Office). Their goal was to successfully build a PMO to execute the business strategy of their division of the company. He spoke about the center’s journey to form the department project office while keeping connected to the EPMO and enterprise standards, processes and tools. At the same time, he said it was necessary to maintain a focus on business processes that were unique and important to the center. Elegbede helped the attendees recognize the strategic value of the EPMO in support of business unit PMOs.

He also outlined what they determined to be their critical success factors for the new PMO, which are:

  • Provide value to the center and institution

  • Be agile and flexible

  • Maintain organizational culture

  • Ensure team collaboration & communication

  • Get executive buy-in

  • Continuously improve (Standards and Processes)

  • Be transparent and visible

  • Leverage existing infrastructure tools

Agile portfolio management was a topic that came up a few times throughout the conference. Cindricka L. Arrington, PMP, of Medtronic, discussed this topic in her session titled “How to Use Agile Program/Portfolio Tools to Increase Project Health”. Arrington stated that project portfolio management (PPM) is the primary process that supports the execution of an organization’s business strategy. Through PPM, you prioritize, fund, oversee, and evaluate your projects. Effective PPM ensures that the right projects are done at the right time to maximize the value that is obtained from each project. She went on to explain how agile methods can be applied to program and portfolio management.

She demonstrated agile techniques and tools that can be used to:

  • Measure cost

  • Map strategic objectives

  • Improve quality

  • Analyze project/program feasibility

Get it Right Today, Not Tomorrow

The conference ended with a moving keynote address by Mercedes Ramirez-Johnson entitled “Get it Right Today, Not Tomorrow”. Ramirez-Johnson is one of only 4 survivors of a plane crash that killed 160 people including her parents. She discussed the choices that she made after the accident. These choices included the choice to live and work with intention, the choice to reset with perspective, and the choice to persevere.

"Get it right" was a moving keynote by Mercedes Ramirez-Johnson at the end of PMI Global Conference 2017

These were only a few of the motivating, and informative sessions of the 2017 PMI Global Conference. What was your favorite? What topics and sessions would you like to see next year? Click the buttons below to go to our social media platforms, and leave a comment about which sessions you enjoyed the most or which topics you would like presented next year. See you next year in Los Angeles for the 2018 PMI Global Conference!

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