Dimitry Shlyonsky PMP,SCPM

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Reflecting On 10 Years As A Certified Project Management Professional

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I remember September 2002 like it was yesterday. I was working for a digital marketing company downtown Toronto. The company was named DoubleClick and the .com bust had just started. I was a fledgling Project Manager working on small on-line custom projects for  elite client’s,  based primarily in the US. Ad dollars started drying up, but the company was still hopeful for its future. I realized that I would need to find a way to distinguish myself from other project management practitioners, and was researching the best way to do that. The company I worked for had a very generous training budget, so I decided to take full advantage of it. I applied, and started working on an evening certificate program in Project Management offered through TRIOS, using a Boston University curriculum. During this course, I met several mentors that would last through out my career. It was an exciting time in my life filled with idyllic philosophies, fueled by the bright promise of youth.

I had been a PMI (Project Management Institute www.PMI.org) advocate for 3 years, following my discovery of this institution while living in Philadelphia, PA. The certificate program offered me formalized training in what had been my after hours passion. The funny thing is that out of a team of about 8 PM’s I was the only one interested in PMI. I saw this as an opportunity and took my rightful place as a PMI champion. I knew PMBok by wrought and believed that everything should follow a rigorous process. Little did I know that this would mark me with my Manager in a way I did not want to be singled out. This is when I started to learn about resistance to organizational change. All I can say in retrospect is ouch! After completing my certificate I went on to do a PMP Prep course offered by PMStar (Cindy Bell). The course was stationed in the P&G offices at Yonge and Sheppard. The group from this session was truly brilliant. Everyone was from P&G, except for me and another colleague from Nestle. I scheduled my exam a week after the crash course had ended and wrote the exam at a Sylvan learning center in Waterloo. This was at the end of January 2003. I remember completing the exam and raising my hands in triumph! I passed on my first attempt and was now a certified Project Management Professional (PMP). Upon receiving my certificate I realized that I was now part of an elite group numbering just over 60,000 individuals worldwide. While not a large group I felt proud of my accomplishment and held my head high.

From what I was able to see via Google the July 31st stats for worldwide PMP’s stood at: 

“As of 31 July 2010 (2010 -07-31), there were 393,413 active PMP certified individuals worldwide. Over 4,300 individuals a month, since September 2006, have obtained a PMP certification”

That is an impressive steady growth rate. While some say this dilutes the credential it still stands as the most recognizable signal to employers, of an individuals Project Management achievements. In my case it helped me move into managing larger projects and establish myself with a proven delivery track record. 10 years later I do not subscribe to PMI the way I once did, but I still do see great value in the education and standardization that the Project Management Institute has brought to my chosen profession. I found more interesting information on the total current number of PMP’s at the PMI Connection website. The total number of PMP’s and related now stands at just about half a million:

Statistics through October 31, 2012
Total PMI Members:     394,851
New PMI Members:        14,562
Total Active CAPMs:     19,542
Total Active PMPs:     494,594
Total Active PgMPs:        864
Total Active RMPs:       1,696
Total Active SPs:          764
Total Active ACPs:       1,611

 These days many other frameworks have risen to help shape the way that projects should be managed. But, one undisputable fact is that nowadays every business engages in projects. Thanks to PMI and the PMP, societies approach to business has changed. It’s all now project based delivery. While it is easy to criticize that the value of the credential has been diluted to the rapid growth, I believe that this is proof of Org Change Management on a global scale. Standardization is painful because you are trying to get everyone to do the same things. It’s hard to garner that buy in and especially when it comes to management, there are always too many cooks in the kitchen. A common approach to doing something allows for a starting point. That starting point is exactly what PMI has provided with the PMBoK. I for one am grateful for the training and lexicon of terms that allow me to move from project to project without re-inventing the wheel every time. Thanks PMP it has been a great decade and I look forward to new exciting challenges in the coming years.

Improving Canadian Productivity – Target Your Employee Experience

With the great recession now starting to recede and the economy getting back to normal the world is starting to focus on a different type of short coming in Canada.Productivity is the new catch phrase. While our dollar was low we attracted business via the discount built into the exchange rate. Now that we have currency close to parity with USD its a different story. Employees output and productivity is low and many corporations have targets for cleaning up their bottom lines. For years it didn’t matter how productive we had been thanks to our low $ and now Canada has fallen behind.

According to Jim Flaherty today June 21st the first day of summer, with our dollar at parity cdn corp can now invest in the tools necessary and available for the new cause.

Enter HR Systems And Worker Productivity:

For years the US has been finding ways to make their workers more productive in competitive markets. HR Transformation agendas have been at the forefront of many businesses down south for years. Usually spearheaded by SAP, PeopleSoft, and Oracle HR, with a sprinkle of best of breed apps for what is now known as talent management or strategic HR. After years of anonymity its great to see this now becoming a hot project in Canada.

Now, lets do some simple math shall we…. If your a 100 person company with an average salary of 90,000 your payroll is 9,000,000 per year.  Therefore, if you plan on spending 90,000 in a year on something as simple as tracking your staff vacation days (usually low hanging fruit) you could save that 1 percent in short order. Thanks to today’s tech you can pick up a robust HR suite for this price tag and implement module by module to save on budget. In return over a few years you have a talent management advantage against the companies that do not offer a self-service type HR experience to its staff and thus you improve employee engagement and your chances to attract and retain top talent. This example also scales and becomes even more compelling for an enterprise with tens of thousands in their workforce.

Easy right? Sadly the idea of looking inward at your companies largest expense and most important asset its people, is not an easy transition for many. Its true that organizational change management would need to be used to ensure that the new systems and processes have the right backing and support. But, given that US companies have already lead the charge and now the wave is starting here can any enterprise afford to wait?

Project Manager Authority Gap

I have been practicing PMI focused Project Management in the IT industry for over 10 years. In this time I have worked in 5 different IT focused Project Environments spanning the Weak to Projectized environments. The decision on what type of support Project Managers have to deliver projects is always determined Top Down by the C or Senior level executive. It is no surprise to me that my favorite environment was a projectized one. This is the experience I will write of here.

The year was 2003 and IT was just starting to get over the dot bomb. I worked for a dot com darling that took advantage of a reissue of stock at its peak. Being cash and credit rich the internet marketing giant starting to acquire compatible businesses. I was part of such an acquisition and this is where my story begins.  Working in the R&D department we prepared future releases of our best of breed e-marketing ASP. Engineering, QA and Project Management where based in Toronto, Executive in NYC and the Data Center in Denver. The engineering and QA teams ad augmentation in Pune, India. The company had several products and the one I worked on was mid tier with most of the revenue coming from the adserving powerhouse. This being the case it was never a challenge to get top level attention for our projects and the SVP and CIO for technology visited our Toronto office on a regular basis.

Project Management rested on the shoulders of two PM’s for which I was one. We alternated releases and used a waterfall methodology. The functional managers from each area would dedicate resources to our projects based on sizing that would occur at the begining of the project cycle.  Although PM’s did not have any direct report there was a close relationship between the functional and project managers. This close relationship equaled a strong input into the performance review process for the PMs. In general this allowed for a environment that was professional, driven and a lot of fun. Looking back I can honestly say that I have never worked with brighter, interesting and caring people. There where attempts by the senior exec to develop cross functional project management methodologies. Meetings would occur across product lines but critical mass was never achieved and I left this great role for a more lucrative ERP focused job what I now believe to be a bit prematurely.

So in short my lesson learned from this experience was that a PM can get a great deal done so long as there is a direct feed into the performance review process. Whether that is a strong matrix or a projectized environment they both lend themselves towards addressing a power/responsibility gap that exists on many IT projects.  Team members have that extra bit of drive when they know their PM can affect their yearly rating and eligibility for promotion.

Professional Services Implementation, Project Management Office (PMO)

There is a great deal of information regarding the start up of a PMO. To help anyone that is trying to adapt either a Project Portfolio or Managment Office to a consulting model I wanted to share my personal experiences on the subject. Several years ago I was a Consulting Manager for a mid sized ERP vendor in the Toronto, Canada area and applied my PM knowledge base to the Professional Services organziation.

Background

The company developed a best of breed solution that was popular with Fortune 500 large enterprise clients in North America. During my tenure there where close to 200 people staffed in the Pro Serve project implementation business unit. The 200  consultants where made up of Solution Specialists, Project Managers, Functional and Technical consultants.  There was a Consulting Manager for Project Managers, Contractors, Functional, and Technical Consultants. The Vice President of the Solution Delivery department managed the Solution Specialists as well as providing leadership for the direction of the practice. Client Relationships where owned by a team of Project Directors that reported into the  Professional Services Senior Vice President.

Part I – Setting Strategic Direction

I managed 53 functional consultants that played the role of Business Analyst, Implementation Consultant, QA and Rollout Specialist depending on the phase of the project. It was my responsibility to ensure that my team was staffed, getting feedback, being recognized for their project work and delivering successful solutions . The consulting managers worked together to ensure there was a good skill mix on each team as well as intervened in the event of a escalation. As you could imagine the challenge in this environment was standardization. Ensuring that the consultants on the same functional team where held to the same standards was a the first challenge.

Business Unit strategic objectives where set by the Senior VP and Career Development  areas where set by the Consulting Manager. Leveraging standardized goals at the performance management level allowed the business unit to work towards common goals. Such strategic alignment has many positive side effects including crystalizing career path and improving employee engagement. Client satisfaction and project success rates increased as a result of the goals driving implementations in the desired direction.

This was a balanced matrix environment where Project Managers helped coach their project teams towards the same strategic direction that was set out by functional management and the leadership team.  For the organization to benefit from this strategic guideline it is necessary for all sub-groups to be aligned and usally is driven top-down. In the event that middle management attepmts to interprete the direction the additional challenges will be buy-in and maintaining a common goal through out the company.

Next installment:  Part II – Improving Project Satisfaction