Elevating project management – an interview with Suttish Boodoo, Head of IMS, Security & Admin

BMMI recently launched a Project Management Office (PMO) to support the various, diverse projects planned to take place across the group’s nine countries of operation. Suttish Boodoo, Head of Integrated Management System (IMS), Security and Admin shares more about the PMO, how it will support our businesses and exceptional execution.

Let’s begin by how we are defining a PMO at BMMI.

Simply put, a PMO is a group of people who act as a support service to ensure effective execution of projects. At this initial stage, we’re considering BMMI’s PMO as an administrative and reporting function.  So what we do is support, not manage projects. There is a Project Manager from each business who manages things such as the project schedule, plan, resources and dealing with third parties, while we are there supporting every step of the way.

So what does that support look like?

We support by providing the necessary tools to help projects become a success. We develop these tools and templates and ensure that the Project Team uses them consistently for all projects. With the diversity and breadth of our businesses, putting in place guidelines and charters ensures we have a methodical and proven approach

A huge thing for us is also fostering collaboration between stakeholders and breaking down silos. Sometimes, there are lot of people involved in a project from across departments, businesses and even countries of operation. So at the very beginning, we set up a meeting to make sure that all stakeholders are in the loop and aware of their role and responsibilities for the project. Furthermore, the PMO maintains an inventory of all planned and running projects which helps to provide management with a greater visibility of project status and performance. Additionally, the PMO follows up with the project team in order to track agreed project deliverables and report a consolidated project status to all concerned.

How did BMMI’s PMO come about?

With the expanding nature of our businesses, it was an important time to introduce a PMO so that it could help us understand why some projects are successful and why some aren’t in terms of delivery, whether on timeline or on budget. We first began by conducting a gap analysis and assessment of previous projects to find out what challenges and issues have led to project failures in the past. Following that process, we formally launched  the PMO at the end of February this year.

How’s BMMI’s PMO structured and what kind of roles are involved?

There are many different ways a PMO can be set up and it truly differs depending on an organisation’s needs. For us, we found that the best current solution is to set up a PMO that offers support rather than takes control of managing a project. BMMI needed a PMO that is administrative and can report on what’s happening with projects, provide guidance, best practices and analysis. The structure of our PMO consists of a small team of IMS members, which is led by myself as the Head of the PMO.

Our PMO setup is two levels, so what that means is that at the PMO’s centre, the IMS team, provides guidelines, best practices and project management tools, and from the businesses’ side, we have the Project Manager who manages and leads the project team. The businesses may also appoint  a Project Coordinator who acts as a liaison between the business and the PMO, reporting on progress and status. Throughout the project, the PMO team reports to our Senior Leadership Group (SLG) on higher-level projects’ status and outcomes.

So, how does the process itself look like?

We are involved in the five project phases for any project under the PMO, and they are initiation, planning, implementation, control and closure. How we start is we try to meet with each stakeholder at the beginning of the year, gather information and make an inventory of all planned projects across our operations. Then we start the initiation stage where we get involved to understand the vision, purpose and objectives of the project and to ensure that the Project Owner appoints a Project Manager and team. At this stage we also ensure that a project charter is documented. Once the project is approved and budgeted for, we get involved in what we call the planning phase, where we ensure that the project is planned properly, with a realistic timeline, having the resources needed in terms of people, finance, equipment and procurement plan as well as communication plan and change management plan.

The planning stage is perhaps the most critical stage which if done right ensures greater probability of the overall project success.. We continue to support the business through the stage of implementation where the plans are set into motion, followed by the control phase where we make sure that everything was implemented according to guidelines and standards until the project is officially closed. Finally, the PMO does a post implementation review of projects, and we try to understand what worked well and what didn’t so that it becomes lessons learned for future projects.

What do you believe are some best-case practices for getting projects successfully executed?

 For me, every successful major project begins with the buy-in and support of senior management. Having said that we fully recognise that any new process or change is not always easy, and sometimes not readily accepted. Management support helps ensure that everyone knows that the PMO is backed from the very top of the organisation. But it’s not only about senior management, like I mentioned earlier, we tried to get as many stakeholders on board to understand the purpose and objectives of the PMO.

It’s also important to highlight that we are not here to make anyone’s job harder. The opposite is true, we are here to support with best practices and a systematic, proven method to increase the chance of success rather than fall into the trap of not learning from mistakes and facing delays or failure. It’s also crucial that the team get proper training and that they are empowered. So organisational buy-in, proper planning, open communication and training, those are some crucial elements.

With diverse, multinational operations, that must mean BMMI sees some very diverse projects. How does the PMO effectively manage this?

When we did our information gathering, we found that we have around 35 projects in the works. So what we did was project profiling, where we first identified the most pressing projects that need to be prioritised, and we came up with a list of 12 shortlisted projects. These were then divided up between the PMO team based on their experience. So, we have people who come from auditing, financial, quality, business process review and IMS backgrounds. They were each assigned relevant projects to support. In this way, we best utilise the diversity within our own team to support our diverse projects, keeping in mind that there are also always subject experts from the business involved as well.

Project management is all about exceptional execution – can you tell us how you define that concept and how the PMO supports it?

We live in a difficult time globally when it comes to business, and things have experienced a downturn. However, as the BMMI team, we are all in this same battle together. So for me, exceptional execution is about trying to make sure that our investments are aligned with our strategic goals. It’s also about how we support and help the management team to better work together to ensure we are seeing our strategy is working consistently across all departments, where managers are empowered to contribute to this strategic success. So, I consider the PMO like a sort of glue that binds all departments together in working towards common goals and objectives by bringing leaders together to better streamline and ensure our projects are exceptionally executed.

Can you tell us more about the future vision for the PMO?

For this year, we’ll be working on ensuring the effective setting up of the foundations of the PMO so that we can track performance. However, going forward, the PMO expects to get more mature wherein we will be able to start providing key performance indicators about projects and performance metrics. So for example, we will be studying how many projects are aligned with our strategy, how many are within their timelines and budgets, how many issues are being identified and resolved, and so on. We realise that this is a complex journey so we are not rushing. We are following a step by step approach because as with anything, there is always a learning curve in the beginning. We aren’t trying to overwhelm anyone, rather we are here to support and make their responsibilities easier to effectively take on. At the end of the day, we want to ensure the PMO is successful which is not possible without the buy in and support of the entire business.