Nov 20, 2014

High-Value, High-Visibility Projects Hearten this Utility’s Hometown Area

Posted by Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin in Project & Program Management, Portfolio Management, Project Failure & Recovery, Project Management Office (PMO) | 0 Comments

"We are thrilled to be helping to revitalize the city of Detroit."

There’s a lot going on in Michigan these days, and DTE Energy plays a role in much of the positive progress the state is enjoying. From the revitalization of Detroit to a massive commitment to clean alternative energy, DTE has relied on its PMO, the Major Enterprise Projects organization, or MEP, to bring projects of staggering size and complexity in on time, safely, and frequently under budget. The MEP organization was recognized this week at PMI’s PMO Symposium as one of the organizations short-listed for the prestigious global PMO of the Year Award. We interviewed Victor Allen, director of the MEP, via email last week.

Q: How long have you personally been associated with the PMO?

I have been in the MEP PMO since 2007.

Q: What have been the most challenging aspects of the PMO’s growth?

Staffing qualified personnel to meet the growth demands of the PMO, and integrating employees from other business units with our PMO culture.

Q: What have been the most rewarding or inspiring successes you’ve seen?

The first thing that comes to mind, of course, is being recognized as a top three finalist in the PMO of the Year Award competition this year! Also this year, we were the first PMO, to my knowledge, to ever have received ISO 9001 certification (2014).

Prior to that, in 2012, we achieved two milestones or honors that we were very proud of. One was achieving a Level 4+ score in project management maturity. We used the PM Solutions PMM model and they tell us that we are the first utility company to achieve such a high level. Also in 2012, we were recognized as a best-practice PMO by the American Productivity & Quality Center (APQC).

It has also been rewarding to gain the trust and respect of our senior management team by delivering projects in a predictable way (on time, on schedule, require scope, safely, and with high quality consistently over and over again).

We are also very thrilled to be helping to revitalize the city of Detroit in their greatest time of need.

Q: Most of our readers are probably familiar with the challenges that have faced Detroit recently, and of the recently-resolved bankruptcy case. I'm really fond of Detroit myself--in particular, the Detroit airport is a bright spot in the misery of air travel these days! Could you elaborate on DTE’s activities in Detroit?

Our PMO is acting as the owner’s representative for the city of Detroit to turn the lights back on in the streets. We are managing the project to put up 66,000 streetlights in the city over the next several years.  This of course adds to the safety and livability of these neighborhoods.

In addition, our PMO is leading a neighborhood revitalization effort to re-invent an area of Detroit to make it more secure by adding cameras and police patrols. More than that, we’ll participate in building a park with entertainment capability, bringing in food trucks, salvaging and re-purposing abandoned buildings, and generally making the city a better place to live, work and visit.
 

Q: Are there any PMO staff members or other DTE employees or stakeholders you’d particularly like to showcase or thank?

The leader of our PMO, Ron May, began this PMO with the vision to become "The best manager of strategic initiatives and projects in Michigan and in the Utility Industry in an ever-improving environment" and he has accomplished this. Ron was the founder of the PMO and has been the steady voice that continues to challenge us to become better year after year … and next year is no exception! We are an organization with many accolades, yet at the same time, we are nowhere near satisfied and see many opportunities to improve further.

Q: If you could pinpoint one area of the PMO’s work that you think is a best practice for other PMOs, particularly in utilities, what would that be?

Our change review board (CRB) is at the heart of our success. The CRB is our way of controlling scope, schedule and cost changes in a deliberate and structured manner. We meet once per week and it is led by our Executive Vice President, Ron May. When a project is in need of a change to scope, cost, or schedule they present their case in a formal manner and generally a healthy discussion takes place. The output of the meeting is an approved or denied change request, updates to our project management plans, lessons learned, corrective actions when things did not go as planned, and action items to follow up on.

The PMO of the Year, founded by PM Solutions in 2006, is now part of the Project Management Institute’s prestigious awards program. Learn more about the history of the award, and follow the PM Network coverage, beginning with the Dec. 2014 issue.

 

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