Nov 20, 2015

An Interview with John McIntyre of Ticketmaster International's PMO

Posted by Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin in Culture & Change Management, Project & Program Management, Human Capital, Performance Measurement, Project Management Office (PMO), Project Management Training | 0 Comments

Many PMOs are disbanded three years into their lifecycle because they fail to evolve with the business.

All three of this year’s finalists share a business model of leveraging IT to deliver services. In the case of UK-based Ticketmaster International (TMI), the service they provide is … fun. Across 13 markets (not including the U.S.), TMI is there at the touch of a button to hook up fans with their favorite sports, music and theatre events. Naturally, behind this ease of use is a complex set of systems and continuously evolving technologies. The Ticketmaster PMO, founded by Gerry McDonnell, is led by John McIntyre, shown at right. He leads a team of 30, spanning six countries. We spoke to him by phone for the inside story on how why TMI’s PMO is now ranked among “the Best of the Best.”

McIntyre described an arc that is familiar to many who have established PMOs. “We were quite lucky in the sense that the need for a PMO was clearly understood by the business and that we had executive level sponsorship. The PMO filled a vacuum, so the benefits were clearly and immediately visible to the organisation. Communication improved dramatically with regular reporting and the number of 'Uh-Oh' moments was reduced through improved planning and dependency management.”

Their most challenging aspect is one that is shared with many PMOs:  continuously refreshing and realigning the PMO to ensure it remains relevant to the business. McIntyre notes, quite correctly, “Many PMOs are disbanded three years into their lifecycle because they deliver what the business needed at the time of implementation … but then they fail to evolve with the business. Three years on, they are still working to the same processes and delivering the same reports.” TMI has avoided this trap by expanding their training to meet demand, moving into event management to ensure that department meetups deliver tangible outcomes, and coaching the business in Lean process improvement techniques.  Says McIntyre, “Conversely we are ruthless at dropping KPIs and reports that have reduced in value to prevent the team becoming bloated.”

One of the unique twists on the PMO’s practice is an application developed in-house to visually depict cross-project dependences. (The graphic output of the application—nicknamed “the Death Star”— can be seen in Ticketmaster’s case study in the 2015 PMO of the Year ebook.) McIntyre explains, “Ticketmaster has many complex systems and platforms that interact in a myriad of ways. This means that the unwary project team can quickly be caught and find they have technical and project dependencies on projects that they hadn't foreseen. We have built up a good understanding of what the 'standard' dependencies are for different project types and make the assumption that the dependencies exist at the start of a project until we are able to positively discount them. Once dependencies are identified, they are tracked in a web-based tool that we built in-house that allow the project teams to continuously review and track incoming and outgoing dependencies, creating a graphic view that helps us understand where the pinch points are at a Portfolio level. “

McIntyre is lavish in his praise of the Ticketmaster team, which he calls “fantastic … [with] drive, perseverance and creative thinking.” He also gives major credit to Gerry McDonnell, now the PMO’s executive sponsor:  “Without that sponsorship, we would not be able to operate as an independent 'single voice of truth' and we would not have been able to make as big an impact on the organisation as we have.”

The arc of increasing responsibility rests on the PMO’s ability to demonstrate value, something McIntyre is deeply focused on. Asked about his PMO’s systems for tracking and analyzing value measures, he responded via email:

The PMO tracks the value delivered by initiatives in a number of ways. Financial benefits are tracked at a market level based on submitted business cases, but that is only one piece of the jigsaw. We measure technical debt across all platforms quarterly and seek to ensure that projects that deliver new features and functionality do not do so at the expense of the underlying technology. It is important that our projects deliver quality solutions and quality code every time. Measuring and reporting on technical debt keeps this in check and prevents projects leaving a legacy of problems for the projects that follow them. Finally, our Kaizen program which focusses on small incremental change gives us an opportunity to coach individuals and help them to use lean and six sigma techniques to quantify the benefit of the changes they make to their processes and communicate these to the rest of the business via regular reporting.

By involving non-project management staff in a unique program to develop and refine strategies for the business, the PMO has stepped up to a role as liaison between the customer-facing markets and corporate strategy—showing that innovative project management is more than a tactical tool: it’s a strategic asset.

Think your PMO might be world-class? The call for nominations for the 2016 award goes out on Dec. 1, 2015. Visit the PMI Awards Program page to download guidelines and application.

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