Oct 28, 2011

That "Vision Thing": VSP's Got It!

Posted by Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin in Project & Program Management, Performance Measurement, Portfolio Management, Project Management Office (PMO), Strategy Execution | 0 Comments

VSP Vision Care® placed as first runner-up in the 2011 PMO of the Year competition, largely because they have shown themselves to be ahead of the curve in solving the "problems of success" and moving their program and portfolio practice to ever-higher levels of sophistication as the company grew.

VSP provides vision benefits to more than 56 million members nationwide through an exclusive network of 28,000 private-practice doctors. Founded in 1955 in Oakland, California, they grew through acquiring a series of other vision care companies and labs to attain their current status as the preeminent national eyecare wellness benefits company. In the 1990s, VSP experienced unprecedented growth, which drove the individual divisions within VSP to employ Project Managers and Business Analysts: then, driven by the need to collaborate and share experience, a grassroots team of PMs, BAs, managers and sponsors self-organized to establish a standardized project management methodology and training program. The virtual PMO could not keep up with the demands, however, as VSP Global companies enjoyed international expansion, growing the Vision Benefits, Eyewear, Practice Solutions, and Optical Group lines of business. To support the growing number of projects, coordination, and alignment among VSP’s lines of business, a formal Program Management Office (PMO) structure became a necessity.  In  2008, Enterprise Project Solutions Division (EPS) was chartered. The PMO not only manages projects, programs and the portfolio, but also provides business Analytics, Process Development, and Re-Engineering to VSP Vision Benefits. Under the leadership of Chief Operations Officer, Laura Costa, and Vice President Karen Casey (shown at left), EPS consolidated and co-located the PMs and BAs from individual divisions. They also created a unique three-tier structure to integrate projects and strategy to improve portfolio management.

We asked Karen to share with us some of VSP's implementation wisdom and future plans:

"We have been reasonable about the amount of change our staff and the organization can handle," Casey responded. "Executive/leadership buy-in is key, while demonstrating continuous results and business value. I think one area that may have helped us early on is disclosing our 3-year plan. We have been operating from a plan since our division was formalized and have incrementally been moving toward an optimized PMO."

Going forward, Casey says, VSP intents to develop an Enterprise PMO structure and move toward a  Strategy Office for vetting new ideas and performing strategic planning. They plan to implement better portfolio management tools/processes, including data collection and reporting, and to develop sponsors through mentoring and training. Stronger governance controls and resource planning are also on the table.

VSP's leadership has been wise in keeping their focus on the higher-order competencies of program, portfolio and strategic management. This, I believe, is the future of the PMO ... and the project management profession as a whole.

Next week: An interview with Robert Rausch, leader of 2011's PMO of the Year at Dell Services.

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