Sep 25, 2012

Formal Processes Yield Improved Results for this Canadian Insurance Firm

Posted by Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin | 0 Comments

Non-project work was "invisible" - until planned projects suffered.

Transamerica Life Canada’s PMO staffers have a sense of humor. “One of my astute staff members pointed out that we are the only semifinalist in Canada,” deadpanned Assistant Vice-President, PMO, Andreas Zapletal, “so doesn’t that automatically make us the PMO of the Year … for Canada?”

Well, why not. This insurance company, a subsidiary of AEGON, has delivered some world-class improvements since 2008. With just 17 full-time and contract staff members and a budget of about US$ 20 million, this PMO has, in under four years:

  • Implemented project portfolio management and enterprise resource planning
  • Improved on-time, on-budget delivery to 86% (in 2011)
  • Implemented benefits tracking, and determined that 95% of projects now meet benefit targets
  • Reduced time-to-market for new products by approximately 30%

These achievements took place despite a baseline environment that, in Zapletal’s words, initially suffered from an “unstructured prioritization … lack of clarity … and … constantly changing priorities” and in which project management was not established as a respected discipline.  Despite this, and in an environment of increasing complexity – the company grew the PMO budget tenfold, the PMO staff by a factor of four, the number of vendor-serviced projects by 50%, and added megaprojects and highly complex projects to the mix– the PMO showed rapid improvement to a variety of business processes and made measurable and positive contributions to the organization’s overall strategy.

One improvement specifically approved by the judges was the incorporation into the project planning cycle of “non-project work” – initiatives previously “invisible,” until planned projects suffered due to resource conflicts. Says Zapletal, “The PMO is now working with Operations and IT to develop the governance around these non-project work items, incorporating their prioritization in conjunction with the scheduling of projects, to ensure optimized resource utilization across the enterprise.”

The PMO has implemented a tool to identify complexity, as well, which helps stakeholders understand whether the work is suited for the PMO, and pinpoint the amount of PMO resources required.

“Previously,” says Zapletal, “managers avoided having their work deemed a project. The improvement in delivery means that [they] try to have it deemed a project even if it is not! The number of projects requested has increased by about 300%.” Obviously, in a brief time, this PMO has become a foundational support service, without which the organization would face additional challenges to achieving its business goals.

The Transamerica Life Canada PMO team is pictured below (left to right)  Mike Kehoe, Alan Biback, Rose Cantwell, Steve McClure, Andreas Zapletal, Rose Santos, Angelique Price, Touraj Torabi, Poria Kanozi, Tim McCaughtrie, Tai Chan. Not pictured are Phil Stephenson, David Brown, Catherine Zhou, Susan Loizides, and Steve Miljanov.


Profiles will continue with the winning company to be featured next week. Meanwhile ... have you registered for the PMO of the Year Awards Ceremony?


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