Linda Honour is the PMO Office lead at Allstate and she and her group completely transformed the PMO function at Allstate and has won numerous awards from organizations like Association of Project Management, PMO magazine and more.
We were delighted when she spoke at a recent Leaders Circle luncheon about the lessons learned from this journey.
Linda started by describing the challenge.
First, Allstate is the largest publicly traded insurance company. Their PMO is a global technology PMO. The functions include all of the Project Managers, the Portfolio Managers and the methodologies and tools, including time keeping for the organization.
The organization was created 3 ½ years ago. Prior to that the function was reporting to each line, over 100 different organizations. The new CEO asked Linda to run this program because he believed in a single PMO office. Linda and her team looked at the entire HR database and anyone that had the words Project Management or PM on their title was asked to be part of the new PMO.
Once the new, global department was set, they created four key objectives:
1. A single independent view of project health
2. The right people, with the right skills, to the right work
3. Common role definitions, methodologies and tools.
4. Optimized cost structure.
Linda then went on to describe some of the lessons learned for each of these objectives.
Here’s what she learned for the first two objectives:
1. Single Independent View of Project Health
For this objective, they first created a standard project status report. Linda and her team counted over 80 different formats prior. Then they started a monthly project review and sent the senior Project managers in to clean up any log jams. Finally, they rolled up the data to review the entire portfolio. With 300-400 million a year in projects, it was important to get this portfolio up and running.
2. Right people with the right skills to the right work.
Linda called this the most critical of all the objectives. They moved from a group of project managers who were more like “Project Journalists” to project “Entrepreneurs” They got this terminology from The Conference Board, and the Entrepreneur is someone who influences the outcomes. They accomplished this shift in three ways. The most important was the Right people. Linda called this the biggest shift. In addition to influencing recruiting, they trained the people they felt could become Entrepreneurs and shifted the people out of the group they felt could not make the transition. This last part, Linda expressed, was difficult but very necessary. The next two was getting the Right Skills and Getting the right people to the right work. Once they were able to see the total portfolio, they were able to analyze it and put the senior people on the more senior work, and hire more junior people for the junior work.
IN PART TWO: We’ll review how Linda and her team handled the third and fourth objectives, the metrics they used to measure their results and how they did and the most important, the three key lessons Linda and her team learned.
Be sure to read Part TWO next week!