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The Project Office: An Interview with Chad Feeney (Part 1)

Recently, I've been thinking about ways to "shake up" this column.  I've spent the better part of the past 18 months sharing my philosophy of project management; however, there are many talented project practitioners throughout Greater Des Moines.  Recently, I've been reaching out to some of the ones whom I've come to respect greatly over the course of my career to allow them to share their stories.Project

This month, I'm starting with a great project leader.  Chad Feeney heads up the project office for Farm Bureau in West Des Moines.  I've worked with Chad in the past, and we've known each other for over a decade.  He's a highly skilled project leader, who now leads other project managers.  This is the first of a two-part series.  The remaining questions will appear on my Dec. 19 post.

Chad, thanks for agreeing to share your thoughts with my readers.  How large is your project office?  What services do you provide?

To help put this question into context, the PMO is a shared service department within FBL Financial Group Inc. We have a mix of entry, mid-level, senior project managers and project portfolio managers. With occasional staff augmentation with project management consulting, we're 15 individuals strong. Our services range from project management to strategy facilitation.

 

How did your career path arrive at managing a project office?

My personal career path started within IT as a systems analyst and an occasional DBA wit Principal Financial Group Inc. It was during my tenure with Principal that I was introduced to project pathways and actually started managing a project for the residential mortgage division. After the project completed, I was very interested in the project management discipline and processes, of which, I decided to make a career choice of pursuing full time. I continued to build experiences as a PM and fulfilled roles as a program manager and project portfolio manager at Wells Fargo and ING. I started with FBL in 2000, and helped initiate the Project Portfolio Management discipline which subsequently gave me the opportunity to lead the PMO department.

 

How does your project office continue to demonstrate value in the financial services industry, given the recent economic events?

Our value to our users and customers has evolved over time as we have matured our project management practices. We matured from a Ad Hoc project management function where status reports and issue logs were the common deliverables and discussions with executives to a practice where the PMO facilitates/coordinates strategy development, partners with business leaders to determine fit and goals of a project to an overall business plan, providing hard factual numbers with financial management and bringing insight of resource demands for IT - where did IT spend its time and where will the demand be from future projects via resource management. Overall, we're trying to give our executives/customers more transparency to make much more informed, cost-saving or cost-avoiding decisions.


Another value add we provide to our customers is within a forgotten practice of lessons learned. The pace for delivery and service is so intense that we often forget to look back and determine if we actually achieved the objectives and benefits of a project or program. Our PMO has been looking very hard at what we can provide our executives and customers in this space. In 2008, we've had some success with providing some of the easier lessons learned for a give project. For instance:

       How many of the objectives were met - Scope Achievement

       Did we stay within budget - Financial Management

       Was our schedule within an acceptable tolerance - Schedule Management

       Where did we spend our time throughout the project - Time Entry Transparency


Are any of the above questions familiar? Does the triple constraint come to mind? Acknowledging these kinds of questions is really not the most attractive, as compared to benefits realization, but keep in mind these questions by themselves still tell a story. For example, if we find that we spent more time in development than estimated why is this? Did we estimate poorly, was our requirements sound and complete, or was the solution more complex than expected? If we can help IT answer these questions and partner to make improvements with these core skills, I believe we're bringing value in the near timer while focusing upon the benefit realization conversation and service for the long term.

Great insights, Chad!  I'm looking forward to sharing the rest of our interview with my readers on the 19th.

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