Thought Leadership in Project Management: with Brian Grafsgaard, Consulting Practice Director with Q Consulting

– By Dr. Emad Rahim, PMP, SCM, OMCP

Brian Grafsgaard, PMP, PgMP, PfMP  Consulting Director, Q Consulting

Brian Grafsgaard, CSM, PMP, PgMP, PfMP is a Consulting Practice Director with Q Consulting (formerly Quality Business Solutions [QBS]), a Minneapolis, Minnesota (U.S.A.) based consulting firm specializing in portfolio, program, project, change, and compliance management. Brian has been a practicing Project Management Professional (PMP®) since 1998. Brian is also a proven Program Manager and in 2007 became the first in the world to attain the Program Management Professional (PgMP®) credential. In May 2014, Brian also became one of the first to attain the Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP®) credential.

As a portfolio, program, and project manager, Brian has lead the transformation and delivery of enterprise-class solutions in multiple industries. Over the course of a 30+ year career, he has had the privilege of defining and implementing innovative solutions for several organizations, while managing the change necessary to adopt the solutions. Brian is also an active volunteer for PMI Global and was appointed to the PMI Standards Member Advisory Group (SMAG) in Jan. 2016. He was previously selected to serve on the core team that authored The Standard for Program Management–Third Edition (2013, PMI); Brian led the core team that recently published Requirements Management: A Practice Guide (2016, PMI). Brian is also a contributing author of Program Management: A Life Cycle Approach (2012, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC) with a chapter focused on how portfolio, program, and project management enable innovation.

  1. How did your project management career get started?

Like many others, I was an accidental project manager. I started my career as a programmer/analyst, which allowed me to work with companies to help them define their business and technical requirements, then develop the solution (primarily in assembler language). I often initiated projects from the ground floor and saw them through completion. As was often the case, once I became more proficient as a programmer (but also more skilled as an analyst), I was promoted to Project Manager.

  1. How did you obtain your project management education and training?

Once I adjusted to the fact that I was no longer the “doer”, but the person leading the “doers”, I realized I had to learn a whole new set of skills: project management. The organization I was with at the time provided many opportunities for training and education in both project management as well as the “soft skills”. I took full advantage of their development program, supplemented by external courses, including a PMP exam prep session. I eventually earned the PMP credential—the first in the organization to do so—and became an advocate and mentor for others; the experience had forced me to learn a great deal about the “science” of project management. I have since earned the Program Management Professional (PgMP)® and Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP)® through experience and training.

  1. Can you please summarize your industry, and share how organizations are applying project management in the workplace?

It is difficult for me to identify an “industry”. Although I started my career in IT, I have always thought of IT as an “enabler” vs. a distinct industry of its own. Although I started out leading technology projects—primarily software development efforts—as a program and portfolio manager I have become more aligned with the “business”. Any organization, regardless of industry, must create value by continuously enhancing or developing new products, services, or capabilities. And most organizations, regardless of industry, recognize that this happens through project management. I have also seen that many organizations are adopting more adaptive approaches, such as Agile, to develop these products, services, and capabilities. More mature organizations are taking an integrated approach to creating value, leveraging portfolio, program, and project management. Whether the organization takes an adaptive approach or a more traditional approach, it is important to select the right initiatives and maintain alignment of the expected outcomes with the organization’s strategy.

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  1. Do you see any trends in your industry as it relates to project management and other related methodologies?

As discussed above, I am seeing organizations take a more integrated approach to project management, recognizing the need to develop their portfolio and program management capabilities as well. Portfolio management helps ensure that the right projects are initiated to begin with; program management bridges the gap between the organization’s strategy—reflected in the organization’s portfolio—and delivery of the expected benefits and value through related (and often interdependent) projects. I am also seeing the use of more hybrid approaches, applying project management techniques and principles while also applying Agile principles to adapt and deliver value more quickly. I am also seeing more strictly Agile-based organizations extending those capabilities across the organization, scaling and managing dependencies across teams, in a manner very similar to portfolio and program management.

  1. What is your advice to people that are interested in pursuing a career in project management within your industry?

My advice for those interested in pursuing a career in project management (in any industry) would be to learn as much as you can about that industry, but also learn as much as you can about project management itself. I recommend the approach developed by Project Management Institute (PMI)® (, which recognizes the need for technical (project management), strategic, business management, and leadership (soft) skills. By learning about the industry you will be able to better understand the strategic and business side of projects, understanding the challenges and opportunities that the organization faces and why the project is being undertaken in the first place. It will allow you to make more sound decisions while leading projects. Learning more about project management will allow you to apply the tools and techniques required to successfully deliver the project. Finally, focusing on leadership and soft skills will better enable you to deliver the project results through others; after all, projects are done through people who must be lead, not managed. Don’t focus on just one area, seek a blend of training and experience across all three dimensions. Start small, leading a small team on a class project or an event and keep learning. Most importantly, learn from your mistakes. Finally, seek out a mentor to help guide you, someone who has experience in the industry you choose. A mentor can help identify your strengths and development needs across these three dimensions and help you tailor your approach.

  1. I noticed you have earned several certifications. What type of value has these certifications provided to you in your career?

Each of these certifications has helped me better understand the “science” behind that particular discipline and provided the baseline knowledge I needed to adapt these disciplines to the organization or a particular situation. Each certification has provided a level of credibility—very important as a consultant, especially—which, coupled with my experience, has opened a lot of doors. Each certification has allowed me to grow and become a more strategic and effective portfolio, program, and project manager. They have also helped me better understand the relationship between these disciplines and how they can be applied together to effectively (and efficiently) execute and deliver results.

  1. Do you think the industry is catching up to better understanding the benefits of program management and portfolio management?

Although project management has become ubiquitous—millions of articles, books, and other resources have been published on the subject—program and portfolio management are still coming of age to some degree. That said, I am seeing more and more awareness of program and portfolio management as complementary disciplines within an overall “strategic execution” ecosystem. More and more articles, books, and resources are available on these subjects than in years past. The introduction of the Portfolio and Program Management Professional credentials by PMI has also increased the visibility of these disciplines. As an example, when I earned the PgMP credential in 2007—I was the first in the world to achieve this certification—there were very few reference materials, outside of federal government publications and the first edition of PMI’s Standard for Program Management, to even study. I am pleased to say that there is now a wealth of material available for both program and portfolio management. Both are becoming much more prevalent in organizations across industries. I am very optimistic that it will only continue to grow as organizations realize the value that program and portfolio management provides.

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  1. What are some of the major gaps you still see in the project management profession and what can industries do to address them?

I think the primary gap is that project management has been viewed as being very “prescriptive”, that project management is the equivalent of “waterfall”. This is a very common misperception because the waterfall approach—especially as a software development life cycle—has often been coupled with a “by the book” project management approach, where scope, schedule, cost, and quality constraints are established up front—at the time of greatest uncertainty—and carefully monitored and “controlled” throughout the life of the project. Waterfall is an approach to developing or enhancing a solution, whether it be a new product, service, or capability; it is not necessarily the approach to managing that development effort. The project manager has traditionally been measured on how well s/he managed to those constraints.

Although it could be argued that “project management” and the resulting project life cycle were dictated more by the development approach—waterfall is a development methodology, not a project management methodology—the two are seen as one. As adaptive approaches become increasingly more prevalent it is imperative that project management as a discipline be viewed as adaptive as well. Project management principles are intended to be applied across the life of the initiative and are not sequential in nature. In my experience, project management has always been intended to be adaptive and iterative in nature. It does no good to stay within the budget and schedule constraints (for example) but deliver something that does not satisfy the need. Although budget and schedule are important, it is also very important to understand how to provide maximum value to the organization and adapt the project to optimize results.

The art of project management is understanding these tradeoffs and knowing which “constraints” are most important; for example, time to market may be the most important so the project should continuously adapt to provide the most value within the timeframe allowed, understanding the impact on budget and scope. In my experience, even “Agile” initiatives have some expectations around schedule, cost, scope, and quality as well as the expectation that risks (both threats and opportunities) will be proactively managed. Organizations must apply the principles of project management in a more adaptive manner, ensuring that the results of the initiative align with the organization’s strategic objectives and provide the benefits intended.

  1. What type of things do you do to stay current in your field (professional development)?

I have always considered myself a lifelong learner. It is a journey, not a destination. There is always something more to learn, new ways to apply my experience and skills, and opportunities to fine tune. For that reason, I dedicate time each day to reading or researching a topic of interest. In addition, I am always willing to take a change and try something new and learn as much as I can about it in the process. For example, although my primary focus has been leading application development initiatives, I have seized the opportunity to take roles in other areas, like IT Services, Compliance Management, or roles on the “business” side. These experiences have broadened and deepened my knowledge and made me a better project, program, and portfolio manager. I have also sought roles where I could learn and leverage more adaptive approaches, such as Scrum and Kanban. These experiences—which I supplemented with reading, training, and research—have given me a broader perspective and the baseline knowledge I need to be able to adapt the approach to an organization or a particular project.

  1. What are your last thoughts or closing remarks to our project manager subscribers?

I would encourage your subscribers to continuously learn and search for opportunities to broaden your knowledge and experience. For example, if you are a project manager but want to be a program manager, learn (through reading, classes, or other means) about program management. Develop a baseline understanding and look for opportunities to apply that knowledge. Start small and grow from there. Seek out a mentor who is knowledgeable in the area that you would like to pursue. I have had a number of mentors—both formal and informal—over the years and each has helped me focus in the right areas and grow.

Bellevue Endowed Professor Dr. Emad Rahim will be recognized by the American Association of Community Colleges

Former OCC student Dr. Emad Rahim will be recognized in April by a national education association, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). Rahim will receive the 2017 Outstanding Alumni Award at the AACC’s National Convention in New Orleans, LA. “The AACC Outstanding Alumni recipients showcase the quality and diverse plethora of the nation’s community […]

via National “Outstanding Alumni Award” for Dr. Emad Rahim —

Project Management Programs at Bellevue Earn GAC Accreditation and Top Degree Rankings

By Dr. Emad Rahim, PMP, SCM, OMCP


The Project Management Institute’s Global Accreditation Center (GAC) Directors voted in October 2016 to confer GAC Accreditation status upon two additional Bellevue University programs, the Master of Project Management program and the Master of Science in Management of Information Systems, Information Technology Project Management Concentration.

In doing so, the GAC Directors recognize the strong commitment to project management educational excellence that has been demonstrated by Bellevue University. The accreditation of these two graduate programs will complement the Bachelor of Science in Project Management program which has been accredited by GAC since 2014. “Earning accreditation from GAC is a remarkable achievement,” said Mary Dobransky, Dean of the College of Science and Technology at Bellevue University. “This accreditation recognizes the hard work and dedication of the faculty and staff, and confirms to our students that they are receiving a quality education in line with all the standards set forth by PMI, the industry’s recognized leader.

The Bellevue University Master of Project Management (MPM) is an advanced professional program that is academically recognized as a terminal degree. Bellevue University offers one of only three GAC accredited MPM programs in the U.S. The Master of Science in Management Information Systems (MS-MIS) is a program that provides students both technical competencies and management techniques needed for management positions in Information Systems and related industries. This program offers students the opportunity to specialize in several areas, including the Information Technology Project Management Concentration.

The MPM degree program was recently ranked #2 in the Top 10 Project Management Programs in the US by IntelligentHQ, and is listed in top ranking by CollegeRank, AffordableColleges and TopManagementDegrees. The MPM program was also featured in Project Eye Magazine (pg. 33-35) and covered in a thought leadership series by

Thought Leadership in Project Management: with Heitor Roriz Filho, Agile Coach and Trainer

– By Dr. Emad Rahim, PMP, SCM, OMCP

Heitor Roriz Filho

Heitor Roriz Filho is an “agilero”. He currently works as an Agile Coach and Trainer worldwide, based in Sao Paulo. He is a writer, speaker and trainer in the area of Technology Management. He has been dealing with Agile since 2004 and in addition to speaking for Agile/Scrum, Six Sigma and PMI conferences, he is the founder activist of the ScrumAmazonia user group. He is also the co-founder and Agile Coach of Massimus ( a company focused on APM (Agile Project Management) training and coaching. He holds a M.Sc. in Information Technology from the University of Stuttgart, Germany. Has worked and gathered experience in companies like Itautec-Philco SA, DaimlerChrysler AG, Fraunhofer Institut, FPF (Fundação Paulo Feitoza), among others. He worked for 3 years as a ScrumMaster and Product Owner for FPF and Siemens-Mobile where he also coached teams to implement and improve Scrum in projects. During 2+ years he worked as Information Manager for the local government at Municipal Institute of Urban Planning where he applied Scrum outside of software, in architectural and building projects. He participated as a reasearch assistant in projects belonging to LBA (Large-scale Biosphere-atmosphere Experiment in Amazonia) at INPA ( in cooperation with JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) and NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Agency). Heitor is a passionate for Agile and Scrum. He truly believes Agile can change the way we work achieving excellence levels of precision and performance. He is very interested in Agile Leadership and Agile Project Management as levers of improving our ways of work.

  1. How did your project management career get started?

It started in 2004 when I got an engagement as a software developer in an experimental project funded by Siemens Mobile in Brazil. Few months after the project started it grew exponentially and I attended a CSM training by Martine Devos (today my colleague). I was overwhelmed by the amount of information I received and started learning about Scrum and Project Management (studying the PMBOK).

  1. How did you obtain your project management education and training?

I attend for a few months a PMP prep course back in 2005. Back then the prep courses were very long in duration! In the meantime I also attended a CSM training as mentioned above, which is a 2-day training course. I immediately identified that Scrum not only delivers but if well implemented assures higher quality standards and people engagement. So I kept studying the PMBOK by my own and kept on experimenting with Scrum. During my experimentations I had a terrific opportunity to exchange 2 days of project management knowledge with a Six Sigma Black Belt from Sony: I taught him Scrum and he gave me an overview of DMAIC (an instantiation of Deming’s Cycle) and Six Sigma statistics applied to projects. I fell in love with statistics applied to Project Management and have been applying it in my projects until today. In 2011 I had the tremendous opportunity to find like-minded individuals and we founded a company called Massimus. So my customers usually hire me through this company. Few years later I got the PMI-ACP certification (2013).

  1. Can you please summarize your industry, and share how organizations are applying project management in the workplace?

I work with several industries, mostly with the IT industry. Since Scrum can be applied in several knowledge areas and not only software, I have had the opportunity to coach and execute projects in Logistics, Software Development, HR and Sales. These projects were in the following industries: IT, Aeronautics, Insurance, Finance, Oil, Government, Service and Health. What I have identified, is that no matter the industry, if an organization builds software or outsources software development, be it as its end activity or not, they all want to do Scrum or demand that Scrum is used.

So the industries are applying Scrum because it is needed today due to the hyper-competitive environment, where a very short time-to-market and agile ideas validation are mandatory. In a hyper-competitive environment project requirements are nothing but hypothesis that need validation. In terms of Scrum implementation, we can categorize organizations in two: those that do it for real and engage Scrum coaches and those that see Scrum as too simple to engage third-party coaches. Both can succeed but considering probabilities and due to the current organizational mind-set the latter will fail. Agile is part of the new zeitgeist and even though it is simple, it is complex to master and that is counter-intuitive enough for some.

  1. Do you see any trends in your industry as it relates to project management and other related methodologies?

Organizations are at a tipping point. The general trend is not creating knowledge anymore but being able to incorporate into the organization’s DNA the creation and use of knowledge as a competitive advantage. Innovation will become commonplace. Agile is happening at the operational level of organizations but closer to the top, where strategy and budgets are developed, there are other movements belonging to the new zeitgeist, like Beyond Budgeting and Radical Management. This is something that every CEO needs to know in order to understand why and how projects are being executed and planned with Scrum.

  1. What is your advice to people that are interested in pursuing a career in project management within your industry?

I recommend project professionals to be versatile. Do not focus solely on one methodology or concept, but create your project management bag of tools. Start experimenting with multiple concepts, use Scrum as an underlying experimentation framework and pack your bag with concepts like Lean Six Sigma, PMBOK, IPMA, Prince2, Process Engineering, Software Engineering, Statistics. Whenever you have the opportunity, sharpen your skills.

  1. I noticed you have earned several certifications. What type of value has these certifications provided to you in your career?

I have a Master in Information Technology I got at the Stuttgart University in Germany. This was a quite technical education and I therefore pursued a project management certification, namely the ACP (Agile Certified Practitioner). Due to my technical background I identified I needed a soft-skill approach, and pursued a CSM (Certified ScrumMaster). Besides the ACP and CSM, I possess the CSPO (Certified Scrum Product Owner) and CSD (Certified Scrum Developer). Since I always loved teaching, I pursued the CST (Certified Scrum Trainer). They helped me a lot! Your CV is strengthened by the certifications you have and it is used by HR as a initial preselection process. Ultimately your experience validates your certifications (and not the other way around) so strengthen your CV and experiment always.

  1. Do you think the industry is catching up to better understanding the benefits of Agile and Scrum?

Absolutely. Today there are several surveys stating the benefits organizations obtain from implementing Scrum and the Agile mindset. Nevertheless, the Agile mindset is counter-intuitive to the ultimate goal of the massive majority of corporations today so there is a very, very long road ahead and many projects and surveys to come.

  1. What are some of the major gaps you still see in the project management profession and what can industries do to address them?

I am not sure I can call these gaps but they are: 1. Lack of a holistic approach and 2. Lack of open-mindedness. Let me elaborate on each one.

  1. Project managers should not focus on project management areas only (think of the areas described on the PMBOK). They do need to be specialists in project management and have a deep understanding of all tools and techniques available. At the same time, they must have the minimal ability to work outside their area and understand and talk about financing, engineering, software development, logistics, electronics, etc. That is being versatile and holistic.
  2. A project manager that thinks of herself as the nirvana of her profession is very likely to suffer from a career downturn. I have heard from thought leaders things like “Scrum is not a good enough project management methodology”. Of course not! Scrum wasn’t born to be neither a project management framework nor methodology. This is what I mean by of lack of open-mindedness. A great project manager understands that there is always room for improvement and Scrum and Agile are additional concepts to be added to their bag of tools.
  3. What type of things do you do to stay current in your field (professional development)?

I listen a lot to people, specially those outside my work area and divide my time between consulting and teaching. Being always in the trenches gives me a lot of ideas and allows me to create new things and learn new concepts and techniques. Besides that I attend leadership trainings as much as I can and read about spirituality. Being a great leader is about self-awareness so I strive for it every day. I am aware that I will never quite get there.

  1. What are your last thoughts or closing remarks to our project manager subscribers?

Kaizen, kaizen, kaizen. Help improve others and improve yourself in the process, be your own Kaizen Meister!

Connect with Connect with Heitor Roriz Filho:

Thought Leadership in Project Management: with Matthew Gonzalez, PhD, PMP, Chief of EntHead Show

– By Dr. Emad Rahim, PMP, SCM, OMCP                   

Dr. Matthew D. Gonzalez

Dr. Matthew D. Gonzalez, PMP, CEH, is Chief EntHead of, an organization focused on helping Entrepreneurs, in their 2nd/3rd year of operation, and beyond, through a 5-day a week Podcast. He is a serial Entrepreneur where he founded and successfully sold multiple entrepreneurial endeavors to include GSI Event Production (2007), and Events Education (2008). Prior to his entrepreneurial endeavors, Dr. Gonzalez worked as an IT Developer, Systems Analyst, IT Architect, and IT Project Manager for USAA, a global financial services provider. His lessons learned and successes at USAA in managing $10+ million dollar projects and programs provided him with the necessary experiences to pursue his doctorate.

Dr. Gonzalez also serves as the Cyber Program Director for the University of Charleston West Virginia. He specializes, teaches, and conducts research in information technology, leadership, project management, and entrepreneurialism for such universities as Harvard, Temple. Brandeis, and Northeastern. Dr. Gonzalez earned his BBA in Information Systems from the University of Texas at San Antonio (’95), MBA from St. Mary’s University (’99), Ph.D. in Organization and Management from Capella University (‘08), and MIS from Keller Graduate School (‘10). Dr. Gonzalez stays active in his community where he serves his Church as an ACTS team member.

How did you get started in project management?

The organization I worked for had a project management process development program. I decided to enroll in the courses, which aligned with the PMP, on the premise that I decide to go this route as a career. Once I earned the PMP, my management realized it was time for me to post to PM types of positions and build my leadership skills from there.

What type of industries have you worked for and in what capacity?

There were three: 1) Technology where I served as an IT PM, 2) Event Management where I ran an Events company, and 3) Construction…this one is more informal as I’ve applied the PM skills to building a house, adding on to houses, and general remodeling.

What was the most interesting project you managed and what made it so unquiet?

My first large project was an email project where I was mentored as an IT PM for about 6 weeks, then the mentor rolled off and I became the PM. The scope was to build an internal email system so that customers could interact with the organization in a more secure environment than was available via commercial software. It was slated to run 9 months at $1.5M. It quickly blew into 18 months and over $3M due to the amount of integration required with the email system. There were three other PMs on the project (a business manager, a business project manager, and a design manager). Before we ever got into the development phase where IT would lead the effort, one PM was reassigned, and the other two were fired because of the amount of scope creep. Talk about stress!

Why do you think so many organizations value project management skills?

Once can organization decides upon a strategy, it is turned over to the PPM, PMO, and PMs. They’re responsible for actually executing the strategy to ensure goals are met. Thus, these skills help to measure an organization’s strategy in a project methodology chosen by the organization.

What type of tools and techniques were commonly used in those projects you were a part of?

Usually they were a mixture of large scale enterprise level PM software, desktop software, RAMs, Communication Matrices, Issues Log, Risk Logs, and of course the project methodology chosen by the organization. It was usually a traditional type of methodology chosen to manage the projects.

How did you go from being a project manager to becoming an entrepreneur?

Back to the first question, I actually chose to take the PM courses because I knew long term I wanted to run my own organization, and I knew those would help me with the management and leadership skills. I started my events based organization while working full time. Into the third year of the business, I decided to quit the full time job and fulfill my destiny as an entrepreneur for life. I suppose it’s in my blood (born vs. made argument here).

You mentioned some overlapping between entrepreneurship and project management, can you please elaborate?

Without a doubt, both the management and leadership skills are where the overlap comes in. Specifically, in the planning process to start and operate the business for sustainability. While projects are supposed to end, the business itself should be designed for longer term growth until it’s time to exit. I would simply take my quarterly business plans, and turn them into meaning agile projects to ensure I met my goals for the business. Major overlap and thank goodness I learned these skills as a PM!

How can project managers learn to develop entrepreneurship skills to better support their projects and clients?

I’ve been reading more and more articles that companies don’t actually like to hire entrepreneurs, which I think is ridiculous. But, the employees can learn intrapreneur skills (much like an entrepreneur) where they can embark on training regarding innovation, R&D, pricing products, process improvement, sales, and many other skills that an intra/entrepreneur would do that are less traditional types of training. Most people who are PMs aren’t actually the ‘sales’ person, however you’d be surprised how those skills overlap when it comes time to sell a status report as a PM.

What advice would you give someone interested in becoming a project manager?

Be ready for the leadership position as most project management training doesn’t teach you leadership skills. Thus, invest in some leadership skills and mentoring on how to be a leader.

Vintage microphone and headphones on green background.

What is your lessons learned for project managers inspiring to become an entrepreneur?

1. Use your skills as a PM to develop a strategy for your business
2. Build quarterly business plans as you get going, you need quick wins
3. Use varying methods of project methodologies (e.g. agile, traditional, etc.) based on your efforts rather than picking just one methodology
4. Find web based project software that is cloud based and you can share tasks/risks with your contractors

What Is The Standard Function Of A PMO?


– By Rossana Palummieri, Project Manager at ACI Worldwide

Rossana Palummieri

Rossana Palummieri, PMP, CSM., is a project manager at a global company that focuses primarily on facilitating electronic payments.  She provides an expanded perspective on IT Project Management due to 20 in software engineering and seven years as a project manager for both internal and customer projects.  She understands the constraints and difficulties of projects from both the customer and vendor perspective.

What Is The Standard Function Of A PMO?

An “Organization” according to Merriam-Webster is “an administrative and functional structure” or the “process of organizing and being organized” (Merriam-Webster).  So to think of a “standards organization”, it implies the PMO is organized just for standards.   Is this possible?  Or course it is, but it would be missing out a lot as an effective PMO if that’s all it did – what about teaching what those standards are and introducing best practices (knowledge).   In fact, an insight into the 2015 State of the PMO by ESI indicated that no matter what type of PMO, there are services, including “Methodology, Processes, and Standards” that span across different types (Scott, 2015).  And while the Center of Excellence PMO would be more inclined to focus on these, one could very well find these services in an organization unit PMO or a project PMO (Scott, 2015).  Therefore, in my opinion, this week we are looking at the Standards function of a PMO rather than the PMO as being a Standards “organization”.  In many articles and various research papers (not going to name them all here as we’ve been through a myriad of them over the past few years), I have seen PMOs defined as the Project Management Institute does, and also as related to focus area: supportive, controlling, or directive (Reiling, 2014) .   To limit a PMO to just standards, knowledge, or consulting just feels as if we are missing a holistic view of an effective PMO.

So what is the “standards” function of a PMO?  In a nutshell, it is to provide a framework so that project performance, tools, and procedures are standardized (Nayab, 2010).  In the 2012 publication “executive guide to project management” by the Project Management Institute, Janice Weaver of Norton Healthcare describes how important it is to have “sound, proven project management skills and tools” in times of economic crisis.  In fact, the article goes to describe how standardized templates and processes help companies to cut costs and reduce risks by implementing documented and repeatable processes (Project Management Institute, 2012).  When procedures have been proven and are repeatable, companies [and project managers] can focus on value action items such as innovation and quality (Project Management Institute, 2012),  rather than trying to determine what works or doesn’t or, as I have seen in personal experience, ‘reinventing the wheel’ with every new project.


Standardizing processes into repeatable practices is not the only advantage of the standards function of a PMO.   There are other standards that a mature PMO and organization benefit from.  For example, standardized metrics allow a company to become more proactive since they help to determine direction early in a project or a program and allow for corrective action (Project Management Institute, 2012).

If we were to consider project management in terms of capability maturity models, several project management maturity models have been developed that mimic the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) model with different levels of maturity.   A popular model, PM Solutions’ Project Management Maturity Model (PMMM) uses the PMBOK’s ten knowledge areas as part of the framework for maturity.   With 5 levels in the model, level 3 very specifically outlines maturity as “organizational standards and institutionalized process” (Crawford, 2015).  To reach this maturity level and achieving this level of standardization, a PMO is critical in developing and promoting the project management standards and methodologies (Crawford, 2015).  A 2010 survey on the State of the PMO by PM Solutions indicated that of the companies surveyed, 31% of companies with a PMO achieved the level 3 maturity, whereas only 13% of companies reached this level (PMSolutions, 2010).

With the above literature support, I will add a personal insight into this topic.   Our company has two business  processes PMOs (yes, I know – this somewhat disagrees with my original statement about a “standards organization”, but in my defense, these PMOs not only define the standards, but also audit them, and provide training materials and tools support for project management effectiveness).  In any case, one of these groups is for Product Development and the other for our Services (i.e. Customer) areas.  What is interesting is that I’ve had to transition from the more mature Product Development area of the company to the less standardized Services area.  And, as a project manager, I can truly see the benefits of those standards I used to complain about.   For example, having project websites that keep particular project artifacts – a pain in the neck to be sure to maintain and be audited on – but how helpful when you are the project manager taking over an existing project and need to understand the history of it.  How amazing when we can go back and look at previous similar projects and know that our estimates and plans are consistent with what previously worked and, thereby, reduce the risk to our projects due to the “unknown”.  In this newer less mature group, we don’t have all the standards at our finger tips – they are just developing.  I have seen project after project, over this past year, with the same area of focus (related to a current mandatory business direction) reinvent the wheel.  If I ask whether there is a template I can follow, I am provided with 5 totally different approaches – each with benefits and pitfalls.   So the amount of inefficiency is astounding.   And, so is the amount of risk to the customers I’m trying to service since I am now “reinventing the wheel” yet again.   While I may not agree that a PMO is specifically a “standards organization”, I whole heartedly agree that “standards” are a key and important function of an effective PMO and with promoted standards a company’s projects become more efficient and less risky.


Crawford, K. (2015, March). What is Project Maturity Model? Retrieved from IT Performance Improvement:

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Organization. Retrieved from Merriam-Webster:

Nayab, N. (2010, April 28). The Scope of PMO. Retrieved from Bright Hub Project Management:

PM Solutions . (2010). The State of the PMO 2010. Retrieved from PM Solutions:

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Thought Leadership in Project Management: with Jonathan H. Avidan, Vice President at AxiomSL

– By Dr. Emad Rahim, PMP, SCM, OMCP

Jonathan Avidan

Jonathan Avidan, PMP, CSM., currently serves as Vice President at AxiomSL. He has over 13+ years of experience in financial services, banking and insurance, specifically within compliance, regulatory reporting, operations and related technology infrastructure practices. Graduating from Boston University’s Questrom School of Business with a dual major in Operations & Technology Management and Entrepreneurship, Mr. Avidan is a skilled team-builder and disciplined leader, who can manage people, processes and change while developing and maintaining key/strategic relationships.  Currently a MBA candidate for Temple University’s Fox School of Business, he is also an experienced Process Manager proficient in technology and system implementations (SaaS) and multi-million dollar development projects that impact multiple departments or entities within an organization.  He has a track record of analyzing business processes and developing practical solutions that drive efficiency, improve client service, and reduce risk.

Can you tell me what your organization does?

AxiomSL is the global leader in regulatory reporting and risk management solutions for the financial industry, including banks, broker dealers, asset managers and insurance companies. Its unique enterprise data management (EDM) platform delivers data lineage, risk aggregation, analytics, workflow automation, validation and audit functionality.

The AxiomSL platform seamlessly integrates clients’ source data from disparate systems and geographical locations without forcing data conversion. It enriches and validates the data, and runs it through risk and regulatory calculations to produce both internal and external reports. The platform supports disclosures in multiple formats, including XBRL. The unparalleled transparency offered by the high-performance platform gives users the ability to drill down on their data to any level of granularity.

AxiomSL’s platform supports compliance with a wide range of global and local regulations, including Basel III capital and liquidity requirements, the Dodd-Frank Act, FATCA, AEI (CRS), EMIR, COREP/FINREP, CCAR, FDSF, BCBS 239, Solvency II, AIFMD, IFRS 9, central bank disclosures, and both market and credit risk management requirements. The enterprise-wide approach offered by AxiomSL enables clients to leverage their existing data and risk management infrastructure, and reduces implementation costs, time to market and complexity.

How do they use Project Management?

AxiomSL has a Program Management Office (PMO).  Currently, we have a strong team of experienced project managers who are tasked with ensuring the success of the firm’s technology implementation engagements.  At AxiomSL, project management methodologies, specifically those found within the PMBOK, are used to ensure proper configuration and execution of our flagship platform, ControllerView®.

What does a typical day look like for you as a project manager? 

I currently manage five projects for five different banks in the continental United States.  The project management structure within AxiomSL offers flexibility for the PM role since the main resources responsible for execution of each statement of work (SOW) are the Implementation Lead and Implementation Specialists.  In this regard, I am able to allocate 20% of my time per project, every day and each week.  My primary responsibilities are to manage and maintain proper lines of communication while providing status updates to the client, AxiomSL management and other key stakeholders.  As a project manager it is also essential for me to develop and sustain relationships with various decision makers, as well.

I am also responsible for drafting effort estimations, work orders and other organizational process assets that will ensure efficiency and transparency within the project.

What PM tools and techniques that you value the most at your job?

I often find myself balancing the 5 Project Constraints (quality, time, cost, scope, shareholders) during each phase of a project.  Each client requires their own dynamic project constraint framework in which a specific mix at any given time could make or break the project.

Work Breakdown Structures (WBS) are frequently used in order to keep track of the activities associated with each resource over the duration of the engagement.  In addition to the WBS, Gantt charts, MS Project, and various logs are used to maintain consistency, proper communication and order.  Specific logs utilized are for the documentation of risks, issues, action items and scope changes that may arise.  By listing these items in a log from the very beginning of the project, a project manager can ensure that all key stakeholders understand and are aware of the day to day items that can potentially shift the trajectory of the implementation.

My most important technique is communication.  I put a tremendous amount of effort into making sure that all communication lines and open and healthy.  To do this, I create an environment of collaboration and teamwork with a shared paradigm of “one goal”.  When all stakeholders realize that everyone working on the project has the same goal, the engagement becomes more cohesive and collegiate while providing a sense of comradery and professionalism.

How large is your project team and what are their roles?

My project teams are typically comprised of the following roles and responsibilities:

Role Key Responsibilities
Project Manager Responsible for the overall success of the engagement.  Specifically, the PM ensures proper execution of all implementation project activities including but not limited to requirements review, configuration, testing, training, change management.  Responsible for project plan creation, maintenance and upkeep, status tracking, updates and communication, as well as coordination with client stakeholders and other teams or individuals working in conjunction with the AxiomSL implementation team.
Implementation Lead Brings in-depth knowledge in regulatory reporting and work experience with AxiomSL including tracking Federal Reserve report updates, enhancing report functionality, researching reporting requirements, development, configuration, and implementation of regulatory reports.

Responsible for implementation by taking direction from Solution Architect and following the timelines managed by Project Manager.

Subject Matter Expert Brings extensive experience in designing and implementing enterprise MIS solutions for risk, regulatory, and financial reporting requirements for major financial institutions. Possesses subject matter expertise in U.S. risk and regulatory requirements, and financial reporting.

Responsible for reviewing the functional specs and working with client, Solution Architect and Configuration Specialists to fill in any requirements gaps from regulatory and implementation perspective.

Solution Architect Brings extensive experience in designing and implementing AxiomSL solutions for risk, regulatory, and financial reporting requirements for major financial institutions. Possesses both subject matter expertise in U.S. risk and regulatory requirements and reporting, and in-depth technical knowledge in Axiom software.

Leads the project team in implementation. Responsible for conceptual and functional design of implementation. Reviews the Functional Specs documents to ensure all required functionality is implemented.

IT Specialist The IT Specialist brings deep experience in deployment of AxiomSL software including knowledge of databases and data structures.  Provides support to the implementation team and client staff for testing, performance tuning, installation, database connections and technical support

Project teams can range from 5 to as many as 15 resources.  This depends on the complexity of the implementation coupled with the number of reports requiring on-site configuration.

What type of leadership style do you use to support your team given their diversity, multiple locations and expertise?

I have always believed that a true leader empowers others with the tools and knowledge they need to then become leaders themselves.  Additionally, I feel that a successful leader is able to incorporate “people skills” into their management style – basic things like recognizing the efforts of team members to simply complimenting them for a job well done.  Ultimately, I put a strong emphasis on ensuring that my team members clearly understand their objectives while buying into the corporate vision and mission.  I always try to inspire others while delegating responsibility.  At the same time, I let them do their own work and expecting nothing short of success.

We met in Philadelphia during a Scrum Certification training. Why did your company sponsor your Scrum training?  

AxiomSL PMO feels that software development projects in the banking industry are moving towards a more Agile methodology. The Scrum pattern is one of the more popular methods in which results can be fruitful if implemented properly.

What is the value that your company sees with Scrum for their projects?

AxiomSL is a technology company that implements software on a client site in order to improve the transparency, auditability and filing processes of the bank’s regulatory reports.  One of the reasons AxiomSL is so successful in what we do while maintaining our position as a “best-in-class” provider is our ability to fit into our clients’ existing project management methodologies and software development lifecycle (SDLC) processes.  This means that if one of our clients wants to execute our implementation by using the Waterfall methodology, then we will do it. On the other hand, if the client is Agile and uses Scrum, then we will adapt our implementation to fit within the Scrum pattern (i.e. sprints, backlogs, ceremonies).

In regards to internal projects like new product development, AxiomSL is looking at Scrum as the pattern to deliver these new products more efficiently.  Since these projects would be executed in-house, the organization will have more control as to the type of methodology used.  In the past, more traditional methods like waterfall have been utilized for internal projects.  The results suffer due to the lack of ability to adjust and improve on the fly.  We are hoping to mitigate these challenges with Scrum moving forward.


What other things have you and your company put in place to make sure Scrum is implemented successfully?

We are in the process of organizing an internal Scrum training for product owners and our development teams.  The main reason for doing this is to raise awareness about Scrum and its benefits.

As a project manager we use a lot of different methodologies, why do you think Scrum is most suitable for your type of projects?

As I mentioned above, AxiomSL harnesses the power of flexibility when accommodating to our clients’ existing project management methodologies.  If Scrum is most suitable to the client, we will need to ensure we have trained resources who are ready to adapt.  This is accomplished through certifications, trainings and communicating internally with different departments in order to get the message out there about Scrum and its ability to streamline and improve the way we do business with our clients.

Connect with Jonathan Avidan:

AxiomSLAxiomSL was awarded The Asian Banker’s 2016 “Best Compliance Risk Technology Implementation of the Year” as well as “Best Implementation at a Sell-side Firm” in the 2016 Sell-side Technology Awards. In addition, AxiomSL was voted Best Reporting System Provider in the 2015 Waters Rankings and was highlighted as a ‘category leader’ by Chartis Research in its 2015 Sell-side Risk Management Technology report. The company’s work has also been recognized through a number of other accolades, including success in the Best Reporting Initiative category of the American Financial Technology Awards and in the Customer Satisfaction section of the Chartis RiskTech100 rankings.