This month’s event organized by our Canadian West Coast Chapter had a special meaning for all of us. BC Hydro is the electric utility in the province of British Columbia. They have won the prestigious “PMI 2016 PMO of the Year” and ever since this has been the buzz in the community. Having them come over and present the ingredients for their success was an opportunity too good to pass and the event was sold out. The event started with a speech by Craig Killough, PMI Vice President, Organization Markets. That was a nice touch by PMI, setting up perfectly the BC Hydro speakers Ken McKenzie (MBA, P.Eng) and Neil Kelly (PMP, MBA, CPA, CA). There was a considerable number of BC Hydro team members in the audience and that helped a lot with the lessons learned from the trenches during the networking part at the end of the presentation.

Everyone has heard about BC Hydro locally; when an organization is so visible in the public eye, there is a tendency to stick with the news we hear. I remember a few years ago about an article in one of the local newspapers; the reporter marveled at the number of “managers” employed, making the point a company with 2/3 managers and only 1/3 workers could not function properly. Of course he could not make a distinction between “managers” and “project managers” and was just pointing to this as his reason why the news (rate hikes) about BC Hydro at the time were not good. It is highly possible the majority of the readers could not make the distinction either and believed that BC Hydro is just a bad example on how a government run organization uses a majority of “managers”, a clear recipe for disaster and costs overruns. This is a simple yet powerful example why it is our duty to educate the public about project management and at least I am doing my part every time I talk with anyone about this subject.

Here are the highlights of the presentation:
The numbers: BC Hydro has a mandate to deliver approximately $2.0 billion CAD in annual capital for the next 10 years; an increased focus is going to be on upgrading the aging infrastructure. It serves 95% of the province’s population and it generates 98.3% clean energy. Vancouver is ranked 4th on a list of North American cities with the lowest residential rates with Seattle being ranked 1st. There are 275 staff in their PMO and they take care of roughly 575 projects at any moment in time. Staff is organized on 3 levels based on experience and knowledge and each one takes care of their part on 5 to 10 projects at a time. The projects range between $1.0 million CAD to $1.0 billion CAD. These are for sure impressive numbers for any organization.

Milestones: BC Hydro established their PMO in 2007. Three years later (in 2010) they did an audit to see where they sit from an OPM3 point of view and the result was 5%. Another six years later they did a second audit with the same auditor (Feb 2016) and the result was an incredible 91%! It was suggested that such a result calls for an application for the “PMI 2016 PMO of the Year”. They applied in April, were shortlisted in July (3 organizations in total), PMI did a thorough visit in September (videos, interviews, photos, etc) and the official announcement came out in November.

The journey: one of the important things they did was to align generation, transmission and distribution under the same PMO. They also integrated gradually SAP ECC/PS (2010), Primavera P6 (2011) and PPM Workspace (2012). The development of their people was not forgotten and some of the ways this is done are:
– 60 lunch and learns per year
– 80 specific interest groups
– weekly communication send outs
– 2 annual internal conferences
– online PPM practices training

A selection of key ingredients used along the way is:
01. Strong executive sponsorship
02. One central PMO
03. A standard project lifecycle
04. Well established governance
05. PMO as a long term investment
06. Project delivery methodology needs to be scalable
07. PM and industry standards should be the foundation but the PMO should be tailored to company needs
08. Reporting on project performance to senior executives should be regular and standardized
09. Change management is important and large scale change cam take years
10. Establishing a feedback loop is important in order to identify opportunities for improvement

A Project lifecycle that works for BC Hydro looks like this:
– Initiation
– Needs
– Conceptual design
– Feasibility design
– Preliminary design
– Regulatory approvals
– Detailed design
– Procurement
– Construction
– Commissioning and Acceptance
– Completion

Hope you find this summary informative and interesting!

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