January 01, 2007

Delivering the Goods

While the business analyst ensures that a given project at a bank consists of the correct deliverables, the project -- or program -- manager ensures that it's delivered. And in most banks, according to experts, business analysts are tied to specific lines of business, while project managers are usually stationed in a separate project management office (PMO).

"The PMO is probably the most undervalued [role] on projects right now," BearingPoint's Claus says. "If the business analyst is not linked to the PMO, things get off track. The PMO must be the thing between technology and the business analysts," he adds.

In 2002, New York-based The Bank of New York ($91 billion in assets) set up a project management office with Sarina Pang at its helm. "PMO for infrastructure is kind of new to the industry," says Pang, VP and head of the bank's technology program management office. "I went on a road show to try to get buy-in from the various business areas as well as the technology-line areas," she adds, noting that the opinion of her office wasn't very high at first. The prospect of decreased oversight and an extra layer of management threatened many in the bank, according to Pang.

Yet much has changed since then. In the five years that have passed, the sheer number of major initiatives that the PMO has handled on budget and on time has helped prove the value of the PMO, Pang says.

"With a PMO, you have one focal point of communication," Pang says. "Every step of the way is documented." To support that objective, Bank of New York recently rolled out the Mercury Project Management tool from HP-owned Mercury (Mountain View, Calif.). The tool contains a CIO dashboard that allows senior management to view the bank's projects, including if a project is running on time and on budget, and how much manpower is devoted to each project, Pang relates. She stresses that if questions arise during the course of a project, those involved know to take them to the PMO.

Like Pang, Alvi Abuaf, managing director of global strategy and program management (GSPM) for New York-based Citigroup global operations and technology ($226.3 billion in assets), had a tough sell trying to educate his bank on the value that program management adds to the successful completion of a program. "The group that I lead was built for the purpose of merging IT and business," he describes, noting that the GSPM group was formed in mid-2005.

Four components make up Citigroup's GSPM group: strategy, program management, measurement and methods. Each member of Abuaf's staff falls under the umbrella of one of those components. The GSPM's size is variable -- the group utilizes external employees and consultants -- depending on the number of projects it is working on at any given time, which could range anywhere from two to 10, Abuaf says. At the time of the interview, there were 25 full-time employees in his group.

Abuaf is responsible for the initiation, planning and execution of enterprisewide projects, and he is charged with creating a project management discipline across the company. "We create the strategy for operations and technology for the entire enterprise, and manage strategic programs that come out if it," he explains. According to Abuaf, currently Citigroup is working to improve products and processes, and optimize operations and technology in each of its business sectors.