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PMO becomes cornerstone of IT executive leadership

How important is a strong project management office to the success of an IT leader? For Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide CTO Yuri Aguiar, building a centralized PMO was the cornerstone of his efforts over the past year to leverage technology for the ad agency’s 15,000 employees.

Ogilvy was spending millions annually on technology-related projects but not getting very far, Aguiar said. “It would all go towards hardware and services and be fragmented around the globe.” A year and a half ago, the PMO was established under the auspices of the global IT operations in New York.

“We have managed to centralize every single dime of the capital. It is our biggest success story in managing spending,” he said.

Aguiar was in Boston last night to talk about transformational leadership at the Society For Information Management’s (SIM) end-of-year get together.

The power is not in the PMO, per se, Aguiar said, but in a fundamental change in how projects are funded and managed at Ogilvy. All projects are reviewed by three architects and subjected to a risk mitigation and management (dubbed RM2) metric before approval. Top priority is given to revenue-generating projects. Urgent projects trump “important” projects, and timelines run about 12 to 14 months max. Also, all project managers report directly to Aguiar. “If somebody is running one day late, he or she is knocking on my door,” he said. He also appointed a person (based outside New York) who spends roughly 50% of his time capturing the results of the projects. Success stories are then shown off on a regular basis, with “real statistic and measurements, no vaporware,” he said. If the project “can’t be seen or touched or used, it is not there.”

The project management office becomes even more critical in a tough economy. To compete on price, Ogilvy has built small production hubs in places around the world to take advantage of the lower labor costs.

I’ll be digging deeper into how the Ogilvy PMO works in an upcoming story. In the meantime, we’d like to hear from you on how you are structuring your PMOs to drive IT execution and strategy.

Coda: CIO equals “career in overdrive”

Typical of good speakers, Aguiar’s talk was peppered with multi-point lessons and catch phrases — and raw ambition proudly on display. Aguiar said he stepped into the position in January armed with four personal goals. Nobody in the organization was going to think of the CIO as a “career is over.” In his realm, CIO is going to stand for “career in overdrive.” He wanted to be “sought after” by the business to solve problems, not “hunted” down to answer why something wasn’t working He is earning the respect of his IT team by showing them he is a leader not a “middleman” in the business, and he plans to convince the business he is a partner, not a participant, in Ogilvy’s success.

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