What’s the one skill
every project manager
Flexibility. When change
or crisis occurs, a project
manager needs to be the
person who’s stable—
not the person who
What’s the best pro-
fessional advice you’ve
Saying no is a powerful
tool. You have to learn
when and how to say
no, how to justify the no
and then to stick by the
no. However, you should
always follow “no” with
“but let’s see how we
can get to yes.”
What’s your favorite
I’m a big opera buff. I
see probably 18 operas
a year. It’s an experience you don’t get from
anything else. Turandot
is my favorite—it’s a horrific story, and yet it is
beautiful in its staging.
What did project management look like at the
organization when you arrived?
The EPMO functioned as an order taker. Project management was considered to be part of
someone’s job, rather than a separate functional
discipline. Typically, an administrator or other
stakeholder would see something that was really
cool, and then come to us and say, “I want to
do that.” There was no systematic evaluation as
to whether that whiz-bang technology would
improve classroom outcomes or was even able to
How have you transformed project
I introduced a new mechanism for reviewing and
selecting initiatives, which we call origination.
My team performs an in-depth value and viability
analysis to ensure our customers’ proposed solution will be able to realize its stated benefits. The
team spends anywhere from three weeks to five
months helping stakeholders turn their requests
into something achievable.
Origination—which took 15 to 18 months
to institutionalize—whittled down the flood of
monthly requests from 30 to 40 to three or four
strategic initiatives that actually get executed.
While this is a longer process, those that have
been through it have appreciated how we are
able to assist in driving better outcomes. This has
enabled us to move to the next step: portfolio
management. Now, every request can be measured
and scored against every other project in the portfolio so we can make informed decisions about
which projects to invest in.
What types of IT projects does your team manage?
A majority of our projects are driven by compliance or legal mandates. They focus on the capture
and aggregation of data from school-based users
that can then be used to drive policy changes,
assess pedagogical effectiveness and support state
and federal reporting needs.
How does greater strategic alignment inform
The NYCDOE produces a strategic technology plan
every five years. This plan highlights programs and
investments that will harness the power of technology to benefit students, educators and communities. Through origination, all projects are assessed
against their furtherance of these strategic goals.
For projects that do not align at the outset, we work
with the sponsors to solidify their business case.
How does the fixed academic calendar affect
One of our biggest challenges is that we have
overlapping calendars with immovable dates:
the fiscal year and the school year. Therefore, all
our projects are planned using critical chain and
buffer management with one of two techniques:
structured scheduling or schedule as independent
variable. This means that scope has to be flexible
to ensure that value is realized by the people who
should be receiving the benefit.
How do you ensure the changes remain in place?
Changing project management practices is not
easy. A lot of people will change once, but then
backslide if they believe they are being burdened
with processes. To combat this problem, we’re
very big on continuous improvement and strive
to only utilize processes that make sense and are
needed. A couple team members do nothing but
project, program and portfolio reviews, so we can
identify processes that didn’t stick and whether
additional training and support are needed to
Enterprise-wide resource management—making
sure we have the right people and skill sets to execute projects. According to our original plan, this
wasn’t scheduled until year five or six, so it’s very
exciting that we’re hitting this point in the middle
of year four. PM