To manage shifts on a smaller scale, the PMO has implemented a detailed change process. A change-control board
evaluates any revisions to scope, budget or requirements,
and facilitates the relocation of capital as necessary.
That rigorous process helps the organization navigate
the sector’s often-tumultuous waters.
“The utility industry is really dominated by federal and
state regulation, particularly in the environment front,”
Mr. Kurmas says. “Rules are changed, they’re imple-
mented, they come at us unexpectedly, and we’re expected
to respond quickly.”
In 2008, for example, the Michigan state legislature
passed a law requiring utilities to provide at least 10 per-
cent of their energy from renewable sources by the end
of 2015. For DTE, this required a multimillion U.S. dollar
investment in wind technology—an area the company had
never worked in before.
“I can remember the chairman of the board coming to
me at that time and saying, ‘What makes you think you
have the ability to build renewable energy?’” Mr. Kurmas
says. “I said, ‘I don’t have anything to point to other than
our success in project management and our absolute trust that the process will
Using the standardized processes established by the PMO, DTE implemented
10,000 megawatts of wind energy before the regulatory deadline. By tracking the
team’s progress and making improvements throughout the project, the PMO
also helped deliver the new technology under budget.
“At every iteration of construction, we were able to lower our costs until the
point where we’re building wind farms at a rate lower than anybody else in the
state,” Mr. Kurmas says.
Last year, DTE encountered another change when it learned it needed to
reallocate capital to address distribution service reliability issues. Once again,
the PMO found the way: It helped the company respond by locating surplus
capital in an environmental project that was running under budget.
“As a direct result of the PMO’s efforts, we were able to redeploy that
capital and meet the requirements without altering our existing budgets,”
Mr. Kurmas says.
The PMO even managed to turn around the Monroe Power Plant initiative,
bringing the project across the finish line early—and saving the company over
“We’re now leading the pack of utilities that are implementing similar projects, and people are externally benchmarking us to see how we did it,” Mr.
“We have gotten to a
point where we deliver
our projects on time, on
budget, with the required
scope—and we do that
—Victor Allen, PMP