PMO Learning at Project:Hack

Its been two weeks since we set off for Project:Hack; looking forward to learning new things, meeting new people, and to be completely honest: revel in the air-conditioned room at the Microsoft Reactor – rather than join the collective sweat that is London at 28°C.

Created and hosted by Projecting Success, the aim of Project:Hack is to bring together the worlds of data analytics and project management. As we all know, PMOs are the kings of statistics, keeping track of budgets, benefits and deadlines. Governance and reporting are the bread and butter of the traditional PMO but are we truly getting the most use out of all that data?

Enter the tech world – data analytics and machine learning are being used in increasingly simple but ingenious ways. For example, have you ever wondered how the highlights of a Wimbledon game are compiled and ready for the immediate post-game commentary? IBM Watson (an incredible feat of computing) analyses player gestures and crowd reactions to rank the most exciting parts of the match, even recognising the sound of the ball hitting the racket to ensure the clips are cut accurately. This isn’t just on centre court, this is on all six courts, in real-time, as well as finding trends in data going back to 1877.

Back indoors, we began with an overview of the challenges from the other event sponsors, Sir Robert McAlpine as well as some more data providers: A14 Integrated Delivery Team, Oxford University Saïd Business School and, NYC Open Data. We then broke off into teams to begin tackling the problems.

Project:Hack facilitates a match that could have been made in heaven; bringing together the PMO data producers and the data analysts, a group of people who find genuine joy in statistics.  To date, both groups have been working independently, like separate cliques in the playground.  This was evident on the first morning with both groups taking facing very different perspectives of the challenge ahead.

For most people from a PMO background, the first hurdle to climb was just learning the possibilities.  As with any new subject, what the expert finds easy, looks like magic to the beginner.  The beginner and masterclasses running alongside the group work helped enormously as they introduced the tools available and how analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning could be used.

From the data analytics side, everyone was full of enthusiasm and eager to dive into the masses of data.  However, what they found very quickly, is that project data is not always complete or clean! Understanding the context of the data required input from the PMO members of the group to work out tactics and strategies to work with the available data.

By Sunday morning though we’d all shaken down together, the analysts had managed to translate some of the technical knowledge (who knew python wasn’t just a big snake?) and were using the PMO expertise to find the most important bits of data to track.

Come 3 pm, the projects were ready, and we were all eager to hear the presentations. Our group had looked at analysing site diaries, scrutinising sentiment, length, and content to help engineers on site improve the data that was being recorded. With lots of skill and perseverance (along with a little help form Projecting Success’ technical genii), we used machine learning to help grade the diaries according to the expert knowledge of our PMO master team. After a remarkably untechnical presentation and quick app demo (using a PMO favourite – trusty Excel), the team with no analytics knowledge were awarded third place!

The weekend was a resounding success, thanks to the hard work and innovation of Martin and his team at Projecting Success. It gave us a real insight, not just into the future, but into what we can achieve today!  It was truly inspirational.  We’re certainly fired up and raring to go for the next one in October. If you’re interested in the next event, book your place here.

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