The Role of Project Management in a Successful Organization


The Role of Project Management in a Successful Organization

• Mr Craig Perue – President and Chairman, PMI Jamaica Chapter
• Other members of the Jamaica Chapter Executive
• Dr Phillip Brown, Group Director of Human Resource Training & Service Standards at Sandals Resorts International
• Members of the Jamaica Chapter
• Ladies and gentlemen, all:

… a very special good evening to you. Thank you for the warm welcome and for the invitation to share with you at your monthly meeting.

Let me begin by congratulating you on the formation of the Jamaica Chapter of the Project Management Institute; and on the 15th anniversary of your organisation. These achievements, in addition to your membership of over 200 persons including some 100 certified Project Management professionals, speaks volume to the growing importance and relevance of your work here in Jamaica.

More and more, organisations such as the one that I lead have come to understand and appreciate the value of project management; and the need to rely on the services of Project Officers to effectively and efficiently execute and implement projects.

I am pleased that all the members of the project management team at Jamaica National [Pam Thompson, Sophia Smith-Daley, Michelle Malcolm, Fitz Bernard, Chantelle Tavares, Karen Smythe-Witter, Wilbert Lyn and Stacey Jureidini] are certified project officers and they are members of your institute.

Through their work we have been able to undertake large scale projects of local, regional and international significance, and have been able to successfully manage and deliver them for the benefit of our members and customers.

Their success has not only been recognised internally but also through your Project Management Organisation of the Year Awards for 2012 and 2013.

We are particularly proud of the two projects for which they were awarded – the successful implementation of our technology centred JN Financial Services at Catherine Hall in Montego Bay; and the JNBS ISO Project which resulted in the organisation attaining ISO 9001:2008 Quality Management System certification in August 2012, and that was a first for a Jamaican organisation. Jamaica National is the first financial institution in Jamaica to become ISO certified, and since then we have been recertified in 2013.

While many elements went into the planning, execution and implementation of these two projects… one of the critical factors for their success — was the sound project management principles which were employed at every stage of the projects.

At Jamaica National, we have placed project management firmly at the centre of our operations. And, over time, the Project Management philosophy has permeated the entire organisation so that, on a day-to-day basis, and for major and even minor projects, there are some basic elements of project management that is applied to activities being undertaken across the organisation.

This focus on the value of project management is seen from the perspective that Jamaica National itself is one continuous project, with multiple facets, and multiple layers for implementation.

As an organisation, we emerged from rural Jamaica some 140 years ago, as persons in Westmoreland and St James gathered in their respective parishes to devise a system to help persons, many of whom had come out of slavery some three decades earlier …to find an economic base on which they could build a livelihood and support their families.

One can imagine that back in those days in 1874, the then Planter’s Bank of Jamaica and the Colonial Bank, would not have been too ready provide financing for the newly freed Jamaicans.

In fact we left slavery with absolutely nothing, and it was only through the building society movement entities such as Jamaica National, that we were able to pool resources to finance persons to acquire homes, many of which went on to be the basis on which businesses were started.

The Westmoreland and St James Benefit Building Societies merged with other small rural building societies that shared a similar vision, to create Jamaica National Building society which today is multi-national financial organisation. Within the Jamaica National Group you will find approximately 33 companies. Its capital on a consolidated basis is around $24 billion and its assets are well over $100 billion.

We operate in complex environments in Jamaica and in advanced country markets such as the United States, Canada, the UK, the Cayman islands, and we have ventured as far away as the West African Coast and the Philippines through a network of agents.

Jamaica National is a complex organisation which requires day-to day careful management to handle the risks of the business that we are in, and also to chart the pathway for continued growth.

While the organisation has continuously extended its borders, the period from 1997 to present shows the greatest expansion and outward reach, but is also a period when we suffered the greatest risks where capital became more expensive; where the global economic environment changed significantly; and yet we had this organisation coming out of Jamaica that had an ambition to expand.

Over these years we have established a significant framework for growth and development, and this is evidenced by the large and diverse range of projects which have been implemented successfully within the organisation.

If you take a look down the list of banks in Jamaica… you will find that most of the organisations have head offices that are outside of Jamaica. One should not underestimate that. Those headquarters outside Jamaica bring to those organisation, and to Jamaica, tremendous expertise, direction and experience.

Here at Jamaica National, we have to fly without that benefit. We have to determine for ourselves, what we are going to do, how we are going to do it; how we are going to manage risk, and while doing all of this, deploying our members’ capital, and ensuring we get appropriate returns.

As we have shaped our development agenda for Jamaica and directed our growth strategy, we have had to rely on best practices that we have learnt from around the world. We have also had to ensure that within the organisation, we have the requisite skills to deliver on the objectives we have set for ourselves. Within that framework, we have implemented a number of initiatives, and I wanted to share with you, some of these projects.

Among these are:


1. The implementation of our core banking system, Phoenix, back in 2000, when it was customary to seek outside help to implement large projects. We did get advice from overseas, but effectively we crafted our own project management strategy to successfully implement that project.

2. We subsequently re-implementation of the Phoenix banking system, to enable us to take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead of us as we begin to reshape the organization into becoming a commercial bank. And again in all instances we had to apply the principles that govern effective project implementation: ensuring that a steering committee is put in place; ensuring that we have clearly outlined policies and procedures put in place for the projects; making sure that we have an effective reporting system; making sure that we use all the appropriate tools that are at our disposal.

3. The project management principles remain the same in terms of identifying the resources, determining the dependences, setting forward a pathway for execution, carefully monitoring, reporting, and constantly evaluating risk.

4. The implementation of Phoenix back in 2000 and its reimplementation this year were a tremendous success. And if I go back to the 2000 era, at that time most IT projects in Jamaica actually failed.

5. That was the kind of experience we were going into. Jamaica invested a significant amount of funds going into IT projects, and I will tell you that when we went on the path of implementation, for many, it was simply signing the contract with Phoenix; listening to the vendor’s timetable for implementation, which I recall was six months; and then getting on with it.

We decided to take a different path, which was the path of carefully crafting a project plan. The project plan extended implementation from six months to eighteen months, as almost a year was spent simply designing the project, making sure the risks were carefully covered, looking at other experiences from as far away as South Africa, to ensure that the project risks were controlled.

What I will say is that the job of carefully planning the project paid off, because once we turned on the switch, and decided to spend the money and bring in the expertise, we found that we had a very successful outcome.

There tended to be a desire in Jamaica to get on with the projects. Project management in Jamaica was seen as a waste of time, and a waste of money. You just needed to get on with the project and listen to your vendor.

What we learnt from that experience and maintained from that point onwards; except on occasions when expedience got in the way of good sense; 99 percent of the time we stick to the process. We stick to the principles that you teach and the resources that you offer here at the PMI Institute.

6. Another major project we implemented in 2000, was the creation of Jamaica’s and the Caribbean’s largest micro finance company, JN Small Business Loans Limited. What we did was to acquire a small portfolio of loans from one of the banks and we went on to build this organisation which lent to micro-businesses – persons without a lot of capital, with a high level of risk. It meant we had to pull together a network of support for the small business company. We built partnerships with Jamaica Post Corporation. We built a very sustained and meaningful partnership with the USAID, and we also worked closely with the Small Business Association of Jamaica and others to create an ecosystem which delivered micro-loans to entrepreneurs across the country.
It meant you had many moving parts. It meant there were significant risks involved. We had to put in new information technology systems. We had to hire people; find locations and raise capital overseas.

Since its formation, we are proud to say that we have created and maintained more than 94,000 jobs in Jamaica, and each year, the JN Small Business Loans Limited distributes in excess of 25,000 loans. That is a busy company with a lot of transactions taking place.

I cite the project and outcomes because prior to our being involved, micro-finance never thrived in Jamaica. Most of the entities had failed, and we are confident that it was because of the processes that went into the business, the application of the rules, and the best practices that enabled the business to have been started and been sustained over the years.

7. A third project of which we are proud was the successful development and launch of our remittance card in Jamaica in 2004, in partnership with the USAID. This card provides a convenient and cost-effective means of receiving remittance flows from overseas. What effectively happens is that once someone send funds to Jamaica to the card, you can walk to an ATM and access that cash, regardless of the time of day, or better still, you can be at the cashier’s till in a supermarket and need cash to complete a transaction when a quick phone card to New York or London, and someone sends funds to the card; you then swipe the card to purchase your goods and services.

8. What we have found globally is that the card we deploy in Jamaica is the most successful internationally, with the highest rates of utilisation of any remittance card worldwide. This is an extremely complex project in that you are moving funds across the globe, leveraging an application which was developed by our company MCS, which is called e-money, which was the first online internet based remittance application, one that did not require people to fill out forms or go to a teller and say what you were going to do with the funds. The system retains a memory of who the clients are and it is really quick.

9. Again, a complex project which involves Microsoft corporation; the team at MCS including some at Jamaica National; and again involving large amounts of money on the line; tremendous financial risk should there be failure, and again we methodically went through, establishing our project steering committees, establishing some rough charters. Today, I can’t get anything done without the project charters being put in place – it is religion now. We applied those principles, got the project up and running, delivered and it was also was deployed in the e-money application which drives our remittance business globally.

10. We have also introduced a new banking project called community banks, or JN Money Shops, which you see around Jamaica. It was simply an idea that we would find a way to provide for speedy transactions and the delivery of banking services in underserved communities by opening these small financial outlets to make them accessible to the communities. There is still the perception that banks are places where ordinary people get intimidated.

11. We had to leverage the existing JNBS infrastructure; leverage the information technology systems; create an acceptance by the regulators; and communicate what the services being offered in these stores. So again you find complex pieces. To get it done we had to deploy effective project management all along the pathway. The outlets have survived the years and thrived. Many have become flagships for the organisation including the one on Knutsford Boulevard and that at Fontana Pharmacy.

12. A fifth project in which we are heavily involved is mobile commerce, which is still in the process of being signed off by regulators. We had to work with our telecommunications partner; with JN Remittance Services; and with JNBS itself, to find a way to enable Jamaicans to use their cell phones as a means for payment. In other words your phone would deploy a wallet and you would be able to do a transaction by simply my sending funds from my wallet to yours and the transaction is carried out. One can imagine the tremendous economic boom that that would bring, if we are now able to capture all the transactions taking place across the country. One can imagine the reduction in crime if persons were able to go to the market and purchase their good simply by sending funds across wallets. This is real; user acceptance was tested; and signed off and now sits with the regulator for approval.

• Last year we also finalised our Personalised Debit Card project which allows members to select designs or to use their own images on their JN Teller 24/7 ATM cards. It may sound simple; you get a debit card and take a selfie and put that selfie on the debit card. But it is not as easy as that. First we have to get the photo taken appropriately; those photos then have to be linked with an individual and an account; we have to store that on our system and ten print it. If you think of all the moving parts involved, you begin to realise that it is not as simple as taking the photo and putting it in Facebook or Instagram. We went to basic principles, introduced a process and delivered.

• During last year, we also introduced the first deposit-taking ATMs, which read notes and make instant cash deposits updates to members’savings accounts. We are the first entity to get Jamaican currency tested and approved by an ATM manufacturer, but again it is not as simple as one would think. Again the project management rules came into play quite effectively

Ladies and gentlemen: while we are very proud of our accomplishments, we recognise that critical to the successful execution and implementation of these projects was the detailed project management processes that supported them.

As an organisation, we engage in annual and semi-annual strategic planning sessions where our leaders retreat for a few days to critically assess the performance of the organisation and ourselves. It is also the place where we identify key projects, assess the risks, devise strategies for implementation, and determine the key performance indicators which will be used to measure their success.

Over the years we have come to appreciate the value of project management as an important element of our risk management strategy. This level appreciation came as a result of the recognition that the Society previously was not optimising on some of its investments. As a result of the lessons learned, we established an Enterprise Project Management Office (ePMO) and employed qualified persons to assess and reduce the risk and increase levels of positive in the outcomes.

We now have a Chief Project Officer who reports to the General Manager, and represents the Project Management Office at Executive Committee meetings. Monthly portfolio reports are also prepared on projects which give an assessment of the progress of the projects.

The Project Management Office also dictates the documents, processes and policies that support each stage of a project’s lifecycle; and, with the provision of document templates, and a SharePoint project site template… an organizational model is developed for each project.

We have also implemented the tools and language of project management – Project Sponsor/Owner, Project Manager, Gantt Charts, Steering committees including an Executive Steering committee to which the Project Manager and Owner has to report; as well as an overall steering committee to assess and manage the implementation of projects.

This approach has served us well, and has helped to position us as a Jamaican organisation which has a global reach.

But it is not just about the business. We have used our project management skills and tools in what we call our Jamaica development agenda. Jamaica National has worked to impact on the community on a wider basis through the work of the building society itself and the JNBS Foundation, and more recently the Mutual Building Societies Foundation, which focuses on education.

Through a keen focus on properly managing, executing and implementing projects, we have touched the lives of many persons and have had a positive impact on the quality of their lives.

• One of these projects is, which is an online “crowd-funding” website that seeks to raise funds for microfinance projects, as well as provide grants for projects in Jamaica. ISupportJamaica was launched at the 2013 Jamaican Diaspora Conference in Montego Bay, and since then, several of our micro entrepreneurs have benefited from loans and grants provided through this medium, including by members of the Jamaican Diaspora, to further enhance their businesses.

• We have also established a Social Enterprise Boost Initiative (SEBI), in conjunction with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Through this programme we facilitate the growth and sustained progress of social enterprises in Jamaica, by providing the means for enterprises to transform themselves into profitable entities that can, in turn, offer economic support for individual persons, their families and communities.

• In 2011 we commenced a rural swipe card project, called Script Terminal Agent Network, in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to provide greater access to financial services for underserved communities; and to enable new entrepreneurs to conduct their business using Point of Sale terminals for simple transactions such as small business loan repayments and bill payment services. This has made a huge difference in many rural communities by bring financial services to them, rather than they having to travel great distances to access the service.

• Another successful project which we recently concluded was the five-year Mutual Building Societies Foundation Centres of Excellence programme in five rural schools, which was jointly undertaken by ourselves and the Victoria Mutual Building Society. Through this programme we have seen a significant change in the attitude and behaviour in the schools and the deep entrepreneurship drive which immersed the students in business enterprises and built skill sets associated with entrepreneurial success.

Given our experience with the use of the principles of Project Management and the successes that we have achieved, it is our firm belief that Jamaica’s under-performance and lack of successful outcomes over the last 52 years for many projects is as a result of the lack of adoption of project management principles and processes within the state sector as well as in the private sector. And I speak specifically to the opportunities that lie ahead of us if we begin to deploy project management skills in the things to come. I speak about projects such as the Logistics Hub and the enormous potential that it possesses as a site for logistics services in arts, health transportation. The future of Jamaica revolves around a transformation of our society.

It means changing laws and processes, and I would suggest that if we don’t begin to share with the government to opportunity for successful outcomes if we deploy the project management approaches then I think we are looking for another 52 years of sub-optimal economic growth.

I invite you to do the audits of some of the government projects on a periodic basis, to look at them and to see whether they are moving to expectations – whether we are moving appropriately

The governance process needs to change and the accountability needs to change if we are going to reduce the risks.

In closing, I encourage this Body to become more proactive and to enable greater levels of accountability within the island.

It is said that: Trying to manage a project without project management is like trying to play a football game without a game plan.”

In many instances, I believe that is what happens in Jamaica. I encourage you to get into the game, to be proactive and to use your skills for Jamaica’s transformation and economic development.

Thank you.
Earl Jarrett, General Manager, Jamaica National Building Society
Project Management Institute (PMI)
Monthly Meeting, Jamaica Chapter
Hotel Four Seasons
18 Ruthven Road, Kingston 10
September 9, 2014 at 5:30 p.m.

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