Author: David Fowler, PMP
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Enterprise PMO and the future of Project Management in Global Organisations
The last event of the year took place on 8th December in Geneva. Being close to Christmas, it was a fitting theme of philanthropy, optimism and a moment to reflect on those less fortunate than us.
Don Kingsberry gave a captivating and eloquent presentation to a packed audience, sharing his extensive project management experience and at the same time giving us a compelling insight into the remarkable achievements of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Along the way, we were treated to fascinating anecdotes about Bill Gates, whom he has known for some 30 years.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the world’s largest private foundation, and bigger than the next 5 combined. Its mission and goals are based on the key driving belief that “all lives have equal value”. What makes the Foundation unique is that it is privately financed by Bill & Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett, so there is no need to raise funds and therefore has no shareholder accountability. This independence allows the foundation the freedom to take risks, to work in areas of greatest need and where it can make the greatest impact.
Global Health is one of the key focus areas. As an example, we watched a poignant video: Two decades ago, in Ethiopia, 1 in 5 children were dying before their 5th birthday. Afraid their children would die, parents waited a month or longer before naming them. Today, child mortality has been reduced by over 60% and parents are now naming their children at birth. This is one of many examples where the Foundation is making a difference.
Don shared with us some of the key moments in the history of the foundation, from its conception in 1994 through 2008 when Bill joined Melinda full-time. In 2015, the Foundation gave away $4.2 billion in grants, and employed 1,500 people. Another unique fact is that all Foundation funds are to be spent within 20 years of the death of Bill & Melinda Gates, to ensure they meet their goal of making a difference right now and in the short-term.
Enterprise PMO and Project Portfolio Management (PPM)
Don’s role at the Foundation is to establish and lead an Enterprise PMO, with the mission to ensure projects are carried out in the right way and to increase execution speed, quality and probability of success. What are the first steps in setting up an EPMO? Start by carrying out an organisational health check to get the voice of the customer and determine the pain points. We learned about the importance of building a manageable project portfolio, prioritising and categorising projects, and involving senior stakeholders to decide on the most important and strategic projects.
Not surprisingly, the Foundation selected Microsoft Project Online as its PPM tool. Why use a PPM tool? To have all data in one place, allowing for easier selection, prioritisation and sequencing of projects. The key is to keep the data simple and clean, so people can use it to make smart decisions.
To close, Don shared the Foundation’s Big Bet for the Future. “The lives of people in poor countries will improve faster in the next 15 years than at any other time in history. And their lives will improve more than anyone else's.” From what we learned about the Foundation this evening: the people, their commitment and their energy, one has the distinct feeling that this will be a winning bet.
Special thanks to Daniel Rodellar for the introduction to Don.
The event was streamed live on Facebook by Sascha Wyss.
Further reading: The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management