Letter from MD, PMI India | Download a PDF version  
The PMI volunteers and officials that put the entire event together


An interview with the Conference PMO Team on what went behind the scenes


What were the biggest challenges in putting the conference together?

The conference needed continuous involvement and coordination among many stakeholders, like PMI Organization Centre, the PMI chapters and volunteers. The key was to keep the stakeholders updated on the status of the various aspects and making the most of the support they provided.


Organizing a conference of this scale with volunteers (essentially selected without a formal interview process) who have other work priorities was a major challenge. Volunteers had to do a balancing act between conference activities, and professional and personal commitments. Raising funds for the conference through sponsorship and member acquisition in tough economic times and executing the conference within the available budget was another challenge.


How did you overcome those challenges?

PMI Organization Centre, PMI Mumbai Chapter and PMI Pune-Deccan India Chapter accepted this challenge as an opportunity to extend PMI’s mission and applied all of their resources, volunteers and experience to make the conference successful. The funding and coordination with some external vendors was taken up by PMI Organization Centre.


The core team embarked on the journey with a lot of groundwork, assimilating lessons learnt from last year’s conference teams, planning and visualizing each activity. We selected active chapter volunteers, besides student volunteers from Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies to help during the event. We conducted weekly telephonic conference calls with the conference committee, team leads and key members from last year’s conference to keep the updates fl owing.


Why did you have a much smaller team as compared to last year?

An event of this scale can be executed successfully only with passionate volunteers. The size of the team did not matter; the focus was on getting the right number based upon the total span of activities to be carried out. The core team had 4-5 members, who in turn had a team of volunteers. This made the coordination easy.


The Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide—Fourth Edition states two important rules for project managers. All projects are progressively elaborated throughout the project lifecycle, and the total number of potential communication channels is n(n-1)/2 where ‘n’ represents the number of stakeholders. Hence, a team of 50 would mean 1,225 communication channels. Hence, the model adopted in this conference was to have a core PMO team with track leaders and those track leads worked with other volunteers and PMI chapters to complete the activities related with their respective tracks. The numbers were based on the estimates of the core members. Also we added members gradually at every phase, and the same members were used for multiple activities.


What were the milestones and were there any delays?

Each track had a set of major and minor milestones. The key activity milestones were selection and closing of venue and dates, technical papers, award, registrations, and gathering sponsors. Each of these had several minor milestones.


As a part of risk management, mitigation and contingency plans were in place with buffers and backups for each aspect. For example, in spite of marketing the conference through mailers, hoardings and SMS campaigns, the number of registrations was low. Then we started a phone campaign wherein each team member spoke to his/her contacts to generate registrations. This gave the required boost to registrations. Constant review of milestones achieved by the Project Management Office (PMO) team was a great help.


What were the predictable and unpredic-table changes you encountered?
The only predictable element was the conference theme and venue. Even the date of the conference was advanced by a week. Most of the people involved were not employed with the organizing committee, thus the actual control was limited. This meant continuous monitoring and follow-up with external agencies.


We employed the technique, ‘Influencing without authority’, where the organizing committee worked with several external stakeholders for their support for the conference. Strong and unambiguous policies (e.g. speaker selection policy, offline and group registration policy) also helped mitigate risks/unpredictable changes. Besides, the team had chalked out a Plan B for each of the activities planned.



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