Invited Speakers
PMI South Asia

Sri Lanka Vs COVID-19: The Importance of Winning an Early Battle

Prior to taking over the current role in the ministry of environment, Anil Jasinghe, MD, held the post of director general of health services. Dr. Jasinghe’s remarkable leadership in the successful control and management of the COVID-19 outbreak made him a household name in Sri Lanka.

Dr. Anil Jasinghe spoke about Sri Lanka’s experience in managing the COVID-19 outbreak, and how anticipating the crisis and planning ahead greatly helped in containing the crisis.

Sri Lanka set up a technical committee headed by the director general of health services. The committee drew up strategies, including an emergency mechanism for restricting public movement, ensuring non-essential workers stayed home, establishing mechanisms to maintain essential services, and imposing restrictions on air travel from high risk countries. Early actions such as thermal screening at ports of entry, suspension of visa on arrival, and the establishment of a quarantine center were in place by the end of January.

Sri Lanka was one of the first countries in South Asia to develop the capacity to diagnose COVID-19. The country’s strategy worked because of a historically robust healthcare system, able political leadership, evidence-based disease control strategies, targeted PCR testing, support from the army for quarantine and contact tracing, and the effective use of media to spread awareness.
● Attributes of success: strong healthcare systems, evidence-based disease control, targeted PCR testing.
● Created a safety culture to conduct successful general elections.
● Committed discipline from all stakeholders.
● Anticipated the crisis, and planned strategies and timely implementation of public health activities ensured disease control.

Next Gen: Transforming Opportunities into New Realities

Geetha Gopal is a senior program and project management professional with 14 years of experience leading large, strategic investments including AI, IT infrastructure, data centers, digital transformation and product ownership for two multinationals. She specializes in blank sheet assignments, and regional, cross-functional IT management initiatives.

 PMI Future 50 honoree Geetha Gopal shared her thoughts on what the new reality holds for next-gen leaders like her. COVID-19 has shown young professionals that even in the midst of a crisis, there could be opportunities such as increased investments in technologies creating demand for digital skills.

Project managers need to get comfortable with data, collaboration, and technology to succeed. She recommended that project managers assess their skills, and align them to the new market requirements.

Some of the other considerations for next-gen project managers include the ability to connect projects to the organization’s purpose. Meeting project goals is not sufficient; a project manager must consider a project’s impact to the organization’s business. They must also be cognizant of today’s multi-generational workforce, and know how to work with people from different generations and backgrounds. She urged young professionals to look at their seniors as mentors, and develop relationships ‘sidewards, upwards, outwards, and downwards.’
● Be cross-functional.
● Know the bigger organization purpose.
● Bridge the knowing-doing gap.
● Be willing to take up the unknown and the untried.
● Be curious, take feedback well.
● Look for mentors.
Life Crafting - Creating New Realities

Besides her responsibility at the National Education Society of Karnataka, Neeraja Ganesh is a freelance consultant who conducts training programs and workshops on leadership and behaviors. She has 25 years of experience in the IT industry, managing large teams, IT projects, operational excellence, and customer delight for large banking captives.

Drawing from her personal experiences, Neeraja Ganesh gave the audience an insight into her journey, with the intent of helping them learn from her life lessons.

After being compelled to quit her corporate role to look after her ailing mother, Ms. Ganesh decided to realign her priorities and focus on her family. She spent her free time meeting people and starting exploratory conversations to see what path she would like to pursue. During this time, Ms. Ganesh was actively looking to collaborate with likeminded people. These meetings led her to connect with a few entrepreneurs and eventually led her to a new role in the area of gender diversity.

Working in the start-up world after being in a corporate environment meant a lot of unlearning and relearning to pick up new skills. According to her, ego is the one thing that impedes learning, and hence, must be dropped.

In her session, she emphasized the importance of creating new opportunities for oneself, the need to create a network, build one’s personal brand, and follow one’s passion.
● Be clear when you set your priorities.
● Have no ego, it will hamper your learning.
● Do not underestimate the power of networking.
● Work on your personal brand.
Crossroads in Project Management: Exposed to New Realities

Md. Abdullah Al Mamoon, PMP, has more than 27 years of experiences in diversified management domains. He holds a Green Belt in Six Sigma from the Benchmark Six Sigma, India. His experience includes organizational transformation, change management, project and program management, businesstechnology strategy formulation and implementation, digital financial services, business-operations strategy, process development and re-engineering, and risk management.

Md Abdullah Al Mamoon shared his learnings while deploying a core banking solution, and how the project needed to change course to accommodate ‘new realities’ that emerged during implementation.

It was a project of strategic importance to the bank, for which it had engaged a multinational company to design the software. When Mr. Mamoon joined the bank, the project was already in its planning phase. But while the software was being deployed, the executives observed that the end-users of the solution, who are bank employees, did not even know how to use a computer. It showed inadequate stakeholder analysis. The project documents made no reference to the end-users’ level of computer skills.

When this reality came to light, Mr. Mamoon decided to engage a training company to provide the relevant skills to around 2,000 users. The on-boarding was included as a sub-project. It was leading to a project delay of around three months. However, the team fast-tracked some parts of the implementation to ensure the delay was cut short.
● Conduct feasibility study and stakeholder analysis before starting a project.
● If end-user adoption is critical for project success, include them in the feasibility study.
● Record all important details in project documents.
Weaving Dreams with Special Concrete

Prior to his current role, V. Ramachandra, PhD, was the zonal head – south (tech) at UltraTech Cements. Over the years, he has participated in multiple technology and product centric projects. He began his career as a faculty member at the Siddaganga Institute of Technology, Tumkur.

With increasing emphasis on faster and eco-friendly construction, and mass housing projects, there is a growing need for newer methods of preparing concrete.
Dr. Ramachandra showcased some of the important valueadded concretes that are being used in the housing and infrastructure sector today.

Precast concrete construction is ideal for mass housing projects. It is built in a factory and transported to the site, to be laid like matchboxes on pre-cast foundation. Foam concretes are lightweight, good for thermal conduction, flowable and pumpable, allowing for rapid construction. Aluminium formwork is convenient as it requires no plastering.

He highlighted some of the innovations in high strength concrete for infrastructure projects, such as high rise pumping concrete, pavement quality concrete for roads, early strength concrete that comes up in a matter of days, and concrete that can be used in inaccessible locations.
● Innovative solutions help achieve fast construction, without compromising on strength.
● The future of pavements is precast, prestressed concrete pavements.
● Concrete is a time-tested, versatile material.
● Newer concretes are a result of faster, eco-friendly construction, and mass housing projects.
Harnessing AI/ML: From Frenzy to Vibrant Vitality

Ruma Mukherjee is the technology leader for emerging technologies at Unisys, India. She is passionate about data analytics and has expertise in a wide range of qualitative and quantitative techniques. A data geek, innovator, and team builder, she has around 18 years of work experience in successfully building products from concept to production.

Ruma Mukherjee spoke about some of the most common challenges that organizations face in analytics projects. The insights are based on her experience of setting up an artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) center of excellence in her organization.

Quoting Gartner, she said that more than 50 percent of analytics projects in the world fail. One of the major reasons for failure is the way project teams measure output. The success metrics of such a project must not be the analytics output but the business metrics, and the reason behind this gap is a lack of alignment between technical capability and business needs.

To move from ‘chaos to harmony’, she recommends that project teams define the problem that they are trying to solve and not their assumptions of it; use structured thinking to break down the problem statement and determine the analytics methodology to be adopted; encourage out-of-thebox thinking; and identify the actions, actions, and artefacts for the project.
● Use structured learning methods to define the problem.
● Craft a problem statement that is SMART – specific, measurable, action-oriented, relevant, time-bound.
● Share actions taken by different ‘actors’, and project progress with the client to win their confidence.
● Quality in data analytics projects depends a lot on the data and how the algorithm self-learns.
Navigating Clients Digitally in a VUCA World

Sandeep Kumar is a subject matter expert in manufacturing, consumer products, retail, pharma, and logistics sectors. He has over 20 years of experience in finance, supply chain business & operations consulting, BPR, business intelligence, analytics, automation and IT strategy and execution experience across the globe and in India.

Sandeep Kumar defined the path that organizations must take for digital transformation so as to align its processes and systems to today’s highly complex and dynamic customer journey.

Digital transformation needs a three-phase approach – creating a digital strategy, finalizing a solution, and design and implementation.

The first step before setting out to implement a digital strategy is an assessment of the current stage of digital maturity. Mr. Kumar also stressed on the need to define the end stage and the value proposition.

The next stage would be to integrate the systems across the organization, including external parties in the ecosystem. In the following stages, the project team must identify areas that will benefit from automation and predictive analytics capabilities to anticipate demand early on.

He recommended four areas of assessment to ensure that a digital transformation project is successful. These are processes across the value chain, analytics-based decisionmaking, the technology ecosystem, and organization factors such as key results areas and responsibilities.
● Define the vision and mission of digital transformation.
● Create positive employee satisfaction.
● Focus on features that enforce brand promise.
● Define KPIs to assess customer experience.
● Measure ROI and business impact.
Changing Requirement & Shrinking Timelines – An Automotive Industry Trend

Shriram Patki, PMP, has over 18 years of experience in leading and managing complex multi-million dollar automotive programs with global cross-functional and crosscultural teams. His professional experience lies in product development and manufacturing in the IT and automotive industries in India and the USA.

Shriram Patki highlighted the challenges faced by the automotive industry, as it grapples with product and software complexity, new and emerging technologies, more stringent safety and regulatory compliance, increased competition from technology companies, and develop new skills. With competition growing, there is also a need for faster time-tomarket. However, rapidly changing technology has made the skill requirement within the sector unclear, as there is a need for extreme and diverse competencies that are constantly evolving.

He recommended conducting gap analysis on a regular basis. By doing this as a continuous learning process, companies can identify the required skills and deploy resources with the right skills. Rapid changes in technology and faster timeto- market require automotive companies to develop agility as a skill. Companies should also look to maximize reuse through a robust architecture to accommodate complexity. He spoke about a scaled agile framework that can leverage agile methodologies across the industry, and well thought out models and processes to help organizations develop agility faster.

Mr. Patki called on automotive companies to develop agility, flexibility, and adaptability to thrive in the years ahead.
● Deliver faster by managing skills.
● Use intelligent tools to perform skills management.
● Developmental agility helps faster turnaround.
● Agility, flexibility, and adaptability are essential.