MGM Mirage seeks to expand IT project management office

By Meridith Levinson, CIO.com |  Business, project management

Two years ago, Myrna Soto established an IT project management office at MGM Mirage, the US$7.7 billion casino entertainment company. Now Soto, who is the chief information security officer (CISO) and vice president of IT governance, wants to expand the IT project management office into an enterprise project management office that would oversee all manner of projects -- not just IT projects -- for the company.

According to a study of the effectiveness of PMOs conducted by Business Information Architects, a Toronto-based consulting firm, enterprise project management offices are more effective than departmental PMOs because they're more likely to earn executive support and because projects approved through an enterprise PMO are more likely to be aligned with corporate strategy and business goals.

Soto says her goal has always been to expand the IT PMO into an enterprise PMO and to have all projects and portfolios "of a certain significance or certain amount of capital" funneled through the enterprise PMO because she believes all corporate projects can benefit from the discipline of a project management framework and methodology.

"Any organization that is making significant investments is in need of watching and monitoring their investments to make sure they're getting the right return and utilizing their resources as best they can," she says.

And MGM Mirage certainly has one big investment portfolio. The IT project management office currently oversees some 230 projects valued between $90 and $100 million. Meanwhile, the company is in the process of building CityCenter, an $8 billion complex that will feature hotels, condominiums, a casino, a conference center and retail space.

Soto is well-positioned to advance the cause of the enterprise project management office at MGM Mirage. She created an enterprise project management office at two previous employers, Broadspire and a division of American Express, and she says that the IT project management office she established at MGM Mirage has received a positive response from functional executives in marketing, corporate strategy and development.

"They had noticed significant changes in the IT organization as far as how we were using different tools and the PMO framework to articulate global priorities and engage with stakeholders," says Soto. "They recognized that they had, for the size of their organization, a pretty robust portfolio of initiatives that they were having a difficult time getting their arms around. They wanted to understand how they could use a similar framework to better manage projects and resources."

She continues: "We had a number of entities reach out to us and ask to use the toolsets, which we've made available to them." (MGM Mirage uses CA's Clarity project portfolio management software.)

The effort to transform the IT PMO into an enterprise PMO isn't as far along as Soto would like it to be. She says it's only about 20 or 30 percent underway, having been sidelined by other corporate priorities, including the construction of CityCenter. But she's setting the groundwork: Soto has piqued the interest of some marketing, development and corporate strategy executives in IT's project management framework.

She hopes that those functions will pilot it in 2009. She's also sold them on Clarity. She says the groups that have used the tool see how easy it is to configure reports and to use it to communicate in real-time. The software also allows them to manage capacity and demand, accurately track capital and expense costs, and use forecasting models to green-light a new project or re-prioritize a portfolio.

What Soto still needs to figure out is how the enterprise project management office will be structured and whether it will report into the finance organization, the office of the CEO or another office inside the company. Working with others, she also has to figure out ways to adapt IT's project management practices and framework for non-IT projects.

"Our methodology and framework needs to adapt to different projects being done," says Soto. "Even in IT, managing a project is not one shoe fits all."

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