Project Managers Describe Ways That Challenges Were Navigated

Dr. James Szot

Dr. James Szot

The value and complexity of robust project management was illustrated through a series of presentations at the 8th Annual UT Dallas Project Management Symposium held at the Naveen Jindal School of Management last month.

The Jindal School’s graduate program in project management sponsored the Aug. 14-15 conference in cooperation with the Dallas chapter of the Project Management Institute and PM World Journal.

“Every year our attendance grows, and this year was no exception,” said Dr. James Szot, director of the Jindal School’s project management program. “Once again, many in attendance told me we had great keynotes, interesting and relevant track presentations, and they were looking forward to coming back next year.”

Among the presentations to more than 400 attendees were those on the City of Frisco’s public-private partnerships with numerous high-visibility sports teams, Southwest Airlines’ continued growth and the Texas Department of Public Safety’s creation of an enterprise project management office.

City of Frisco

Ron Patterson

Ron Patterson

Frisco continues its track record in establishing public-private partnerships that offer both tax benefits and leasing and operating opportunities to businesses, particularly sports-related firms that complement the city’s young “sports-centric population,” said Ron Patterson BS’88, Frisco’s assistant city manager and an alumnus of the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences.

The partnerships also meet the needs of Frisco’s residents, Patterson said, by providing world-class facilities for schools, youth teams and others, as well as attracting nearby retail, office and mixed-use developments.

In its latest project, Frisco is partnering with the Dallas Cowboys to build a 91-acre, mixed-use development scheduled to open in 2016 that will include a multiuse event center, high school sports facility, and Cowboys practice and headquarters facility. The partnership gives the city ownership of the facility and allows its use for graduation, school sports, concerts and community events, while the Cowboys lease and operate it, paying those costs. All parties contribute to the total construction cost.

“We define the public’s need and work together with the Frisco Independent School District, the Frisco Community Development Corporation and the Frisco Economic Development Corporation to look for a good partner to bring to the table,” Patterson said. “You have to offer benefits to get partners, such as tax exemptions, a long-term lease and an attractive population base. Once you bring in partners like the Dallas Cowboys, the Dallas Stars and the Frisco RoughRiders, the relationships that come out of those partnerships are incredible.”

Such partnerships take years of planning, Patterson said. Frisco has helped build a practice arena for the Dallas Stars hockey team, a field for minor-league baseball team the Frisco RoughRiders and a soccer stadium for FC Dallas. The soccer facility also serves as a football stadium for the NCAA Division I national championship. The community shares and uses all the facilities.

“There are always lots of moving parts, lots of people whom you have to project-manage and keep happy,” Patterson said. “It’s a juggling act and complex, and requires an incredible amount of coordination.”

Southwest Airlines

David Harvey

David Harvey

Established in 1971, Southwest Airlines continues to be an innovative force in the industry, according to David Harvey, the airline’s senior director of network planning and performance.

Harvey said Southwest has fared better than its competitors in several ways: It has always turned a profit, has never charged baggage fees, never had layoffs and has never gone bankrupt.

With repeal of the Wright Amendment flight restrictions on Oct. 13, Southwest will add nonstop service from Dallas to 15 new destinations. Southwest also recently added service to Mexico and parts of the Caribbean from Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport.

“As Southwest has grown, there has been the need for much more cross-functional, integrated planning, now across 25 departments,” Harvey said. “Our level of planning has ramped up and gone through a significant transformation.”

Additional project management goals include coordinating and completing a new sophisticated reservation system, integrating Southwest’s recent purchase of AirTran Airways into its system and modernizing its aircraft fleet.

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)

Amanda Arriaga

Amanda Arriaga

Department of Public Safety presenters said projects within the organization’s system were difficult to track because standards and methodologies differed from division to division. As a result in 2011, the department created a new “enterprise project management office.”

Working in the new office was challenging and often required change management skills, Amanda Arriaga and Jessica Iselt said. Arriaga is chief administrative officer at DPS, overseeing human resources, facilities, procurement and contracts, and enterprise projects. Iselt is deputy assistant director for policy and planning, overseeing the delivery of enterprise projects and agency procurements.

Jessica Iselt

Jessica Iselt

“It was all about planning, organizing and following a process,” Arriaga said. “We needed a formal structure.”

The new enterprise office made an assessment of the situation and set out to make improvements. It recruited individuals from 12 divisions and taught them project-management skills. It created a charter, standard reporting procedures and forms, and a required process for every DPS project.

Three years later, the DPS has seen increased project successes, better visibility of projects and improved quality planning, Arriaga said.

“Although there were challenges, we have seen great success with the new processes and standards established by the enterprise project management office,” she said. “We need to be good stewards of state money, and we believe these new changes are enhancing our ability to do just that.”

This story was reported and written by freelance contributor Donna Steph Rian.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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