We are very excited to launch our newest blog series, the “PMO Spotlight”, wherein we delve into our customer’s Project Management Office to uncover the personal histories and unique viewpoints behind the customer use case. Our inaugural contributor is Baqar Shameem of BlackRock, who recently sat down with us and shared his thoughts and experience about the ever-shifting business landscape of today’s workplace.
Global Head of PMO at BlackRock
To start off, please tell us about yourself and your role at BlackRock.
I am currently the Global Head of PMO at BlackRock and responsible for delivering business transformation initiatives, managing capital budgets and facilitating diverse cross-functional teams to achieve results. My education started with a BS & MS of Mechanical Engineering, then I expanded to include a BS in PMP, and I got my MBA at Cornell University.
I lead a global project management group that supports the technology and enterprise services organization (3000+ people strong). My role is to collaborate with the leadership in delivering strategic initiatives that impact the business value for BLK which could be around client or employee experience, etc. One of the current engagements is to lead the Agile transformation for the organization and improve our go to market strategy.
There is more to me than just business of course, in my spare time I like to play golf and I’m always looking to hit that ball a little further each time out on the course. One of my favorite course I have played was Tiger’s paw at Myrtle beach. If I hadn’t gone into the project management space I think I would have become a doctor, I enjoy helping people and the intricate complexity of the human body is fascinating to me.
What is your background experience and what brought you to a Project Management role?
With 18+ years of professional experience in the operations and project management space, I have scaled my career from a local level to a global one. I’ve done this by leveraging LEAN methodologies and project management standards to enable organizations such as BlackRock to rapidly respond to their evolving business needs and drive a culture of continuous improvement.
I have been blessed with the opportunity to work in diverse industries like Food & Beverage, Life Sciences, Aerospace and now Finance. In every one of these industries I have seen how critical project management is to deliver any business transformation. A good analogy for this I think is an orchestra, these global businesses today have so many talented individuals and teams, but it takes a good conductor to bring them all together and play the music as a cohesive unit.
Having the skills of project management also really helps me in my personal life on how I approach my finances, negotiations with my kids and even holiday planning. Our travel, though last minute, is always planned to the right amount of details.
What type of projects does your team manage?
My team is responsible for managing a diverse portfolio of projects, that include M&A integrations, technology infrastructure, digital workplace, Artificial Intelligence, Data Analytics, Real Estate, etc.
I support a pretty diverse organization, as I say to people think about from 2 ply to AI, which means we manage projects from facilities to artificial intelligence. While a program manager is deploying a $40 M Windows 10/ VDI program, then their counterpart could be building up an office in Budapest.
Typically, the projects have been in waterfall, but just recently we have made a decision to transform the organization to Agile. Going forward majority of the projects will be Agile, where it makes sense.
How long have you been using Clarizen and what was the on-boarding process like? What struggles and successes did you experience?
BlackRock started our journey with Clarizen in April of 2018, and we have been rolling it out to the entire global enterprise one business group at a time ever since then. The onboarding of the tool was a phased approach, and this of course was a deliberate decision we made in order to help drive user adoption. I feel that we have achieved great success in this approach, as we have been able to bring 10 groups onto the Clarizen One product.
These separate business groups were certainly effective in their projects individually, but what was missing was standardization onto one system. The ultimate benefit of putting them all onto Clarizen really comes from the manager’s perspective, because we can view the 10 groups’ project progress in one reporting engine and get an enterprise-wide view.
Do you have a favorite Clarizen feature? What makes it your favorite?
For me the most important feature is the dashboards.
As a leader I always need to know the pulse of the organization as it pertains to budgets, project delivery and our commitments to our customers. Having a dashboard that delivers this functionality is a great business value for me. Each project or initiative is rolled up into executive dashboards where we can gather information at any given time.
What does the future of work look like in your organization?
BlackRock was founded in 1988, during the initial phase of the tech revolution we are all experiencing, as such we are very familiar with how the pace of business is ever increasing. We are also not alone as a large and established business; in that we are currently undergoing what has been termed as a Digital Transformation. Our journey here has been driven by two key factors, employee experience and customer sentiment.
There is a greater need now for us to onboard new and various technologies constantly, this has created a demand for my teams to stay agile and innovative on how we approach their projects. So, a tool and planning process which keeps us flexible and unifies our view of resource allocation is very helpful in keeping ahead of the chaos inherent in the technology era we are all living in today
What advice do you have for your PMO peers?
Whether you are part of a business which is well established and amid their own digital transformation journey, or if you’re part of a newer organization which was born and has bloomed the technology era. I think we all have this need or maybe a better word is desire, to stay on the cutting edge. In order to do that you need to be agile and innovative in how you tackle the challenges/opportunities which the business brings to your team.
This is because modern businesses are more dynamic today, and as a result their employees are more collaborative and less prescriptive. Project Management Offices must evolve as well, to become more collaborators and change management leaders. There is an inherited benefit here though, because as technology has automated certain processes, we can spend more time and effort on the communication and change management aspects of our jobs.
The PMO needs to be adaptable and agile to the business’ needs, and it will have to be more product centric. The demand for our office will continue to grow as teams become more collaborative and interdependent, so there will be a need for leaders who can keep the teams on course.