With our Dallas PMO Forum just around the corner I had the pleasure of speaking with our second panelist, A. Ravi Malick, Vice President of Technology at TXU Energy. We discussed the professional journey Ravi took from working financial functions, to the top IT position.
Read on for highlights from the interview including tactics for demonstrating the value your PMO brings to your organization, perspective on the role of project management, and how IT and project management are successfully integrated.
1. What was your professional journey to becoming a CIO?
I started my career in Investment Banking at The Bank of New York in the Institutional Equity department which managed pension and retirement portfolios for Fortune 500 companies, non-profits, charities, and union organizations as well as the family of BNY Hamilton mutual funds. After BNY, I transitioned to Management Consulting at PricewaterhouseCoopers where I initially spent time at the Professional Development Center in Tampa teaching the 10 to 13 week IT training course for new consultants followed by joining the ICE (Information, Communications, and Entertainment) practice. It was at PwC where I really began the technology aspect of my career, gaining a solid foundation in complex system design and development as well as management methodologies.
The foundation I gained during my years at PwC allowed me to join Extricity, a start-up B2B software company. Starting in the Professional Services group, I eventually ended up wearing multiple hats while I was there working in sales, marketing, product management, operations, and M&A. Extricity was eventually acquired by Peregrine Systems (since acquired by HP) and then spun off along with Harbinger (another B2B company Peregrine had acquired), to form Inovis (since acquired by GXS which was then acquired by OpenText). I ended my time at Extricity/Peregrine/Inovis (try and explain that on a resume or in an interview!) as Sr. Director of Global Implementation Services and joined Opsware (since acquired by HP) in a similar role.
After roughly 10 years in the technology space, I went back into the world of finance, joining a small financial services and private equity firm to run sales and marketing. The firm experienced a significant amount of growth in a short period of time, during which I became the COO and President; however, it was hit hard by the financial crisis in 2008 and was ultimately wound down and sold off. Deciding to stay in the finance industry, I took on the COO role at another financial services and investment company.
5 years later and roughly 15 years of being on the road, earning the somewhat dubious honor of platinum status with several airlines, hotels, and rental car companies I decided it was time to find a job where I could be at home and spend more time with my family. At that time, I was also interested in getting back into technology which ultimately led me to join the IT organization at TXU Energy towards the end of 2010. Interesting points about this where 1.) I had very little experience in the Utilities/Energy business and 2.) I had never been in IT. The majority of my roles up to this point had been on the “business” side of the house and while in those roles I had clients in the Utilities/Energy industry, I was pretty much a newbie to the field. Great thing for me is I love to learn and this was an opportunity to do so in a new area.
At TXU Energy, I started as the Director of Financial, Performance, and Vendor Management but within a few months, added the Customer Applications team. In 2012, I was given the opportunity to spend time at TXUE’s corporate parent, Energy Future Holdings, as the VP of IT Governance and Strategy leading the Finance, Vendor Management, PMO, and Architecture teams for the enterprise. Almost 1 year to the day of starting at EFH, I went back to TXUE in the VP of Technology/CIO role.
2. How would you describe the type of IT organization you manage (e.g. strategic, operational, innovative, combination)?
Being the #1 retail electric provider or “REP” for short, in the highly competitive electric market in Texas, we are challenged on a daily basis for market share. Our goal is to provide a superior experience and unmatched service for our customers through our products, tools, and services; this requires our company to be in a constant mind state of innovation. Whether it’s the little things making it easy for our customers to do business with us or the big things that drive differentiation and lead the market, being innovative and strategic is incredibly important. That said, we still have to make sure we keep the machine running and are providing reliable and stable solutions for our customers and employees when they need them, in other words, we have to earn the right to present ideas about new technology and solutions. . .we have to earn the right to be innovative.
My own natural tendency leans towards strategy and innovation. . .it’s what gets me up and going in the morning but I realize it can’t be the only areas on which I focus. It’s important to find the balance between forward thinking about new and cool stuff and operating the business; to consistently provide a great user experience.
3. What role do you feel project management plays in supporting IT and corporate strategy?
I feel project management is critical to empowering the success of IT and the corporate strategy. Our business is increasingly becoming more digitally oriented, expectations for the customer experience are being set by companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google - technology needs to be relevant, easy to use, and fast. Our project managers need to have a mix of both technical and business knowledge combined with strong communication skills. In addition to driving the delivery of new capabilities, functionality, or features, they are often called on to be negotiators, navigators, PR reps, and caretakers of the technology and corporate strategy.
4. How do you determine the value project management brings to an organization?
Similar to other IT organizations, we use metrics such as on time and on budget to measure project management value; however, we also measure things like project delivery satisfaction, project delivery speed to market, and production defects. While we do have specific metrics, there are other indications of value like smooth coordination across multiple departments and/or functions as well as enterprise readiness to absorb change and quickly adopt new capabilities, functionality, or features.
5. How do you integrate project management across your IT organization?
Our PMO team is part of the Delivery Office organization which also includes the Testing, Change Management, Finance, Vendor Management, and Communication teams. I believe having a single leader over this part of the organization enhances the integration of project management across the Technology organization. Furthermore, a little over 2 years ago we started our transition from waterfall to agile for our delivery methodology; part of which we implemented a co-location approach for the Agile delivery teams. The combination of organizational structure and use of Agile ensures project management integration for the future.