Keeping our project portfolio running smoothly is a vital part of our work here at Namos. So this month, we’re chatting with our Portfolio Director, the lovely Richard Lumsden, to talk all things Project Management!
Tell me about your role within Namos.
My role is Portfolio Director at Namos Solutions and I run the PMO Practice. As a group we Project Manage our Portfolio of projects, including all of our customer implementations, and provide governance and support to ensure successful outcomes for all of those. In terms of recruitment, I’m responsible for providing Project Managers and PMO resources on to all of our customer implementation projects and our internal projects too. I already have a great team on board but, in order to manage our current and growing pipeline of work, I am always on the lookout for more talented individuals.
Internally we run Oracle Cloud to manage our HR and Finance processes and we are looking to use some of the other modules too, so there are projects underway to implement those. We are also undertaking further ISO accreditation and have projects underway to gain those. My resourcing challenge is to ensure that we have the right PM and PMO resources available to manage all of our projects, both internal and external.
Can you talk me through your previous experience?
Prior to Namos I worked as a contractor, project managing several high-profile Oracle EBS implementations. That’s how I first became involved with Namos. I met Chris around 6 years ago, when he was working on a project with Expedia. Expedia urgently needed a Project Manager; Chris gave me a call and it so happened that I had just finished my previous contract. So planets aligned and we ended up successfully carrying out the User Acceptance Test and Go Live on behalf of Expedia. Prior to my contract roles, I spent 5 years at ITV, as their Head of E-Business Suite Architecture where I was responsible for all things Oracle within ITV.
I graduated from the University of St Andrews with a degree in Computational Science (long before any of the royalty went there!) and joined a consultancy in London working on financial systems. I started as a Programmer but got involved in other projects, including the implementation of the first modernised trading floor in Turkey for the Central Bank of Turkey. I worked for a year in Ankara, kitting out the 17th floor of the new Central Bank building with all the latest technology, trading desks and cabling. I also spent many years at the MAN Group, around the time that people were becoming interested in global networks. The Sugar Trading part of the group that I worked for had 33 offices globally, and I went on a bit of a world tour, visiting the different offices and implementing the technology to link them all together. My role was Global IT Manager and I racked up a fair few airmiles travelling to places such as Sydney, Singapore, Moscow, Nairobi, Dar Es Salaam and New York. It was a great experience and brought the organisation out of the dark ages of Fax and Telecom communication.
What led you to join Namos?
It was a combination of being in the right place at the right time and being excited by the opportunity that Namos presented. As I said earlier, my previous contract finished just at the time that Chris was looking to hire someone. We built a great relationship and carried out a highly successful project with Expedia. As that first Expedia project finished, it was clear that they were going to be doing a larger one based in Paris and wanted Namos to run it, based on the success of the previous one. There was a need for a project manager and Chris asked if I wanted to do it. I couldn’t resist and we went on to successfully deliver the tasks to migrate a part of the Expedia Group from some creaking legacy systems in 22 countries, on to the central Expedia platform.
Over several dinners in the La Defence Hilton in Paris, Chris explained his goals and aspirations for Namos, which were incredibly inciteful and visionary. I was excited by the potential of those plans and, when the time was right, I was invited to join up as Portfolio Director.
What do you love about working for Namos?
Two things for me. Firstly, I love the team that Chris has built over the last few years. It really does feel like an extended family. Everyone wants to contribute, and we are all there to support each other. It really feels like we are on a great trajectory, and everyone wants to be a part of the journey. I find the culture refreshing with lots of social events sprinkled throughout the year. Secondly, it’s the variety of work. In organisations I’ve worked for in the past, it’s easy to be sucked into the monotony of doing the same set of tasks every day, and there’s no variety. At Namos, there are new challenges every single day, and I mean that in a positive way. Each of our implementation projects are very different, and the customers we work with have their own ways of working. It makes for a stimulating environment and there is never a dull moment.
Talk me through the typical roles you recruit for within your team.
There are two specific roles I recruit for. Firstly, seasoned Project Managers and, in particular, Oracle Cloud Project Managers. We do continue to run on-premise upgrade projects, but what I find is that most serious Cloud Project Managers have a background in on-premise implementations already so understand all of the nuances involved in the upgrades. I look for people who are familiar with the Oracle products and know how to implement them. I look for people who are used to working with senior management teams and are happy running Steering Committees, involving C-Level customer representatives. They will also be used to working with sizeable project teams and with putting together implementation plans that are ambitious, yet achievable. I look for Project Managers who have done at least one end to end Oracle Cloud implementation. Having said that, I can be swayed by an exceptional CV.
The other set of roles I recruit for is our Project Management Office or PMO. A team who can ensure that the Project Managers are following our methodology correctly and are using the latest versions of our delivery assets. This team also needs to ensure that all of the project governance meetings take place at the right time and have the correct attendees and that minutes and actions are recorded accurately. Amongst many other things, they need to ensure that weekly reports are completed accurately and in a timely manner by the Functional Delivery teams and ensure that escalations are made at the right time to the right stakeholders. The people I look for can work with our Project Managers to support them in achieving the milestones and provide governance around our deliverables to make each and every implementation successful.
We are growing in other areas, and we have recently started to build a new Testing capability, and I have been involved in recruitment for those roles too.
What qualities would make someone a good fit for your team?
Being organised is fundamental. Candidates must be able to demonstrate that they have a structured approach to work. Without organisation and structure, it will be very difficult to follow a plan and hit any required milestones.
In saying that, the people I recruit need to be able to demonstrate flexibility and show that they can adapt to changing situations and re-organise things effectively and quickly. However well an original plan is prepared, you can never predict exactly what is going to happen next month or even next week. Take the pandemic, for example! The project plans we had in flight when lockdown occurred didn’t include any provision for it. However, I was very proud to see how our teams flexed to deal with the situation, and how our customers adapted too. All of our in-flight projects continued with barely a missed beat, and everyone adjusted swiftly to meeting and communicating in a different way. The people I bring on board should have the flexibility and adaptability to succeed in such challenging circumstances.
Which aspects of your work are you most passionate about?
Customer success and satisfaction is key. When a customer decides to make the leap to the cloud this will inevitably mean a significant amount of business change for them. Putting the new ‘shiny system’ in place for a customer is one thing. We have to be there with them every step of the way and to encourage and support them to hit the milestones for their internal deployment and adoption activities. That way they will be properly prepared to take advantage of their new system and processes. I’m passionate about making sure that our customers achieve the business gains identified at the start of the project. They may not fully understand or appreciate all of the work we do behind the scenes, but having that post go-live conversation about the process that used to take days to complete and is now finishing in minutes is music to my ears. Safely handing over the customer to our Managed Services team once they have gone live and knowing that they will continue to receive the care and attention from #TeamNamos also gives me great satisfaction and a feeling of a job well done.
One of the great measures of how successful a project has been is the feedback we get from our customers at the end of an implementation. Last year we received a record number of Oracle User Group awards, these awards are voted for by customers only, so we must be doing something right!
What does the future look like for your team?
Getting bigger and stronger – together! Our pipeline is a credit to the fantastic efforts of our Business Development team, and we have lots of exciting work lined up in the coming months. I’ll will be recruiting further to build the necessary team to service that pipeline.
As of today, we have over 20 simultaneous projects in flight and the plan is to grow that number over the next year. To support such growth, we are looking to improve the toolset that we use to manage the projects. We run Oracle Cloud internally and the plan is to utilise some of the modules that aren’t currently used to streamline our processes and to make tracking of project resources and financials much simpler. During a recent strategy away day, a number of areas for improvement were identified and I’ll be looking to roll those out in the coming months.
What advice would you give to candidates starting out in the Oracle world?
Research is key and there are many opportunities to take advantage of free training online. I can remember when Oracle was just a database company – how things have changed since then. The breadth of the Oracle product set is huge. Find something that appeals to you and aim to become an expert in it. Oracle themselves provide many ways to learn and offer lots of interesting webinars. Also look at Linkedin and join some of the Oracle-based communities on there. There is so much information out there to allow you to become a productive member of the Oracle community.
It’s a great place to be with lots going on and there’s always something new to explore. Oracle are here for the long term. If you’re looking to join Namos, the more you know about Oracle, the better placed you will be to succeed.
Join us again for next month’s instalment, when we’ll be exploring the world of Oracle Technology Applications with our Technology Practice Lead, Sid Tripathy!