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Steering Success For A New Era: The Project Management Office At Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund It is time to reflect on where the science and art of project management stands as a means for navigating complex projects in the ever-changing dynamics of the global economy.

By Areej Naqshbandi

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The month of May serves as a reminder of the importance of project management skills, knowledge, and proper governance, because it is on May 14 that we celebrate International Project Management Office (PMO) Day.

It is therefore time to reflect on where the science and art of project management stands as a means for navigating complex projects in the ever-changing dynamics of the global economy.

Effective project management is the key that can unlock ambitious visions and transform them into tangible realities, whether they involve establishing new companies, overseeing existing businesses, or navigating acquisitions. Project management plays a crucial role as the foundational component of work that drives organizational growth and advancement.

Nowhere is this more evident than at the Public Investment Fund (PIF), the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, whose projects are driving the Saudi Vision 2030, a government program launched by HRH Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, to enhance economic diversification and social development in the kingdom.

In March 2015, PIF underwent a significant transformation, granting it increased autonomy and clearly defined national strategic responsibilities. This strategic realignment facilitated the rapid advancement of Saudi Arabia's economy, and positioned PIF as a crucial catalyst for realizing the objectives of the Saudi Vision 2030.

PIF PMO is recognized as an enabler in achieving PIF targets under the Saudi Vision 2030. It therefore manages a diverse portfolio of project types, each following specific engagement models tailored to meet overarching strategic objectives. This means that proper governance is at the core of our work, not just as a benchmark for excellence and project delivery, but also as a tool to enhance competitiveness and economic efficiency.

PIF PMO has been working to build a culture of excellence in Saudi Arabia. In 2023, PIF PMO hosted the first PMO Forum as part of the PIF Partners' Series, which aimed to build a project management community within PIF portfolio companies and spread awareness of the value and benefits of effective project management.

The hard work and focus on innovation are now coming to fruition. In November 2023, PIF received the PMO of the Year award in the Global Excellence Awards by the Project Management Institute KSA. Saudi Arabia has seen the rapid growth of local project management associations and chapters affiliated with international bodies, such as the US-based not-for-profit Project Management Institute, providing a platform for project management professionals to network, share knowledge, and exchange best practices.

Related: A Look At How Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 Has Spurred Entrepreneurship In The Kingdom

Our PMO utilizes a comprehensive classification framework to determine the level of support offered to each project. It diligently tracks project timelines, budgets, and scopes, adhering rigorously to internationally recognized standards and best practices.

This meticulous oversight not only ensures the successful delivery of projects, but also elevates PIF's project management maturity, positioning the organization as a leader in the field.

As part of this mission, PIF PMO is building a cadre of project managers with world-class knowledge and capabilities. Its team attends and organizes events and conferences where executives and project managers can refine their skills and learn from internationally-renowned practitioners. It is indeed an integral part of the global project management community, playing its part in driving excellence forward and ensuring the latest trends and techniques are embedded within PIF.

PIF PMO is innovating through several channels to reinforce its efficiency and foster beneficial change. These tracks include process optimization, ongoing learning initiatives and collaborative engagement with stakeholders; as well as proactive risk management, continuous improvement efforts and effective change management practices.

Adaptability is prioritized by PIF PMO through flexible adjustments, agile methodologies adoption, and dynamic resource allocation; as well as change management practices, learning from past projects, integration of new technologies, and adoption of large-scale trends.

The field of project management in Saudi Arabia has been steadily developing and gaining prominence in recent years. Investments in large-scale infrastructure projects have created significant demand for skilled project management professionals and have contributed to this growth. In addition, there has been an increase in awareness of the importance of project management practices and many organizations are adopting standardized methodologies and techniques.

There is also a worldwide need to ensure that project management offices implement the latest thinking and expertise to strategically leverage new technology.

While technology is revolutionizing project management, the essentials -i.e. the idea that project management is the practice of excellence in execution, optimizing resources to achieve enhanced outcomes– remain at the core of PIF's project management philosophy.

The drive for excellence will continue, and PIF aims to put Saudi Arabia firmly at the center of this endeavor.

Related: Saudi Arabia's Economic Transformation: Educating For A Diversified Future

Areej Naqshbandi is a Senior Director and Head of the Project Management Office in the Public Investment Fund (PIF). She is an expert in enterprise portfolio management office having worked at leading international financial, investment, retail institutions and government entities. She has a strong track record in corporate transformation, vision realization and strategy execution.

She obtained her executive MBA from HEC Paris in 2023 and has a bachelor degree in computer and information science from King Saud University. She led the establishment and implementation of six PMOs across different industries using international standards, frameworks and methodologies in addition to implementing different PMO types and engagement models. She implemented various business disciplines starting from process optimization to enterprise performance management and operational excellence.

Across her career journey, Naqshbandi managed the execution and delivery of several strategic giga and transformational programs in various disciplines ranging from institutional, core business, construction to IT projects. In addition, she established the required change management framework to achieve the organizational strategic targets.

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