UMD Project Management Symposium Draws Experts from Industry, Academe

The University of Maryland’s (UMD) annual Project Management Symposium stands as the Washington-Baltimore region’s leading event uniting academics and project management professionals of all career levels under one roof.

Hosted by UMD’s Project Management Center for Excellence, this two-day conference draws nearly 200 project management experts to the university’s campus in College Park, Md. Each participant enjoys a unique opportunity to personalize his or her event experience by choosing from nearly 50 sessions across including case studies, best practices, and research results that touch on topic areas such as risk and big data, people in projects, agile and IT, construction, and federal programs.

In addition to the breakout sessions, each symposium features highly anticipated keynote presentations and networking events, during which attendees are invited to ask questions of some of the biggest names in project management. Past keynotes have included NASA Chief Knowledge Officer Ed Hoffman, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Karen Durham-Aguilera, Clark Construction Group Vice President Chip Hastie, International Institute for Learning’s Harold Kerzner, Learning, Inc.’s Gregory Balestrero, and the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s Karen Richey.

“Each year, our symposium serves as the premier opportunity for area project managers to learn from and network with each other – as well as project managers from across the globe,” John H. Cable, Director of the Project Management Center for Excellence. “Our proximity to the nation’s capital and the collaborative expertise of our featured speakers and attendees allow us to delve into a multitude of project management topics impacting a wide range of industries and professions.”

A common theme that runs through each symposium is that of project management’s rapid evolution in the 21st century.

“For more than four decades, we relied solely upon time and cost as the only two metrics needed to manage a project,” said Kerzner, a 2015 symposium keynote. “We knew that time and cost alone could not determine the project’s health, nor were they a good indicator of project success or failure. Today, however, we are entering a new era in project management, where project information can be provided to everyone rather than just a selected few.”

“We want to move away from thinking about projects as being strictly profit-driven,” said Jocelyn Davis, President and CEO of Nelson Hart, LLC, and both a 2015 keynote and 2014 session speaker. “We want to consider organizations successful if they have profitability, if the people are sustainable, and if there is a sense of purpose.”

Recognizing how online tools and new methodologies have aided the evolution of project management, Balestrero, a 2014 keynote speaker, provided present-day examples of companies that have effectively embraced their social, environmental, economic, and ethical responsibilities.

“For all of you who do project or program teamwork, the number one stakeholder is the customer,” he said. “That’s number one, but then there are more and more stakeholders because you’re exposed through social media. Thus, you have stakeholders involved in your projects that you never knew about before.”

Among the varied session breakouts each year are featured case studies, which provide an opportunity for industry experts to share invaluable insights on the hows and whys behind project successes and failures. Past featured case studies have included “Long Beach Courthouse: Influence of Performance Based Infrastructure on the Design-Build Process,” “A Project Management Disaster: The C.W. Young Regional Reservoir Project,” and “Project Preplanning Best Practices for Educational Facilities.”

Moving forward, UMD Project Management Symposium attendees can look forward not only to learning about tried and true strategies and methodologies, but also to staying ahead of the curve in knowing what’s to come for the field.

“We now live in a world that is so complex that we work in systems of systems,” said NASA’s Hoffman, a 2015 keynote. “The information we get from others can either help us to be successful or lead us to failure… It is really important in terms of what we do that there is some connection to process and policy, I think that project management is going to focus more not only on maintaining the expertise we have in the discipline, but also, how do people get that information, how do people adapt, and so forth.”