Presentation: Water, a pandemic, and project management: Pivoting in a Time of Crisis
Abstract: As seasoned project managers, we understand that a key skill is the ability to be flexible and responsive when our projects face obstacles and challenges. We also recognize that routine activities and expectations for a given day may be quickly overturned when a crisis occurs. These crises not only strengthen our project management skills but can also confirm that we have laid the foundation of a solid and resilient program.
As the Program Manager for the National Weather Service’s key IT system, I had the opportunity to practice project management during a crisis in March 2021. On March 9, what could have been a typical day, rapidly turned into an emergency situation. A water pipe in the building that houses the system’s primary help desk and data center burst and flooded several floors, damaging crucial equipment and placing staff at risk. I was faced with several key decision points such as (1) how to protect staff working in the flooded area, (2) how to sustain 24/7 IT operations without a functioning primary help desk, and (3) how to quickly restore service.
During my presentation, you will learn how I addressed these critical decisions such as quickly shifting operations to the backup facilities and permanently relocating the primary help desk within just 63 days. All of this occurred in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, adding layers of complexity to the process. This crisis case study will highlight principles in establishing project resilience, making rapid yet effective decisions, and staying flexible in times of crisis that can be applied to any projects impacted by an emergency.
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Biography: Ronla Henry-Reeves is the program manager for the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS) within National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Weather Service (NWS). AWIPS is the cornerstone system used by NWS’ forecasters to ingest, analyze, forecast and disseminate operational weather data, including time-sensitive, high-impact warnings to protect life and property. As the program manager, Ronla is responsible for the program’s strategic direction as well as the entire life cycle of this IT system.