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Community of practice helps project managers learn from their peers

An IT project manager at Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences (RBHS) might face the very same problems that a colleague at Rutgers University–Camden already spent many months solving, but if they didn’t happen to know each other beforehand, there was no good way for them to connect with one another.

There is now.

The Rutgers Project Management Community of Practice, which held its second quarterly meeting in early February, aims to draw project managers from every corner of the university and help them learn from one another.

Members can share hard-won lessons so others needn’t reinvent the wheel, or they can ask colleagues for proven solutions to their own challenges.

If all goes according to plan, each member will become more productive, and the approach to project management will be more consistent across the entire university.

“The quarterly meetings will focus on the most requested project management topics. They will also bring people together in conversation and let them form the sort of organic bonds that keep them sharing information and working together between meetings,” said Stephanie Reed, a founding co-chair of the group.

“The community has grown from an idea to more than 75 members in less than a year, and we hope it keeps expanding as word gets out,” said Reed, who is also the director of communications for Rutgers Finance and Administration. “We’re open to anyone, even people who work on IT projects but aren’t in any IT unit.”

As the community grows in size, it should also grow in scope. The development plan devised by its founders includes certification from the New Jersey chapter of the Project Management Institute, cooperation with other PMI-certified groups, presentations from thought leaders across the world of project management and, in the near future, real-time collaboration on the group’s website.

“It’s an eclectic group,” said co-founder Frances Haies, assistant director of Office of Information Technology project management. “Some are new to project management. Others are senior executives who have been managing projects for years and now manage entire portfolios of projects. Everyone has different experiences, and we want to provide a forum that lets them share those experiences in ways that help others.”

Reed and Haies devised and launched the community of practice at the behest of the IT Leadership Council’s Project Management Committee. They researched how such groups operated at other organizations, but the plan they devised was unique to Rutgers, and it will continue to evolve.

“We surveyed a wide swath of our IT community, and then we did a retreat with dozens of responders to see what project managers they thought would be most helpful,” Haies said. “We plan to have future retreats, evaluate our progress, and see how we can tweak things to make them better.”

The next quarterly meeting of the Rutgers Project Management Community of Practice will take place in May. The exact time, date, topic and location remain to be determined. Check out the group’s website for updates.

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