PMI® Switzerland Chapter




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Chapter Communications Blog

PMIEF-Medair Workshop

PMI Switzerland Chapter Social Good team workshop with Medair

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Author: Ka Yi Hui, PMP

On Friday 26th October 2018, the PMI-Switzerland chapter social good team (Agata Czopek, Ph.D., PMP; Devendra Rana, PMP and Ka Yi Hui, Ph.D., PMP) held a 5-hour project management training workshop at the Medair headquarters in Ecublens, Canton Vaud.

Medair is a humanitarian organization inspired by Christian faith to relieve human suffering in some of the world’s most remote and devastated places. In 2017, Medair served more than 2.1 million people in 13 countries. The staff in the Switzerland headquarters play an essential role in facilitating and supporting the teams in the local target countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.


In 2018, they welcomed the new CEO, David Verboom, to further Medair's mission. New initiatives are rolled out to improve efficiency, impact and flexibility, so the organization can grow and better adapt to the increasingly challenging and changing contexts in which it operates. As the need for managing projects increases, that’s where we jump in and promote the best practices in project management and the activities in the PMI Switzerland chapter.

We were happy that the whole organization showed great interest in project management. The 20 participants came from different departments, from logistics to finance, marketing and human resource. We covered the project management fundamentals, like the typical project cycle, the benefit of project management and avoiding scope creep. They also took the chance to work on their internal project planning template as an exercise. The participants were engaged in the discussions and Q&A session.


Medair not only provides humanitarian aid in areas with on-going crises but they also respond to emergencies like the Tsunami in Indonesia. The staff in the HQ are always ready to travel to the field and help those in need. This dynamic nature of their work poses a unique challenge for the organization when it comes to managing the human resources in projects. Because of that, we dedicated a session in the workshop focusing on this topic.


To practice the project management principles they have learned, we played the entertaining tower game (provided freely by PMIEF), where the participants built a tower with plastic cups and bamboo sticks. With their creativity and pragmatic approach, all the teams were able to complete the task on time, with spared resources, good quality, and some laughter. After the game, we reflected on the process together, discussing different leadership styles, teamwork, communications and what makes a successful project.


Finally, we would like to thank Andrew and Artur from Medair for helping us to organize the workshop. We look forward to going back there next year!


Event Report:Managing Complexity: From Diplomacy to Science and Technology in the Human Brain Project

Authors: Chiara Nenci and Evelina Breschi

The PMI Switzerland chapter chose to celebrate the 2016 International Project Management Day with two consecutive events (in Lausanne and in Basel) dedicated to one of the most challenging venture of the last century: The Human Brain Project (HBP). We had the honour to meet Dr. Christoph Ebell, HBP Executive Director. The Human Brain Project is the world’s largest effort to understand how the human brain works and is a European Commission Future and Emerging Technologies Flagship. By bridging Neurosciences with Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in a large global scientific collaboration, the HBP aims to provide a digital reconstruction of the neuronal network, and one as faithful as possible too. In addition, the HBP pioneers the development of an international virtual research facility (HBO versus CERN).

HBP Speaker

Our journey took off with a fascinating description of how neurons communicate by “firing” electrical impulses to transmit information (scientific part), first to each other across the tremendously complex network of neuronal interactions within the brain, and then to the other organs of the body. To reproduce this, mathematical equations are built and combined in softwares simulating what Dr. Ebell defined as a “musical” circuitry happening among neurons. Following data analysis, the emerging properties of this dialogue are validated with additional laboratory experiments. This work is possible thanks to the use of supercomputer centres located in Europe, all in connection with each other. The volume of data generated is massive and the capacity to transfer them to computers and make them amenable to analysis is essential.

Beyond the philosophical aspect of who we are and how we function, “decoding the human brain”  will have a remarkable impact on the development of several biomedical domains, such as new medical treatments for brain diseases, improved medical devices such as prosthetics for limb replacement, and brain-inspired computer systems.

HBP Basel scientific content2

After the science, Dr. Ebell discussed the management aspects of such a considerable effort. To decipher the language of the human brain, as many as 117 partners in several European countries work together under the coordination of a core team based in Geneva (HBP structure). With 25 members including a scientific coordinator and a technology coordinator working closely together to capture everything that happens in the project and create the dependencies, the core team is the project management hub of the HBP and manages every aspect of it, from communicating with the partners to the building of in-house IT tools for data management and analysis. With such a big and diverse project team, effective transparent communication is the key to ensure that the project is run smoothly.

The HBP’s governance system is based on the use of democratic participation for decision making. Representatives from each participating country contribute as a sort of international parliament to the governance and liaise between the core team and the scientific institutions to agree on project’s matters and implement them, in a political scenario that Dr. Ebell described as “a Swiss style democracy with a tad of French top-down approach”. So, the project team essentially works as an international organization and the fostering of effective communication among the participants must take into account not only the different mindset of neurobiologists and IT scientists, but also the actual cultural diversity of the participating countries.

The project is divided in 6 sub-projects or platforms, such as Brain Simulation, Neurorobotics and Medical Informatics. For each platform, planning is done in 2-years cycles and products are defined for each cycle in a co-design fashion, that is, together with the potential customers. As an example of a final product out of the Neurorobotics platform, Dr.Ebell mentioned a neuromorphic computer made up of neurons-on-chip all wired, which works as a (simplified) brain and is really good at some kind of tasks!

The talk ended with the following key take-aways:

  • The non-scalability of structures and approaches that work for the management of smaller projects.
  •  Transparency is key in such a complex and large collaborative virtual network; at the same time, some level of secrecy is kept for some aspects (probably the “hottest” ones, commercially speaking) and it is of utmost importance to be clear on what can or cannot be shared.
  • Stakeholders must be constantly kept on board.
  • Bulling and power games are counter-productive and cannot be tolerated.
  • Complexity must be reduced whenever possible.
  • As the project grows, mistakes happen and, if not promptly addressed, grow as well

The format of the talk – an “informal” conversation between the event’s host (Claudia Himmeldirk in Basel and Sasha Lazarevich in Lausanne) and Dr. Ebell – was particularly appreciated by the attendees, who also enjoyed a final lottery offering the opportunity to win books on neurosciences.

Congratulations to both teams in Basel and in Lausanne for having organized such successful events!

HBP Lausanne pubblic

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Project Management  meets University Students

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Luca Gambini, PMP

On the 6th of May our PMI Switzerland Chapter Member Luca Gambini, IT Senior Manager in Sunrise AG Communications, delivered a lecture on Project Management methodologies at the “Cattolica” University of Milan, during the "Organization of Information Systems" class, directed by Prof. Vanessa Gemmo.
The aim of the lesson was to provide to the students an evidence of how Project Management techniques are used “on the field” by Project Managers, providing real life examples, success stories and common pitfalls.
For each of the main Project phases (Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, Closing) were highlighted tips, tools, deliverables, warnings and examples in order to explain to the students how the theory of Project Management is then used in real life Projects. In particular following topics were discussed with the students.
During the initiating phase is crucial to define and share the Project objectives and secure final Client and Sponsor commitment, since this is one major cause of Project failure.
Students understood also that is not possible to jump immediately on the execution, but proper and realistic Planning phase is always needed.
If the Project Plan has a “buy in” by all the main stakeholders, then executing activities can start, using proper tools and deliverable for actions, issues and risks management.
Project Manager role is then crucial in creating an atmosphere of mutual respect in the different teams: create opportunities to exchange cultural attitudes and opinions and be able to apply the main core values of the firm within the execution of the Project.
Another key point highlighted is the fact that monitoring and controlling should happen constantly during the Project and not only at the beginning or at the end, in order to take the necessary corrective actions when there are deviations .
Last, but not the least, closing phase has to be planned from the beginning, with special focus on handover activities, measurement of Client satisfaction after Project conclusion and lesson learned collection.
All the topics were treated interacting with the students that participated with many questions, not only on Project Management, but also on the daily job of a Project Manager.
During the lesson it was highlighted also the importance of the Project Management Institute (PMI) the delivers value for more than 2.9 million professionals working in nearly every country in the world through global advocacy, collaboration, education and research. As stated in PMI web site “the Project Management Institute advances careers, improves organizational success and further matures the profession of project management through its globally recognized standards, certifications, resources, tools, academic research, publications, professional development courses, and networking opportunities”.
The lesson was appreciated and very positive feedbacks were provided by both students and Professor.
Luca is having this collaboration since 2011. “Cattolica” University of Milan is one of the most important private University in Italy with 5 Campuses, 12 Faculties and about 40.000 enrolled students (here at this link the full story of the University)



How to sell your vision

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Author: Heide Stollberg

Thursday, 16 June at the HWZ in Zurich – about 35 people are gathered to hear about crowdfunding from Raphael Oberholzer, CEO of NEEO.

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Raphael talks about the crowdfunding campaign he and his team did to bring their idea from the prototype stage into production. Besides about 1.5 million dollar from crowdfunding, NEEO received lots of media attention and several awards as a start-up company or for their product design. He tells about NEEO’s history before the crowdfunding when he had the idea and how he gathered the right people to help transforming the idea into a product. How they planned for and realised the crowdfunding campaign and how they used the media to attract other investors as well. Especially, since initial investment in a manufacturing company is larger than for a software company. The basic strategy was to use Kickstarter, a platform for crowdfunding, to create the excitement about the product by having a simple value proposition and to reach at least 100000 people. Starting from building a trusted brand the goal is to build an empire.

One of the important things is in his opinion to have a clear vision. And it’s essential to get help from professionals, learn from mistakes and adapt fast. To be successful, Raphael has one simple rule: Just don’t fail! And there are several things where you could fail; here is his short list

Don’t expect riches – set your goals right

Don’t tell a long story – it needs to be short and simple, be creative in your selling approach

Don’t keep it a secret before you start the campaign – spread the word to prepare people and the media

Don’t hurry the launch – better be prepared

Be prepared to deliver – disappointment can hit back if you cannot fulfil promises

Don’t take a break after the launch – constant communication and fast responses are needed

And most importantly: be authentic. And this is how Raphael comes across. He is excited about the technology, convinced that the consumers need this product and enthusiastic about the work in his team at NEEO.

Interesting to mention: NEEO has currently 21 employees and intends to grow to about 40 by the end of 2016. Asked whether there is a project manager in the company, the answer is no. They use Scrum for the software development and have a production manager for the manufacturing, but so far no professional project manager is working for NEEO.

During the networking afterwards, discussions could be heard about the product itself but also about the campaign and this example of successfully selling a vision. I talked with some people and most often they did not know what to expect from the event description and appreciated to learn about how to sell a vision, not necessarily only for crowdfunding but also in daily life, or even got some impulses to perhaps realize their own ideas.

Thanks to the team from PMI Switzerland for organizing this event, the speaker Raphael Oberholzer for sharing his experience and all attendees for the networking.

How Can Projects Benefit from Social Media?

Event Report June 1st 2016, Basel

By: Ashutosh Arya, PMP

In the 20th century internet was born and we were surprised how the world got shrunk into a global village. Further developments and innovations happened and industries exploited this invention on a massive scale and made it affordable for human society. In 21st century ‘Social Media’ is pay back for Internet which Industries want to leverage.

The keynote agenda How Can Projects Benefit from Social Media? was demonstrated by Giulia Tonelli (Portfolio Analyst and Trainer at Roche) with her substantiating Master Thesis along with practical implementation of one of the Social Media tools being used at Roche for Project Management and communications.

Using Social Media as a collaborative tool or for Idea sharing is beneficial at times but the underlying principle remains with a trust worthy team and Management support to make it a success. Social media makes People engagement easy, less time consuming and widely accepted. Knowledge Sharing and Brain Storming can be done by setting up closed or open communities on fairly simple terms. Social media within globally distributed teams plays a vital role and contributes to Social capital. Social Media in Projects can be used for efficient time management, Task Management, Status updates or even for stakeholder management.

Content sourcing through Social Media can bring different departments together to meet a common objective for Projects or Programs. Besides these, few things remain unanswered for example multi-cultural acceptance for Social Media for Global Projects. Further challenges remain with the intended use of information floating on such platforms, Intellectual Property rights, Data Governance and policies which creates a void to adapt Social Media for Projects and communications. In contradiction, it is a democratic choice to be made by Project Team members –about what content and to which community is it appropriate to leverage and broadcast the benefits of Social Media to make it a wiser choice.

In the end Social Media connected all guests to meet each other face to face and offered a conversational platform through a fantastic Apero.

Special Thanks to Roche for sharing Infrastructure facilities and Sogeti for event sponsoring.
Thanks to Basel Chapter Even Team and volunteers to acclaim another success

Here are some impressions from the event