Cultiv8 Employee Series: Joanne Wilkinson

Meet Jo, our PMO Portfolio Manager. In our latest Cultiv8 interview, Continent 8’s HR Manager Jordan Holmes chats to Jo about her busy role, examples of projects undertaken by the team, and how they successfully manage the company’s aggressive global expansion plans.

Can you tell us a little more about your role as PMO Portfolio Manager at Continent 8 technologies?

My key responsibility is the execution and delivery of the overall Continent 8 project portfolio. The PMO brings structure to all projects and creates a level of coordination and consistency that is difficult to achieve on an ad-hoc programme or project management basis.

Can you outline some of the different projects that you and your team work on?

We work on a wide range of projects both within Continent 8 and for our customers, and we do this in markets around the world. This includes the installation of new customer services and the building of new, and expanding of existing, data centres owned by Continent 8. For example, we are currently expanding our Atlantic City site with a Modular Data Centre, increasing capacity by 30%. We do the same with our co-location partners and also manage the implementation of and upgrades to internal systems. We oversee the deployment of Public Cloud environments at our 85+ sites and locations and manage network upgrades for both capacity and hardware. With Continent 8 working to such an aggressive expansion plan, the PMO team is kept incredibly busy.

How did you become PMO at Continent 8? How has the role changed since you joined?

I joined Continent 8 in 2018 within a team of four PMs. The team has grown significantly over the last four years and is now a team of ten. Due to this growth and expansion, it soon became apparent that there was a strong need to establish a PMO to centralise, ensure consistent delivery and provide transparency on the Project Portfolio across the organisation. This has brought improvements in collaboration across the team, sharing knowledge and lessons learnt.

PMOs have different stages of maturity as they become more efficient and transition from being reactive to proactive. Now Continent 8’s PMO is established, we need to continually assess our maturity and the level of services we offer to the business, as well as identify gaps and implement these PMO services as required.

Can you talk through some of the challenges faced when launching a new site?

One of our key challenges is we sometimes need to deliver to aggressive timelines which can be driven by customers, legislation changes or key sporting events. Also, as most tech companies are experiencing at the moment, globally there are issues with the hardware supply chain which can make milestones difficult to achieve. That being said, we have built our reputation on our first-to-market approach and ability to deliver projects on time; this is what makes us the managed hosting, connectivity, cloud and security partner of choice for businesses working in the global online gambling industry.

Do the challenges differ from region to region (US, EU, LatAm, etc)? How does the PMO team overcome these challenges? Can you share any examples?

We have been through a massive period of growth during a time when everyone had to pull together and adapt to a completely different way of working and we have continued to successfully deliver a number of significant programs of work during this time.

Being a global team, we cover implementations across the world. This presents many different challenges, from different time zones, different languages and varying lead times which all need to be factored into the schedule. Sometimes we need to think outside of the box and find creative solutions to these challenges.

The commissioning of the Phase 2 build of our Data Centre in Atlantic City is a great example of this. We were scheduled to complete testing and commissioning in March 2020 where normally several staff members would attend the site to undertake this work. Instead, we went into global lockdown and contingency plans had to be put in place.

These involved setting up several cameras around the data centre where all work undertaken could be closely monitored remotely alongside a continual video call for a week in local time with additional controls and checkpoints to mitigate the risks involved.

We have recently deployed at a site in Lima, Peru, where our approach was to fly an engineer to site to undertake the implementation. By having a team member on the ground, we could more easily address any challenges or issues that arose and dealt with them without delay. This helped significantly to ensure the project was completed ahead of the customer go live date.

Continent 8 has made clear its ambitious plans for the US market. What role are you and your team playing in this?

Our team plays a significant part in deploying these plans. Initially, the PMO needs to understand the business strategy and associated target dates and priorities. We then work with the delivery teams on the programmes and projects to prioritise and allocate resources. The PMO team is then responsible for managing and tracking the delivery with the cross-functional delivery team(s). Continent 8 is already live in 24 US states with many more to come online throughout the year, so the US market is a key focus for us right now.

Any final thoughts?

Whilst my role can be demanding and challenging at times – it is extremely rewarding, full of variety and I really enjoy working with a great team at Continent 8.

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