Episode 85 – Oceaneering and the PMCoE

Episode #85
Original Air Date: 07.15.2019

38 Minutes

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Our Guest This Episode: Brian Loos and Joe Campbell

With their company mission to “Solve the Unsolvable”, Oceaneering International, Inc. manages many impressive projects, including oilfield, aerospace, entertainment, defense, and renewable energy. They operate the world's premier fleet of work class ROVs (remotely operated vehicles), and they are a frontrunner in offshore oilfield maintenance services, umbilicals, and subsea hardware.

Joe Campbell is a Sr. Project Manager, International, with Oceaneering's Subsea Project Group. With 30 years of subsea career experience in diving and ROV projects, Joe has worked on projects in Azerbaijan, Trinidad, Equatorial Guinea and Mauritania. Joe tells us about a subsea, deep-water pipeline repair operation, off the shores of West Africa, including the planning and repair process, the challenges, and the lessons learned along the way.

Brian Loos, the Director of Project Management for the Manufactured Products Division and the Director of the Project Management Center of Excellence (PMCoE), is in his 24th year at Oceaneering. After 14 years at Oceaneering Space Systems, he worked 10 years at Subsea Distribution Solutions. Listen in to hear from Brian about Oceaneering’s PMCoE, learn how they established their PMCoE, and get some advice if you’re thinking of launching your own CoE or PMO.

Favorite Quotes from Our Talk:

"...a balanced set of initiatives is important when you’re driving change. Quite often the change involves cultural change, and that can be a journey rather than a sprint."

- Brian Loos

"When they call us up, and you have a problem right now, today, that’s when we jump onboard, and we’re going to come up with a solution as soon as possible. "

- Joe Campbell

"Stakeholder and communication management are absolutely key. If you don’t understand who you’re doing the work for and how to communicate to them regularly through multiple channels, then a lot of great work can get lost."

- Brian Loos

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Hear about Oceaneering’s Project Management Center of Excellence and a deep-water pipeline repair operation, off the shores of West Africa, including the planning and repair process, the challenges, and the lessons learned along the way. 

Table of Contents

01:08 … Oceaneering
01:47 … Meet Joe
03:04 … The Pipeline Project
03:57 … “ROV”
04:22 … Pipeline Failure
05:28 … Project Stakeholders
06:53 … Project Design Process
09:26 … Project Planning Process
10:55 … Project Timeline
11:29 … Project Obstacles
12:58 … Tools and Procedures
14:26 … Mockups
15:15 … Weather Factors
16:42 … Lessons Learned
18:00 … Meet Brian
18:40 … PMCoE
19:27 … PM Role vs CoE Role
20:28 … Identifying Stakeholders
22:31 … Communication Management Plan
24:34 … CoE Support Portal
26:07 … Which Companies should have a CoE?
28:01 … Lessons Learned establishing a CoE
31:02 … New Oceaneering Projects
34:06 … Oceaneering Contact info
35:09 … Andy’s Book Reviewed
36:14 … Closing

BRIAN LOOS:  …a balanced set of initiatives is important when you’re driving change.  Quite often the change involves cultural change, and that can be a journey rather than a sprint.

NICK WALKER:  Welcome to Manage This, the podcast by project managers for project managers. So this is our time to talk about the things that matter most to you as a professional project manager.  Our guests are involved in all types of projects, big and small, but what they have in common is this, they’ve all experienced what you’ve experienced – challenges, roadblocks, and victories. We talk with the movers and shakers in the industry.  And alongside me is one with some pretty fancy moves himself, Bill Yates.

BILL YATES:  I don’t know about that.  You don’t want to see me on the dance floor.  That’s an ugly thing.  Man, I’m so excited about this podcast today.  This hits on a topic, and we’ll get into it more, but this reminds me of one of my favorite authors, Clive Cussler, so he’s written a series of books that involve underwater exploration.


BILL YATES:  And a superhero named Dirk Pitt, so we’re going to talk to a couple guys that remind me of Dirk Pitt.


NICK WALKER:  Real-life superheroes, yeah.  All right.  And their names are Brian Loos and Joe Campbell.  Oceaneering International, Incorporated, which began in the 1960s as a small regional diving company in the Gulf of Mexico, then grew to become a global provider of engineered products and services. So Oceaneering International deals with all the services associated with the lifecycle of an offshore oilfield, from drilling to decommissioning.  They operate the world’s premier fleet of work-class ROVs, or remotely operated vehicles, and they are also a frontrunner in offshore oilfield maintenance services and subsea hardware.

Meet Joe

So let’s first meet Joe Campbell, he’s the senior project manager with Oceaneering’s Subsea Project Group.  He has 30 years of subsea construction and maintenance experience in diving and ROV projects.  Joe has worked with Oceaneering for six years, working on projects in Azerbaijan, Trinidad, Equatorial Guinea, and Mauritania. 

Now, I know that Bill wants to talk with you more about the Project Management Center of Excellence. But before we get into that, let’s hear a little bit more about Oceaneering. I see that one of your company slogans on the website is “We solve the unsolvable.”  I love that. So you’ve recently been involved in a pretty complex and challenging project. A subsea deepwater pipeline repair operation off the shores of West Africa.  Was that for all intents and purposes the type of project that some people might think of as unsolvable?

JOE CAMPBELL:  Well, that’s a good question. For us it’s not unsolvable because this is something we do every day. We have the pipeline clamps that we manufacture for Oceaneering. So we have the project management group that installs them, puts them in, we manage the vessels.  We have the engineering part of it all, so this is everyday business for us.

The Pipeline Project

NICK WALKER:  So tell us a little bit about what was involved in that project.  I mean, how was the problem discovered?  What triggered that?

JOE CAMPBELL:  Well, so usually what happens is the operator will call us and tell us that they have an issue. On this particular project, the operator called us and told us that they were getting seawater in their pipeline, and that they had already sent a field vessel out there to inspect the line, and that they also had discovered a pinhole in a 10-inch pipeline about 67 kilometers away from their floating production unit.  We knew that the pipeline was in 730 meters of water.


JOE CAMPBELL:  And the outside pressure was greater than the inside pressure on the pipeline. So seawater was actually getting into the oil line.

NICK WALKER:  Oh, man.

BILL YATES:  And this is 2,400 feet, roughly, underneath the surface of the ocean.


BILL YATES:  So it’s not like you can step out there and just pick up the pipe and fix it.

JOE CAMPBELL:  No. So the only way you’re going to fix something like this is with an ROV.  You can’t put divers down there because you can only put divers to 300 meters, or a thousand feet.


BILL YATES:  And what’s an ROV?

JOE CAMPBELL:  That is a remotely operated vehicle that’s operated from the vessel.  It has two manipulator arms on it and has cameras on it so that way the operator topside can see everything that’s going on. And they kind of – they fly it around. So it’s an underwater drone is a good way to put it.

BILL YATES:  Oh, that’s a great way to visualize, yeah, underwater drone.

JOE CAMPBELL:  It’s controlled with a tether that is directly connected to the vessel.

Pipeline Failure

NICK WALKER:  So just tell me, I mean, what could be the impact of this pipeline failure if it’s not fixed right away?

JOE CAMPBELL:  Well, first of all, if you’re getting seawater in the pipeline, the operator has to shut the pipeline in immediately, so they’re going to lose production. But if they didn’t shut it in immediately, then eventually the hole is just going to get bigger. They’ll have a catastrophic failure, and the pipeline will end up breaking and getting more oil into the environment.


BILL YATES:  That sounds like a serious issue. So I imagine this is probably typical for Oceaneering, that you have a project that comes up, and it comes up red hot where, okay, there’s an issue. And we need your team here immediately.  We need you to come up with a solution.  That had to be quite a challenge for you guys.  Is this a typical project?  Is this the way you guys normally are having to respond and produce results?

JOE CAMPBELL:  Actually, it is.  That’s what we specialize in.  When they call us up, and you have a problem right now, today, that’s when we jump onboard. And we’re going to come up with a solution as soon as possible. We then get all the different groups together, come up with a plan, and go right back to the client and find a solution.

Project Stakeholders

BILL YATES:  Okay.  And so you just careened into the next question I wanted to ask you, Joe.  Getting into the customer and other stakeholders. Just like in this example off the coast of West Africa, so who are the stakeholders that are involved there?

JOE CAMPBELL:  Well, because we were working on the West Coast of Africa, in Equatorial Guinea. It’s a nationally owned oil company. So the Minister of Energy is one of the stakeholders. Of course the operator who owns the lease, they’re one of the stakeholders.  And then we have multiple business units in Oceaneering:  our pipeline clamp people, the project management and subsea tooling. As well as a third-party vessel that we had to bring in for this project, and third-party ROV operators.  So it was quite complex of all the different things that we had to bring together in a short period of time.

BILL YATES:  Multiple departments within your own company, government agencies. So I can imagine all the red tape and the clearances that you guys need to have.  Again, your company has a lot of experience with it. So I guess there’s a rich knowledge base for you guys as you’re going into projects like that. Knowing which boxes you need to check and that kind of thing.

JOE CAMPBELL:  Yes, that’s true.  We have a lot of experience doing it.  A lot of it then comes into our project management group that we’ve already got set up in place already. We have people with experience working the international side, domestic side, pipeline repairs, ROV tooling. So it’s easy for us to get everybody together and come back with a solution.

Project Design Process

BILL YATES:  Gotcha.  And so regarding that solution and kind of the design process, the planning process, you get oil from point A to point B. Now you have a leak in it.  So what were some of the factors from a design standpoint that you had to think about?

JOE CAMPBELL:  Well, before we can even get into that part of it all, once we get a call and we have to figure out what entities we want to work through. The tax requirements, customs clearances, import issues we’ve got to get through, scheduling issues, you know, what damage was done to the pipeline.  And then we can get into the fact of, okay, now we have a pipeline that’s leaking. So the client had sent out another vessel to actually do a video of the pipeline. So we had a general idea of where the leak was at.  And then that gave us the pipeline diameter. What kind of – a general idea of what kind of installation was on the pipeline. And a general idea of where it was and the water depth.


NICK WALKER:  I’ve got to ask this because it just occurred to me, you say, “We have a general idea of where this is.”.  I mean, the ocean is a big place,  so how do you identify exactly where to go with your vessels?

JOE CAMPBELL:  Well, we know where the pipeline is on bottom. So the operator sent the ROV out to fly the pipeline from where the FPSO was, out to where the subsea well is.  They already know the X and Ys of where the subsea well is, where the FPSO is, and the entire part of the pipeline.  So they just fly it.  And then when they actually found out or had a general idea where it was, and I say a “general idea,” it is because the oil will migrate underneath the installation.  So it won’t come out exactly where the leak is at.

NICK WALKER:  Yeah, yeah.

JOE CAMPBELL:  So we knew within maybe 30 or 40 feet is what we’d hoped, we hoped it didn’t migrate any farther than that.

BILL YATES:  Okay.  And I know we’ll talk more with Brian about this in terms of the Center of Excellence, but so many of these things that you’re describing, Joe, are what PMI would call “enterprise environmental factors,” things like who’s got jurisdiction.  You even mentioned taxing implications.  You know?  Who can we use, you know, whose ship can we use?  What other suppliers can we use?  And then do I have government clearance?  And whose waters?  Are these international waters?  You know, where are we?  What territory?  All these factors come into play.  Again, because of the maturity of your organization, I think you guys have a pretty robust checklist, so to speak.  So you’d know you show up with the right thing.

But back to the question that we’re all intrigued by is, okay, you show up, and you think you know, all right, the oil leak is somewhere in this 30- to 50-yard radius, but it’s, I don’t know, about a half mile below us.  What do you do next?

Project Planning Process

JOE CAMPBELL:  We get all of our groups together.  so we come up with that preliminary plan of how we’re going to attack this. We had to find out if we had the 10-inch clamp in stock.  Turns out that we did, but it was a diver clamp, so we’re going to have to make some modifications to the ROV. The client had some tooling already in country, so they had the toolings to pick the pipeline up and to take some of the coating off the pipeline.

But what happened is it wasn’t very well maintained, most of it was sitting outside.  So then we’ve got to send technicians over to take a look at all this equipment, find out what condition it’s in, how long it’s going to take to get these parts ordered, and then kind of come up with a plan after that one.  It’s the long lead items that will bite you in a project like this, and then how are we going to ship all that stuff into country?  How long is that going to take?

Once we come up with all that, and then we start making schedules for each individual group, we have to do the modifications on the pipeline. So how long is it going to take to get all those modifications done to make it ROV-friendly?  Then we’ve got to put U-hooks on the installation frames, T-handles on all the tooling, all the bolts have to be welded and made ROV-friendly.  Very specific sidesaddles on the clamp, so that way when you set it on the pipeline you can do a soft landing rather than having the diver guide it into place.

All these things take time.  We’ve got to come up with a preliminary plan and then put together long schedules for each individual group, and then we start tying them back into a master schedule, and we come up with a plan of here’s our target date of how long we think it’s going to – put everything together.  And then we start looking for our vessel, and then when can that vessel arrive.

Project Timeline

NICK WALKER:  So many projects within a project, and trying to come up with a timeline on all of that. How long did this project take?  Is it something you can identify right off the bat, okay, so we know this is going to take this amount of time?

JOE CAMPBELL:  Well, fortunately with most of the groups inside Oceaneering, we had a general idea how long it was going to take to modify the clamp, also come up with a whole plan to get things shipped in because we’ve done a little bit of business over in that part of the world.  So, yeah, it was about 110 days altogether from the time we knew about it until the project was completed.

Project Obstacles

NICK WALKER: So was it all, air quotes here, “smooth sailing” on the ocean floor? Or did you run into unexpected obstacles?  I mean, it seems like every project has something that comes up unexpected, so what about this one?

JOE CAMPBELL:  Well, very fortunately on this one we had relatively good visibility.  A lot of times when you get into an area like this, as soon as the ROV touches down you lose complete visibility.  But on this one we had a good current running through it, which is kind of a double-edged sword because if the current runs too much, the ROV can’t actually do their job.  But the current there was running about two knots, so we were able to keep the bottom so we could actually see what was going on and continue to keep working.  So really nothing really jumped up that we had any major issues on it, it was the long-lead items, getting things into the country, trying to figure out exactly where the pipeline leak was.

Once we put the pipeline lift frames down, we got the pipeline up.  And then we had to figure out where the leak was.  So we made a couple of stabs, but we put the outer coating removal tool on it, and we could only take off a certain amount of the insulation because you don’t want to expose too much of the pipeline to the cold environment, it’s there for a purpose.  So then we had to pick it up and move it again.  We ended up moving it six times before we figured out the exact location of it.

Then, after spending all this time modifying this really high-tech tool, it turns out that when we put it on the outer coating insulation, we made a couple cuts, and the insulation just fell off.  So actually it was good things that were happening to us, not bad things, and then you’ve got to look at the weather conditions during that timeframe.


Tools and Procedures

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  Yeah, Joe, I mean, I’ve got to be transparent with you guys, so one of the things that scares me to death is plumbing; okay?  And when I’m at home, if I have a home project, you know, it’s electrical, it’s carpentry, I’m okay, I’ll hack my way through that.  But if it’s plumbing, it just scares me.  I’m like, even, you know, a simple repair to a sprinkler head, so I’m like, oh, I’m going to flood the whole neighborhood, you know.  I’m going to have the world’s largest water bill next month.  I can see it happening now.

But again, you guys have the technical expertise within the organization to pull off these types of projects, that’s commendable. You know, your tagline about solving the unsolvable, so to me, I would have run away screaming from a project like this.  But one of the things I wanted to ask you guys about, I know one of your mantras is self-sufficiency, and to bring to the workspace all the possible tools that you would need, just talk a bit about that.  How does that impact the role of a PM?

JOE CAMPBELL:  First of all we do, when we’re doing – we’re modifying tools or building a clamp very specific to a project, we do complete mockups on everything, run through the whole drill topside.  Write up a good procedure and have it approved by everybody.  Make sure that we have everything covered on it, and then have backups for everything that you can think of.  Because when you go to these, especially Equatorial Guinea, you’re not going to get anything, have a backup for everything.  So it’s doing the mockup on all the equipment and then having a backup plan for everything.


BILL YATES:  Do you guys find – I’m a big fan of prototypes and mockups and walkthroughs.  You’ve probably had experiences where a solution or a path, a series of steps that you thought you would take for a project Y you felt like it was going to work, and then you go through the mockup, and the engineers go, oh, wow, didn’t realize that.  So has this proven to be a valuable process for you guys at Oceaneering?

JOE CAMPBELL:  Yes, yeah.  And all the mockups we do, then we put together the procedure and have it approved, walk through the procedure several different times to make sure not only the project team that’s going to run the project is familiar with it, the ROV operators, all the regulars topside, anybody that would be involved in it. so get everybody together, walk through the whole plan to make sure everybody understands it, and then can they punch a hole in it and find other things that maybe we missed as we were going through the process.


Weather Factors

NICK WALKER:  There’s something I’ve got to ask you, and this is kind of a selfish question, but you mentioned before about watching for weather problems.

JOE CAMPBELL:  It’s going to come up.

NICK WALKER:  Yeah, and so the more I think about it, the more I realize, okay, yeah, there’s a lot of things to think about there. Talking about off the coast of Africa, perhaps tropical weather, you know what season this was in, but how did you watch that? So what factors did you have to consider for the weather?

JOE CAMPBELL:  Well, when you’re working offshore, you’ve got to look at the wave length, and you’ve got wind coming at you because your vessel is a big wind sail offshore.  So if the wind’s blowing really hard, it makes it even harder to stay on station, you’ve got a current you’ve got to look at.  Is it like a typhoon season, or is it hurricane season?  How often do weather events come up?  All these things you have to look at because you have to somehow launch the ROV.  And then when you actually have the tools on bottom, and you’ve got to set them, you can only – you have weather parameters that are set up, that you have to live in.  And if you exceed the weather parameters, well, then you have to shut the job down and wait until the weather passes.

NICK WALKER:  And did you have to do any of that?

JOE CAMPBELL:  Fortunately, on this job, the weather was very cooperative with us, which doesn’t always happen, and so things went off very smoothly.  But another thing that we have is a heave-activated crane, so that way the crane compensates for some of the weather, the heaving of it, the crane coming up and down.

Lessons Learned

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  You know, Joe, one thing that really cracked me up as we were preparing for this conversation today was looking at the lessons learned and talking through that with you guys before, and there was one specifically that you just reminded me of.  So one of your lessons learned is purchase flexible airline tickets, and that just – that’s perfect, right?  You don’t know, I mean, okay, in this case it was 110 days, and this is how long we’ll be onsite and that kind of thing.

But you’ve got to have flexibility because you don’t know, you know, Nick cannot control the weather. He can help predict the weather, but we don’t know how long it’s going to take.  And just that amount of flexibility that you guys have to build in personally, and then also into your schedules, and to set expectations for your teams, again, that’s just another layer of complexity.  And obviously maturity in terms of the approach that you guys have taken.  So how do you find people that can be that flexible to be on your teams?

JOE CAMPBELL:  Well, where that lesson came from is that, so as we were planning the project, the vessel ended up becoming available a week early.  So I had to change everything at the last minute and try to get all my personnel, all my items shipped, everything in country, a week ahead of time.


JOE CAMPBELL:  So you have to do a lot of scrambling.  So all our offshore personnel are very used to the fact that I’m calling you up, leave your house right now, that’s part of the offshore industry.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Meet Brian

NICK WALKER:  Well, let’s bring in Brian to our conversation. So Brian Loos is the director of project management for the Manufactured Products Division, and the director of the Project Management Center of Excellence.  Brian is in his 24th year at Oceaneering, having served the first 14 years at Oceaneering Space Systems and the latter 10 years at Subsea Distribution Solutions.  As the Director of Project Management, you’ve got this Project Management Center of Excellence, and I know Bill’s chomping at the bit to find out more about this, so can you tell us, what is this?  You’ve got an acronym for it, PMCOE, the Project Management Center of Excellence.  What is that?


BRIAN LOOS:  Nick, that is a title that we chose for what may be more formally referred to as an “enterprise project management office.”  Oceaneering has several PMOs aligned with different divisions.  So the Project Management Center of Excellence is this overarching body that provides support to those subordinate PMOs, as well as some divisions that do not have a formal PMO. Our inaugural year was 2018, and now we are fully functional.  We’re finding that we’re making great progress in many areas, so the momentum we have looks to be where more funding, more authority may be coming our way, and it may be that, as we mature, that we will become more of a controlling PMO or even a directive PMO.

PM Role VS CoE Role

BILL YATES:  Got it.  And just to clarify, again, we have Joe and Brian, two different perspectives, both with different roles here at Oceaneering, and the great thing is we can ask this question of you guys. Right.  Joe’s a project manager.  He’s got the responsibility for specific projects such as the one that we just talked through. We’re curious, so what’s the interaction for someone in Joe’s role with someone in Brian’s role over on the COE side?  How does that work for Oceaneering?

BRIAN LOOS:  Well, so the Project Management Center of Excellence is a supportive PMO, and consequently we do not manage resources. That is, we do not have a pool of project managers and engineers and technicians, rather, we provide support by way of best practices, competency developments, et cetera.  We’ll get into that more later.  But our business units throughout Oceaneering, that support many industries and thousands of projects, they retain the resources to manage our projects.

Identifying Stakeholders

BILL YATES:  Got it.  Okay.  And the Center of Excellence, so you say it really spun up 2018.  But I know you guys have talked through the way that you guys have identified the stakeholders, those that you feel like you need to come along and support and help.  So talk us through how you went about that.

BRIAN LOOS:  Yes.  Our executive sponsor recognized at the very beginning, when we were launching the Project Management Center of Excellence, the need to have highly qualified and experienced representatives from each of our divisions.  So he reached out to those divisions, and we accumulated 14 experts, essentially, that are the Center of Excellence Committee, and that same sponsor communicated a sense of urgency in our first three months as we were launching the Center of Excellence.  We absolutely recognized that we needed to understand who our stakeholders were, in other words, who are in the project management community at Oceaneering.

So we made that one of our very first endeavors after our kickoff meeting and established four tiers of stakeholders that formed up this project management community.  The first tier are the executives.  The second tier are the Center of Excellence committee members.  The third tier are the project group managers, or, said another way, those are the managers of the project managers.


BRIAN LOOS:  And then the fourth tier are the project management practitioners.  That includes of course project managers, but also project coordinators, project analysts, schedulers, all of those that support projects.  So in total those four tiers brought us to clear understanding of all of the employees in the community, 600 or so at this time, which is about 7 percent of the company, and we make sure that they’re engaged.

BILL YATES:  So let me point something out to the listeners, too, I have the benefit of having a visual in front of me which we’ll make available to those who listen to the podcast. Just check out the transcript.  Oceaneering has a one-pager that shows the layout of their Project Management Center of Excellence, which is, I hate to be redundant, but it is excellent.

Communication Management Plan

And again, so one other plug, if your organization is thinking about starting a PMO, or if you have a Center of Excellence, or if you want to take it to the next level, check these guys out.  Trust me, check it out.  Even to the point of listening to, again, Brian’s point.  We started with an executive directive, and then we identified 14 SMEs, and we have all departments represented.  You know, so again, if I’m starting from scratch, I’m going to be listening carefully to this and thinking about the approach that you took.  But I really appreciate, Brian, you sharing that. Just, if you don’t mind, so talk a little bit about your communication management plan and how you guys came about that.

BRIAN LOOS:  Sure, so being an international company with an extraordinary number of facilities, cultures, and project types, it was clear to us that we needed to have a documented communication management plan. And the committee wrote that document.  So we documented our communication modes, methods, channels, the frequency, the platforms we would use which are multiple, and the roles and responsibilities of executing that communication management plan.

So one of the key aspects of it was having a brand, essentially, a clear message, and the visual or the infographic, Bill, that you mentioned a few moments ago was key to that.  We refer to it as strategic visualization.  Our Center of Excellence chose a large propeller as our physical metaphor to illustrate what the Project Management Center of Excellence is about.  So that propeller represents the project management discipline as a driving force.  And of course a lot of the work we do at Oceaneering involves vessels and remotely operated vehicles, et cetera. 

So we thought that was a good metaphor, the three blades on the propeller represent the three fundamental areas that we’re focused on. Those are best practices, competencies, and community, also these are all documented in the communication management plan, and we work to leverage that.

CoE Support Portal

BILL YATES:  Brian, let me ask you a question.  I want to get practical again, and I’ll pick on Joe again.  So let’s say Joe’s trying to work a really complex project, and it’s basic project management stuff, right?  He needs key resources, or he needs help overcoming some kind of government regulation or requirement, or simply he needs to get part A from Houston, Texas, United States to West Africa on the right vessel, and he needs help, so does he go to you?  How does the Center of Excellence come into play in that?  Or is that too tactical? So is it stuff that you guys are doing in front of that?

BRIAN LOOS:  Well, so if I might field that question, we have several initiatives that are underway, and some that are operational already.  One that relates to this is we have a Center of Excellence portal.  Now, it’s not intended to be a virtual home that’s static with information, but rather has an abundance of information, best practices that are available to anyone, over a hundred different procedures that are utilized throughout the company that can be downloaded, adopted, modified to suit the business’s needs. There are dozens of templates, and there are also a variety of dynamic information that’s made available, recorded presentations and interviews, et cetera.  So the actual project teams that are doing the real work, they have the option of going there as part of the Center of Excellence support to the organization and utilizing any of that information.

Which Companies should have a CoE?

NICK WALKER:  If I could just ask a question as an outsider here, what type of company needs a Center of Excellence?  Does everybody need one? Also is it practical for everyone?

BRIAN LOOS:  I would say that, first and foremost, companies that have an international base would probably benefit the most because of the quantity of cultures and business services and products that they provide.  A Center of Excellence might provide less of a benefit in a smaller organization or that’s homogenous. So for those types of companies, they’re probably best suited to have a singular project management office, and maybe that project management office even controls resources.  But in our mind, a Center of Excellence is a supporting function, it’s overarching, and it’s available to all worldwide.

BILL YATES:  Brian, I agree with that.  I think you’ve raised some great points, and because your organization is international, the need is greater than for others that are within one nation or even in a smaller subset than that. The other thing that strikes me, too, is you guys do work in Space.  You do work in the defense industry, so there’s a diversity of places where that propeller gets engaged.  And I know there are lessons learned that could easily be siloed and never taken advantage of within Oceaneering unless you had an organization like your PMCOE.

So I see it, too, as the more diverse the type of work that your organization does, then the greater the need for that Center of Excellence because then Joe will have his peers in different silos, if you will, in different departments that are also struggling with some of the same issues that Joe is.  They’ll share those ideas, those common struggles, if they go up the chain, they go to a central location such as the COE.  Then you guys can tackle the big problems and hopefully solve them once and make it applicable across the board.  So, yeah, I agree with that.

Lessons Learned Establishing a CoE

So let me shift just a second here and either one of you can weigh in on this. As, you know, again, you’re fairly early on in establishing the Center of Excellence, yet I see the maturity of it, and as a supportive part of the organization, so I see the clear value in that.  I’m just curious, what lessons learned or what advice would you share with others who are beginning to tackle either a PMO or a Center of Excellence at their organization?

BRIAN LOOS:  Bill, I would say there’s three in particular that come to mind.  So first of all, stakeholder and communication management are absolutely key.  If you don’t understand who you’re doing the work for and how to communicate to them regularly through multiple channels, then a lot of great work can get lost.


BRIAN LOOS:  So we are approximately 18 months into the Center of Excellence life, and with great traction, and stakeholder and communication management.  I know it sounds a bit trite, but it really is crucial.  Secondly, having a balanced set of initiatives, we are very specific with our initiatives, there are 12 of them.  They each have a short title.  They have a scope statement. And they each have a charter.  And they’re balanced in that some are short-term tactical efforts.  Sometimes we refer to them as “quick wins.”  Others are long-term strategic endeavors, much heavier and more complex, so it’s important to have both.

And they all feed up into those three fundamental areas I mentioned earlier:  community, competencies, and best practices. They also are aligned with the corporate enterprise strategic objectives, they marry up to our vision and mission statement.  It also should be noted that a balanced set of initiatives is important when you’re driving change, quite often the change involves cultural change, and that can be a journey rather than a sprint.

BILL YATES:  Well said.

BRIAN LOOS:  We’re always mindful of that.  And then, lastly, I’d like to highlight one of the main lessons or recommendations to make sure competency assessment and development is part of the focus.  At least a third of what we do by way of our time spent and energies is focused on competency, and we appreciate that it’s important to assess our project management community against a global standard; and also that, after assessing the development part, which is so important, is a healthy balance of on-the-job training, job shadowing, mentoring, special assignments, rotations, informal learning, certifications.  And Oceaneering, in fact, has utilized Velociteach in various ways, including purchasing dozens of Andy Crowe’s PMP Exam prep study guides, as well as the online material.  We’re also real keen on special job assignments, the reality is most of us learn and get better and better by way of our assignments.

New Oceaneering Projects

NICK WALKER: So is there anything you can talk about that you’re currently doing or that you have ongoing or even coming up?

JOE CAMPBELL:  Well, yeah.  I’ve bid quite a few projects to set subsea trees in Mauritania.


JOE CAMPBELL:  Let’s see.  I just finished a project, a pipeline reroute in Trinidad, so we took the diver connectors off, the manifold and the platform of the structure, and we made it a complete ROV intervention.  That was a rather interesting project, was a lot of front-end engineering that we had to do.  We had to take the pipeline out of service, actually cut the line subsea, put ROV-friendly connectors on either side of it all, and then reconnect everything.  Those are fun things that we do at Oceaneering.

BILL YATES:  Good grief.  Hmm.

JOE CAMPBELL:  In fact, I did another one when we were working in Nigeria where the rebels were blowing up the pipeline.  And so we had to go out there and build a cofferdam around the pipeline and actually cut the pipeline and put smart connectors on either side and put a new spool piece in.

BILL YATES:  Joe, how do you get somebody to show up and work for you when, you know, there’s stuff like that going on around?

JOE CAMPBELL:  Those are fun jobs, you know, but we specialize in the international side because nobody else wants to do it.  That’s exactly what we want.


NICK WALKER:  I love the fact that he says, “That’s the fun stuff.”

BILL YATES:  Exactly, yeah.  Right?

NICK WALKER:  Yeah.  I’m glad you have fun at your job.

JOE CAMPBELL:  Those are things we enjoy.

BRIAN LOOS:  Joe’s pretty fearless, which is one of the reasons why we asked him to be part of this, also the company does an extraordinary amount of work in different industries, different services and products.  And Joe has, you know, a niche that he supports now for decades and is exceptional at it.  But there are just so many other divisions in the company that provide subsea services, surveying, intervention, new products that are deployed subsea and even topside.  Entire cities, you might even say, of equipment that are laid subsea or for the purposes of processing, transporting, controlling oil and gas fields. 

And we don’t just do that, so really the essence of what Oceaneering does is provide services and products in a remote, harsh environment.  And that’s where other divisions of Oceaneering come in, such as our work supporting NASA and autonomous guided vehicles, the theme park industry where highly roboticized guided vehicles are used in what we refer to as “dark rides.”  And so these all have very different industries and clients, both commercial and government, yet there’s a common underlying theme that they’re highly engineered and highly project-managed services and products. So if you think of the Clive Cussler books, I like to imagine that as taking a .007 movie and merging it with the life at Oceaneering.  I mean, that’s much what a Clive Cussler book is.


NICK WALKER:  Someday we’re going to have to make sure that there’s a movie made with you guys as the centerpiece.

BILL YATES:  Yes, that’s right, yup. 

Oceaneering Contact Info

NICK WALKER:  I tell you what.  This has been great stuff, and before we let you go, we do want to find out, how can our listeners learn more about either the Project Management Center of Excellence or about Oceaneering in general?

BRIAN LOOS:  Well, I think of two places to go, first of all, Velociteach’s website, we look forward to seeing this podcast uploaded there, and then also you can go to Oceaneering.com.  The Project Management Center of Excellence has some information on it, but the preponderance of information on Oceaneering’s website is about our business, the services, the products.  We’re also on LinkedIn and other social media.  So thank you for that, we appreciate the chance to share our experience with you.

NICK WALKER:  Well, thank you, guys, so just as a token of our appreciation for being here with us, we’re going to send you one of these mugs.0

BILL YATES:  We’ll send two, actually, not make you fight over it.

NICK WALKER:  Yeah, one each, yeah, yeah, the Manage This coffee mug, it’s nice and big, so enjoy.  Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us.

BRIAN LOOS:  Thank you.

Andy’s Book Reviewed

NICK WALKER:  Now, Brian mentioned Andy Crowe’s book, and Bill, we have some breaking news about that.  Do-do-do-do-do-do-do.

BILL YATES:  Yes, we do.  Yeah.  And fortunately, Andy’s not in the room, so we can talk about him, and he won’t cut us off. But earlier this summer the New York Daily News ran an article entitled “Three Best PMP Prep Books.”  And they selected Andy’s book as the best, the number one.


BILL YATES:  Yeah.  Allen Foster of BestReviews wrote the article, so I’ll just share a couple of quotes from him. He says:  “The test is quite difficult” – that is, the PMP Exam. It’s wise to be armed with a comprehensive PMP prep book.  ‘The PMP Exam:  How to Pass on Your First Try’ by project manager Andy Crowe is our top choice for its focused and straightforward instruction.”. High praise indeed.

NICK WALKER:  Yeah.  And we are so thankful for that recognition, and also even more thankful that we’re helping folks prepare.

BILL YATES:  Exactly.  And reach a goal of earning that PMP credential.  It’s tough.  It’s a tough test.


NICK WALKER:  Yeah.  Now, we want our listeners to also know that we listen to you.  We want to hear your comments and reviews.  You can leave a review of the Manage This podcast wherever you’re listening from, whether it’s iTunes or Google Play or just on our website.  We want to hear from you.

Well, that’s it for us here on Manage This.  We hope you’ll tune back in on August 6th for our next podcast.  In the meantime, you can always visit us at Velociteach.com/managethis to subscribe to this podcast, to see a transcript of the show, or to contact us.  And tweet us at @manage_this if you have any questions about our podcasts or about project management certifications.

That’s all for this episode.  Thanks for joining us.  Until next time, keep calm and Manage This.

4 responses to “Episode 85 – Oceaneering and the PMCoE”

  1. Dan Scott says:

    Great presentation and Podcast.

  2. Thanks Brian and Joe, Bill and Nick for for sharing some insights on Oceaneering’s PMCoE. I enjoyed the presentation. Congratulations on the great work setting up this PMO in the niche subsea arena. A great move to further improve project management in the subsea industry. Wishing you continued success.

    Advanced Remote Marine Services
    Houston, Texas

  3. Jennifer Bridges says:

    Great interview and insights about the amazing projects the team at Oceaneering continues to do subsea and in space. Fascinating work that most people do not know about. Impressed with the level of dedication and teamwork of the many people working together to make things happen. Honored to work with Brian Loos, Shaun Roedel, PMP and the core team on the global launch of the Project Management Center Of Excellence last year alongside my strategic business partners David Nour and Lin Wilson. This is a great example of the impact of project management and the importance of project managers. Kudos to all.

    • Wendy Grounds says:

      Thanks for your comment Jennifer. We have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know some of the team at Oceaneering.

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