Voice of Experience: John F. Hill, CIO, Praxair

John F. Hill
Chief Information Officer
Danbury, Conn.

Manager’s profile: Hill has guided technology at Praxair, the largest industrial-gas manufacturer in the Americas, since 1997. A Princeton grad and former VP of information technology at PerkinElmer, he also spent time as a consultant.

What used to be: Praxair managed using a combination of tools—Artemis, Lotus Notes, Excel and Microsoft Project. (“We evaluated Microsoft Project Server 2002,” Hill says, “but decided not to deploy it more broadly” when the functionality failed to live up to expectations.)

What guides things now: In 2001, Hill switched to Genesys Automation’s eCIO tool, which also minds the day-to-day processes typically handled by pure project-management tools.

The real key: Hill insists on a strict standard. “All our project managers are PMP certified,” he says, referring to the professional-level accreditation. “They couldn’t have the title until they got certification.”

How he got them there: “First, we said that anyone who got the certification would get a raise. That showed me who was motivated. The second round said ‘I’m serious.’ We started with the carrot but followed with the stick—and I’m only going to move the stick once. If they needed two whacks, they were on their way out. Those who were slow to respond”—about 10% of his project managers—”are no longer here.”

The secret to good project management: “It’s so important to have a common language,” he says. Now, “projects come out of the pipeline with the elements that make a successful project come together,” expertise fostered by certification.

Can it be uniform? “We look to balance centralized control with local accountability,” Hill says. “But there will be some standards worldwide. We’re promoting consistency in methodology, reporting and tracking.”

Has it worked? It’s been “a very energizing approach to improving our project-management efficiency,” he says. “It’s raised the reputation of the organization.”

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