Inside Seven
Current Issue: September 2014
Bill Reagan, Acting Deputy Director, Program and Project Management

Ask a Deputy: Bill Reagan, Acting District Deputy Director, Program and Project Management
by  Maria Raptis
Issue Date: 12/2010

This is part of an occasional series in which Inside 7 gets the inside scoop on our various divisions. This month, Inside 7 sat down with Bill Reagan, Acting Deputy District Director, Program and Project Management (PPM) Division.

Inside 7: How does PPM contribute to the department’s goals of safety, mobility, delivery, stewardship and service?

Bill Reagan: We work with other units to deliver projects that are safe and improve and enhance the state highway system. PPM efficiently manages the resources entrusted to us to ensure that the district’s projects are delivered on time and within scope and budget.

I7: What is PPM’s most important accomplishment in 2010?

BR: For the sixth consecutive year, the district achieved 100% delivery on all 17 projects listed on its Contract for Delivery, totaling $427 million, including two American Recovery and Reinvestment Act projects.

I7: What are PPM’s top priorities at this time?

BR: In 2011 and beyond, PPM’s top priorities will be to strengthen our relationship with Caltrans’ transportation partners, to improve our efficiency in managing capital and support costs, to maintain our competitive edge in gaining transportation projects, and to remain a leader on regional transportation issues. To achieve these goals, PPM will work to become better listeners when our transportation partners seek assistance. We’ll also improve our ability to manage support costs by realizing the full potential of Earned Value Management, or EVM, a new tracking and accounting program. In doing so, we will remain a leader on regional transportation issues and position ourselves to be competitive for transportation projects.

I7: You mentioned EVM, which was implemented in District 7 three months ago. How is it working out?

BR: EVM has many benefits. One of its best features is that it also allows managers to schedule and track project assignments and compare expenditures with the allocated budget. That’s important because managing support costs is the number-one topic between Caltrans, our regional partners and the legislature. District 7’s credibility is measured in large part on our ability to identify our support budget and manage our costs against the original work plan. So, clearly EVM has a lot to recommend it. Some staff are hesitant to utilize another software tool to enhance management of capital outlay support projects. We’re working on getting everyone on board.

I7: As more funding is now sourced through our partner agencies, what is PPM’s role in ensuring that Caltrans is a successful partner in meeting and delivering its commitments?

BR: Our role is to meet our commitments and be transparent in our work. We do this by communicating with our partners regularly on project status and any issues that may impact the cost or schedule. We must continue to be responsive and accountable for all decisions affecting our projects. Caltrans’ survival as an agency depends on this. Using the “Lessons Learned” tools on similar projects helps us arrive at more accurate project estimates and resources needed from our partners. We also must continue to provide clear, timely reports.

I7: Furloughs are still in effect for engineers. How are projects staying on schedule despite the reduced work week?

BR: PPM has acknowledged the loss of resources and production time and adjusted project schedules accordingly. The key to staying on schedule is enhanced communication within the Project Development Team. This involves listening to the issues, identifying appropriate actions and moving forward with buy-in from the entire team. It also means everyone must participate in the discussion and support what’s best for the project. We can’t afford to lose time because of miscommunication, to redo work, or to address change orders beyond the deadline. We can also make better use of project management tools such as PMI meetings, EVM and Risk Management. The initial investment in time is worth the time-savings in the long term.

I7: What traits are most important for a successful career in PPM?

BR: Three come to mind. First, good listening skills, which allow us to thoroughly understand an issue before taking action. Second, good communication skills – sharing information, reporting commitments, staying open-minded and encouraging active participation. This helps us achieve a consensus when developing a project plan. Third, accountability, which impacts our credibility as a department and affects the individual personally and professionally. Accountability can be as simple as returning a phone call when promised, responding to a request from headquarters promptly, or taking the advice of your supervisor. In PPM, the ultimate measure of accountability is delivering a transportation project on time.

I7: What’s your advice for those who are just starting out in the transportation industry?

BR: My advice when you’re just starting out is to learn as much as you can about all aspects of the multi-modal transportation industry and then to continue learning throughout your career. You must be creative, flexible, and an involved member of the team, and you must be able to communicate effectively with coworkers and the public. The payoff is that transportation is a exciting field – it’s competitive, complex and technology-driven. District 7 is an especially dynamic region with many modes of transit that must be integrated to better serve the public and support local, state and national economies. Additionally, transportation issues incite public interest, involvement, feedback and critique. It can be challenging at times, but it’s also very rewarding.