Meet Duke PMCoP Steering Committee Member Mary Ellen Matta, PMP

The Duke Project Management Community of Practice steering committee series

November 15, 2018

Profile by Rebecca Beerman, PhD

Mary Ellen MattaAs a Project Portfolio Manager for Duke Health Technology Solutions (DHTS), Mary Ellen Matta, PMP, oversees a team of eight project managers responsible for planning and implementing several large-scale information technology (IT) projects integral to daily work at Duke, including multiple physiologic monitoring upgrades, AirWatch, the upgrade to PolicyTech by Navex, and the Citrix 7.15 version upgrade.  The DHTS organization as a whole supports three hospitals, over 700 clinics and over 30,000 faculty and staff. Per Mary Ellen, the level of organization and communication required for managing IT projects of this scale in a medical environment requires a high level of security and unique regulatory considerations.

With over 30 years of project management experience in the IT sector, Mary Ellen has a keen understanding of the skills and practices of a successful project manager.  Mary Ellen joined the DHTS Program Management Office (PMO) five years ago.  An important aspect of the PMO process is the inclusion of stage-gates, “where you do some work, take a step back, and ask if we should keep going.  Then you do some more work, take a step back and so forth and so on.  Some organizations may have a 4-gate process.  In our case, we have a 3-gate process – Project Definition, Design & Plan, and Project Execution – which we use for high profile projects. Not every project gets the same level of due diligence.  If the project is simple and low risk, it goes through a change management process. For standard projects, we have a bit more scrutiny, including a service transition readiness acceptance (STRA)”  which is now part of the “lexicon”, a standard protocol that everyone follows to ensure that specific elements related to security, training and communication have been documented and are in place before the next stage of implementation. 

It is important is that each project has a defined plan and, Mary Ellen explains, that for most IT projects the plan will be defined from two different perspectives: 1) the technical perspective of application function and maintaining data integrity during the transition and 2) the user perspective, ensuring there will be sufficient support in terms of user guidance and training.
Mary Ellen’s passion for directing, developing, and implementing IT projects is evident and the unique feature of managing DHTS projects that both energizes and gives Mary Ellen pause for reflection and gratitude, is the opportunity to participate in projects that directly improve patient’s lives.  “That’s pretty exciting. That really hits home.  You see the child’s family is there and the [clinicians are performing] this life saving procedure on a child that may have had some cardiology issues.  And the technology that we have just recently stood up, in the pediatric electrophysiology and catheterization labs, enables that.  Caring for our patients, our loved ones and each other really comes to life on this type of project.  Everything we do supports care in some way.”