Meet the MPUG Expert: Interview with Erik van Hurck

An image of a microphone on a desk with the MPUG logo and text that reads "Meet the MPUG Expert: Erik van Hurck."

Erik van Hurck is a Microsoft MVP and respected voice in the project management space. He’s a Senior PPM Consultant at Projectum, a Microsoft MVP, a prolific blogger at, and a longtime expert instructor and contributor for MPUG. With over 15 years of experience, Erik has become a go-to resource for enterprises looking to leverage the latest Microsoft technologies like Power Platform and Copilot Studio to drive PMO transformation.

We connected with Erik to hear about his journey in project management, his perspective on generative AI, and some of his best PM advice.

MPUG: How did you first get started in project management?

Erik: I worked at a consultancy firm in the sales department. We had a couple of great consultants working with clients on Microsoft Project and Project Server. I always had a afinity for software and created an Excel file that contained the resource allocation for all our consultants. When management saw that they said, “would you like to try your luck as consultant. And put your IT skills to the test?”.

I was assigned a mentor, Rémi Kneefel, and I learned a lot from him regarding Project management, Consultancy, MS Project and Project Server/Online.

MPUG: What is your current position and what does it involve?

Erik: Currently, I’m a Senior PPM Consultant at Projectum, assisting enterprise customers across Europe with adopting Microsoft’s Power Platform for project and portfolio management. A big part of my role is configuration of our Power PPM solution and knowledge transfer to ensure organizations get the maximum value from these powerful tools.

MPUG: Your very first piece for MPUG (way back!) highlighted common flaws in project management you often see. Which bad habits are most persistent?

Erik: You’d be surprised how many well-intentioned PMs fall into the trap of manually editing start and finish dates in their project schedules, rather than utilizing the project scheduling engine behind MS Project. This “date-related planning” flaw inevitably leads to situations where updating one task throws numerous successor dates out of whack.

The better practice is to enter just two key dates – a project start date and a critical deadline or milestone date driving the schedule. Then establish proper precedence relationships between tasks using dependencies. This allows dates to automatically shift if a predecessor takes longer, rather than having to manually re-adjust dates across a plan.

MPUG: Your recent work has focused a lot on creating effective AI assistants with Microsoft’s new Copilot Studio. What’s exciting about this generative AI solution?

Erik: Copilot Studio represents a hugely powerful opportunity for PMOs to create purpose-built, AI-powered virtual assistants that can automate activities, provide intelligent recommendations, assist with documentation and training – the possibilities are immense.

The real value comes from integrating these bots with an organization’s existing PM data sources, templates, and documented processes across Microsoft’s ecosystem. You can essentially create a highly knowledgeable AI assistant trained on your own PM content and practices.

I’ve seen project teams get excited about capabilities like bots auto-generating reports and summaries from project data, surfacing predictive insights, and providing on-demand expertise by tapping into their own guides and process documentation.

MPUG: How can Copilot Studio and AI help solve or avoid those persistent PM flaws you initially highlighted?

Erik: There’s so much potential. For example, an AI assistant could be trained to analyze a project schedule and automatically identify instances of improper date constraints or missing dependencies. It could then guide PMs through remediation steps based on an organization’s best practices.

Assistants could also streamline routine PM tasks through automation – generating status reports, aggregating risks and issues, ensuring conformance to processes, etc. That frees up human capacity for higher-level activities that require strategic thinking and emotional intelligence.

MPUG: As a PM expert, what excites you most about generative AI and tools like Copilot Studio?

Erik: I think we’re still just scratching the surface, but the potential to augment human intelligence for more efficient, data-driven project execution is huge. Imagine an AI assistant that can automatically digest all your project data – schedules, risks, issues, resource data – and synthesize that into smart recommendations and predictive insights. That fusion of human expertise and artificial intelligence is really powerful.

Pragmatically in the near-term, I see great value in using Copilot bots as force multipliers – providing teams with on-demand access to guidance, best practice answers, and automating routine PM tasks. It’s about unlocking more capacity for PMs to focus on strategic priorities.

MPUG: What are the top 3 PM tools or apps you can’t live without?

Erik: It’s hard to narrow it down, but I’d say our Power Platform solution, called Power PPM, Microsoft Project for robust scheduling and Power BI for portfolio reporting and analytics. The Microsoft stack really provides an end-to-end solution. The combination of these 3 tools can assist any PMO with their day to day needs. And coming back to Generative AI: all but MS Project have Generative AI capabilities infused in their core features!

MPUG: How has being an MPUG expert benefited your career?

Erik: MPUG has been invaluable for building my expertise, sharing knowledge, and connecting with the global project management community. Authoring articles and delivering webinars has helped reinforce my skills and position me as a go-to resource. The platform gives amazing exposure.

MPUG: For someone new to project management, what advice would you give?

Erik: Constantly learn and grow your skills (by joining MPUG for instance) because project management is always evolving. But also, don’t get too caught up in the technical details. Ultimately, it’s about people, communication, and achieving business objectives through successful execution.

PMUG: Thank you for taking the time to share your insight with us! When is your next live event with MPUG?

Erik: I’ll be running a webinar together with MPUG on the 29th of May, 2024. Not surprisingly it’s around Generative AI. I won’t spoil too much but the title is “4 Generative AI Prompts to Level Up Your PMO” and you can sign up here.

See More of Erik’s Work

Empowering Your PMO with Copilot Studio: Creating an AI-Powered Chatbot Assistant

How Organizations Can Leverage Power Platform with Project for the web

Who is Microsoft Project for the web Designed For?

Learn with Erik Live

4 Generative AI Prompts to Level Up Your PMO

Wednesday, May 29, 12:00pm – 1:00pm ET

Written by The MPUG Community
MPUG has a global network of over 200,000 project management professionals across 170+ countries. For over 25 years, it has served as a premier platform fostering connection, knowledge sharing, and professional development within the project management community. MPUG champions the use of technology to optimize project management processes. It offers a comprehensive suite of resources and services, including live sessions, accredited training courses, informative lessons, industry articles, and interactive discussion forums. Committed to empowering its members to "Master Projects for Unlimited Growth," MPUG equips our members with the latest industry trends and propels their career advancement. Whether you're a budding project manager or a seasoned practitioner, MPUG provides an invaluable platform to hone your skills and bolster your project management expertise.
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