Project Management Institute

At Cray better planning ensures timely product releases

Project Management in Action

PROJECT SNAPSHOT

Because of the complexity of product development, Cray Research, Inc., like most computer companies, divides its software and hardware projects into separate efforts, with each project further segmented into manageable pieces. While this makes for a sensible design effort, it also creates its own set of problems: all of the pieces must eventually work together.

According to Ann Berry, UNICOS coordinator at Cray Research, on-line accessibility of project information has been a significant drawback in the planning and tracking of UNICOS, Cray's operating system.

“There are certain strategic company milestones surrounding product deliveries that need to be closely tracked,” explains Berry, “and this mainly has been done manually through monthly reports.”

Ironically, Berry had just finished an evaluation of UNIX-based project planning tools for her own group's use when the software division V.P. indicated that she would like to see the division using planning data from a common source, and gave Berry the charter to get it done.

As in many companies today, it was desired to implement a project management capability that would permit the modeling of all the work being done in the division. This concept has been tagged “Enterprise Management” by many people. With all the work of the organization described in the language of Modern Project Management (MPM), summaries of cost and schedule status, workloads for individuals and groups can be analyzed, and potential resource bottlenecks and available capacities can be presented … across the entire organization. Managers at all levels can effectively communicate top-down priorities and cost/schedule targets, while watching for exceptions in the bottom-up estimates.

Berry recalls, “I had already narrowed the field to two products, both of which would have satisfied my immediate needs; however, from a companwide perspective, only MPM had the capabilities we needed.”

As new work is introduced, or as changes occur in scope, priority, resource availability, etc., the impact on work in progress and on work planned for the future can be rapidly assessed. Thus, managers can immediately respond to changes and can ensure that resources are deployed productively at all times. “There are lots of interdependencies,” Berry notes. “Different groups produce different pieces, but they all have to work together. Using MPM we can exchange information on the plans and status of critical milestones. The direct benefit of using a common planning tool will be more timely product releases. Products are better scheduled because that data is more accurate and functional dependencies are taken into account. Insuring that dependencies are resolved prior to the release date results in a more reliable and resilient product, which increases customer satisfaction.”

With the software division implementing MPM and other divisions also coming “on board,” Berry's vision of a common planning tool at Cray in the long run seems assured.

From: Jim Suszka XPM Partners Product Used: XPM

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PMNETwork • January 1994

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