Project Management Institute

Building global collaboration at Covisint


Rosemarie Johnson is vice president of global project management for Covisint LLC, a company that implements common B2B applications, standards and practices. The organization's products include applications for collaborative product development, supply chain management, quality control and portal services teamwork.

Covisint's initial development team, assembled during the second half of 2000, came from a variety of companies within the global automotive industry. As such, the members brought with them their own culture, values and ideas about project management.

The first challenge was to bring these people together and merge them into a cohesive team that could deliver value to the customer on time, efficiently and, most importantly, within budget. Much like the technological infrastructure of the exchange itself, Covisint as an organization had to create its own processes and systems from the ground up.

Nor could Covisint afford the luxury of developing its business and processes first before engaging customers—a challenge for any company. Demanding customers with urgent needs for B2B solutions had to be satisfied with a flexible project management capability that spanned four continents. In effect, global project management at Covisint had to grow quickly and be as robust and scalable as the technology solutions its customers needed.

Today, Covisint is managing an average of 35 to 40 varied projects while serving customers in the Americas, Europe and Asia. A project manager assigned to each initiative may face differing project management methodology based on specific customer demands. For example, many of the integration projects with our larger customers involve legacy systems and multiple customer locations. Multiple Internet implementations and standards within customer environments further complicate technical and project management issues. The larger organizations tend to have established methodologies that we are required to follow. In addition, if the project warrants it, Covisint will call on one of its systems integrator partners to help manage a particular customer deployment. These firms typically use their own methodologies for project management.

For internal product development- and incubation-related projects, Covisint's product readiness gateway process has matured to a point where the product teams for collaborative product development, procurement, supply chain management, quality and portal services know what to do to bring their product to market readiness. An elaborate set of checks and balances is in place that requires deliverables and sign-offs by various corporate departments throughout Covisint. All of these hurdles must be cleared before a product is made available to the market.

Our challenge is to implement a consistent project management framework that enables successful delivery of similar projects and products for our customers through use of dissimilar methodologies. However, the Project Management Institute's A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) delivers a consistent mechanism for implementing this framework.

Today, in order to monitor all projects in play, Covisint has a high-level tracking document we refer to as “the dashboard.” It gives a quick understanding of each project status, major issues and milestones. It allows us to quickly see if any project is at risk and provides any assistance needed to eliminate the risk. While individual project managers focus on specific tasks at hand, senior executives must be able to look at a broad view of all projects and assess the risk and overall health of the project.

For global projects, regional project leads are in place, and the region involved is given ownership of the overall coordination of the project. Utilizing our own collaboration tools, we can create workflow documents for each project within Covisint Collaboration Manager. This allows all project members to access the project deliverables, status reports and other documents at any time via this connection. Global project meetings can be conducted via online conferencing from WebEx, and all participants can immediately see the updates made to the workflow documents as the meeting progresses.

Ultimately, Covisint will go through a certification process, such as ISO 9002 or a capability maturity model as a guide to project management. Initially we will establish a “community of interest” within our current project managers allowing for open discussion and fine-tuning of the best practices and procedures to formulate Covisint's project management strategy and methodology. These processes along with the tools we currently have at our disposal will form the basis for our proprietary project management framework. Once the framework is developed, training packages, templates and documentation can be put together to supply “hit-the-ground-running” support for new project managers and projects.

In addition, we will improve our project management expertise by forming project management study groups to continue the education process of our project managers and furnish a means to increase the project management certification of our employees. The ultimate goal is to provide our project managers with processes, tools, metrics and measurements that will allow them to bring their projects to completion without taking away their flexibility.

Following the implementation of the project management framework, Covisint is well positioned to manage the significant global growth we expect to occur over the next 18 months. PM

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