Project Management Institute

Take Advantage

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To differentiate themselves from the pack, 90 percent of the most efficient and effective organizations adhere to a common project development standard. This compares to just 56 percent of companies not scored in the top 25 percent for efficiency and effectiveness, according to the “2005 Book of Numbers,” a research report from The Hackett Group, an Atlanta, Ga., USA-based business process advisory firm. The analysis includes data from 200 benchmark studies conducted over the past two years.

What's more, the report shows that world-class companies spend more than non-world class companies on enhancing the skill and experience level of their staff to improve the organizations’ ability to deliver competitive advantage. By investing in education and process, these firms essentially invest in their future.

Executives from Obsidian Consulting, Avaya Global Services, Project Solutions Group and PTC rely on consistent project management to give their companies a competitive edge.

Nigel Holder

PARTNER, OBSIDIAN CONSULTING LLP, NEWPORT, ESSEX, U.K.

WE HAVE A RANGE OF SPECIALTIES within Obsidian, including project, program and risk management. Those who practice project management or train others in the specialty get together once a month to take forward what we offer.

Our competitive advantage is to be able to give clients a no-pain engagement. If you manage issues really well, you avoid any pain. It's about making sure we maintain a close relationship with clients and everyone within the stakeholder environment to keep track of issues and deal with them— not just escalate them. We look at what could go wrong, especially within the early stages, to make sure we have plans in place to deal with things that don't go exactly as intended.

We're strong on ownership of action more than paper-work—that differentiates us from our competition. Getting things done requires project managers who do enough research into understanding what clients need. Having clearly defined stages is essential so you don't make commitments to cost, time and people without knowing you can do it.

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Some methods are crucial— like getting clarity on scope and stakeholder objectives. You can't spend too much time understanding how your stakeholders will measure success. When you're doing risk management, it's important to make sure actions are more important than bureaucracy. It's the doing of things that matters, not just the tedious risk identification, quantification and all that stuff.

Very few organizations properly review and audit their projects so they understand at the enterprise level what they can do to improve delivery of their projects. We always seek to find the learning, whether a trivial change to a procedure or a fundamental change to our understanding of delivery. We can look at how things should be different in the future, allowing us to differentiate ourselves from competitors and come out ahead.

Ken Kaisen

VICE PRESIDENT, COMMUNICATIONS SOLUTIONS AND INTEGRATION, AVAYA GLOBAL SERVICES, BASKING RIDGE, N.J., USA

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AVAYA HAS DEVELOPED a project management training and certification track for project and program managers. The track focuses on both the technical and project management competencies required to successfully deploy business communication solutions for our customers. In an environment of integrated solutions, technical knowledge is as important as project management skills, so Avaya is focusing on both skill sets. An understanding of what is being deployed helps program managers create the right project plan for the solution.

Avaya maintains agility by focusing both on technical knowledge and project management skills. By maintaining a project management team with both skill sets, we can move managers quickly from one type of project to another. Avaya also uses a tiered approach to project management. Global program managers focus on multinational, multi-site projects, while local project managers focus on single-site, single country opportunities.

As business communication solutions move to fully integrated, open-architected applications, project management becomes an increasingly important component of solution deployment. In this environment, project management methodologies provide the structure required to work with fully integrated solutions.

Having a strong project management team enables us to deliver solutions consistently on a global basis. Avaya's global customers expect that we provide a seamless solution for them. Project management pulls it all together. This oversight reduces the learning curve on new product introductions and provides for rapid ramp up for delivery teams.

Tom Westcott, PMP

PRESIDENT, PROJECT SOLUTIONS GROUP, MARLBORO, MASS., USA

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AS A PROJECT MANAGEMENT consulting company, it is imperative that all of our employees demonstrate project management excellence. Beyond the need to practice what we preach to be credible with our customers, we firmly believe in the benefits of applied project management and it is a core tenant of our company's management philosophy.

Project Solutions Group's (PSG’s) ability to accurately estimate project costs and schedules for customer projects has earned the trust of our customers. A good reputation is invaluable as many customers are leery of services firms because they have been burned in the past by low-ball estimates and then gouged by incremental change requests or extended project delays.

In a services business, utilization is key, so PSG applies the project management techniques throughout the sales cycle. When a customer asks for a proposal, our consultants create a detailed project plan in Microsoft Project Server 2003 to develop the schedule and cost estimates. Resource types are applied to help us forecast demand for certain skill sets if the project is sold.

As the opportunity moves through the sales cycle, the project and resource information in Project Server is updated and we are able to more accurately forecast demand and capacity. This has helped PSG to make more informed hiring and staffing decisions so we don't have too many consultants waiting for work or not enough consultants to meet our customers’ demands. PSG has been able to achieve a consistent and enviable 80 percent utilization rate, even during some tough economic periods like after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S. Because consultant bill rates are based on a combination of fixed and variable expenses, utilization rates and profitability targets established during annual budgeting and planning sessions in the prior year, maintaining the target utilization rate ensures profitability and funds future growth for the company.

Kurt Kuelz

SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, GLOBAL SERVICES, PTC, MUNICH, GERMANY

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PTC IS A SOLUTIONS COMPANY that provides software and services for IT-enabled product development, focused on discrete manufacturing. For us, the success of our business is the aggregate sum of the success of each of individual project. Project management arguably is the most important competency we have.

Our mission is to have clients realize value from their investment in our products and services. We realize a competitive advantage because our projects run better, our clients are more satisfied and they're more likely to reward us with follow-on business and refer us to other customers.

Our competitive advantage is based on the quality of resources and commitment to education—we have better enabled, better supported project managers. I don't run projects without project managers—they are fundamental to the way we deliver our products.

We engage a client and try to deliver value through the talent level we maintain in the organization and the commitment we have around Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification. Our development program includes a tactical tier with Web-based training, an internal best-practices tier delivered through a program management office, and an educational partnership that helps drive our competencies. Nine months ago, we started driving toward 100 percent PMP certification.

We need to grow revenue, but profits as well. From a balanced scorecard perspective, we must ensure our clients are successful, but also that we will continue to grow profits. By investing in project management, we've been able to grow our project margins successfully, making more money on individual projects.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

PM NETWORK | NOVEMBER 2005 | WWW.PMI.ORG

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