Project Management Institute

The global challenge

DAVID EATON is CEO and founder of Boston, Mass.,
USA-based Eaton Consulting Group, which helps clients
build cross-cultural skills and systems.

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BY DAVID EATON

Eaton Consulting Group has used project management methods since day one because project work, by nature, drives our business. As our company has grown, so has the way we manage projects.

There's a certain point where you can't manage growth without adding systems, and you can't add them fast enough because you're growing. When we entered a phase of rapid growth four years ago, we were at a critical juncture where the next step on the staircase was too large for our collective legs. We hired 13 people in one year, and one of them, Jiri van den Kommer, had eight years of international project management experience. He helped us define global project management for our enterprise.

Before our expansion, our COO and Managing Director—Europe, Middle East, Africa and I were on every single account and information sharing was all high-context. As a small company, Eaton intuitively understood and applied knowledge about specific projects and clients. However, there was very little in terms of a formal knowledge management system. Mr. van den Kommer helped formalize what was an informal, implicit process.

Project management is most important to our global account management process. Using a standardized template, we have a global account team that produces a global account strategy (GAS) to drive service levels. During the planning stage for our GAS system, everyone had a say in how they would use the system and what would motivate them to use it. This helped us create the best process and foster co-authorship among users.

Our teams work 24/7 on a 15-time zone clock. Using live, virtual meetings and three key pieces of software—Microsoft Word, groupware and a customized Microsoft Access database—a global account manager in France can work on a project and pass it to team members in Plano, Texas, USA, who can have the information ready for someone in China to address when he wakes up.

Our customized database, e-pina (“pineapple” in Portuguese), has become the lexicon of the organization. The pineapple represents the root source of all data and the leaves are pieces of data people can access anytime, day or night, sorting the system to get the information that they need.

Earlier this year, we added an activity-based accounting system because we questioned the true profitability and resource allocation of some projects. We customized an Excel spreadsheet, using Pivot within Excel, to eliminate the guesswork. Our activity-based accounting has been our savior this year for time management, resource allocation and performance tracking.

Not only do we use project management to build our firm, we also use it to develop new services, such as our cross-border outsourcing service.

The benefits of our internal project management improvements have been two-fold. Within ECG, people are more productive, and in turn, much happier in their work environment—which often is virtual.

Increasing profitability through efficiency without sacrificing quality is the only way to maximize resources.

When you have a lot of new hires and many people working globally, you're taking a great risk that everyone is on board. These systems ensure strong virtual teams. Everyone knows what's expected of them and how success will be measured. Everyone is required to use the tools and is rewarded via our HR ScoreCard and Success Sharing compensation structure.

Increasing profitability through efficiency without sacrificing quality is the only way to maximize resources. Clients are happier because our project management process reduces the “hassle factor,” and we're happier because our cycle times are shorter and our people can grow in a progressive, stimulating global environment. PM

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.

MAY 2005 | PM NETWORK

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