Implementing a core competency management system

integrating organizational core competencies of cost estimating, earned value, and schedule management

Project Manager, Tecolote Research, Inc.

In the quest to ensure the successful implementation of a comprehensive management system, this paper discusses the implementation of a core competency management system (CCMS). This methodology provides a powerful framework for integrating organizational core capabilities and will focus on the integration of cost estimating (CE), earned value (EV), and schedule management (SM) into your organization for program success. The approach focuses on the implementation of these four primary principles: benefits of core competency integration; development and implementation of core competency working groups; advanced capability infrastructure for CE, EV, and SM; and achieving full assimilation of core competencies.


The effort to integrate organizational core competencies provides the opportunity to realize the full potential of the core aptitude of the organization. The implementation of the core competency management system (CCMS) establishes a combined approach to leverage core competencies for your customers while ensuring their evolution within your organization. This helps establish a unified approach from the inception of your programs, with the focus on continued enhancement of organizational capabilities. The outcome of this approach can offer new tools and processes to yield superior consultation and support to your customer teams.

The core competency management system (CCMS) approach

Exhbit 1: The core competency management system (CCMS) approach

The overall CCMS approach is shown in Exhibit 1. The first two core principles of the CCMS methodology are benefits of core competency integration and development and implementation of core competency working groups. These first two aspects represent realized benefits and implementation of working groups in our organization. The third principle is the advanced capability infrastructure of core competencies. The focus of this process is on the continued refinement of tools and processes to infuse into the organization to raise the level of capability. The fourth and final principle is the achievement of full assimilation of the core competencies to ensure the integration of cost estimating (CE), earned value (EV), and schedule management (SM). Please note that principles three and four of the CCMS are envisioned results for our organization.

As the CCMS approach is implemented, it will encourage commitment to the four primary principles and will help foster the implementation and integration of each of these principles into the organization. It will also encourage the support from organizational leaders to help achieve program objectives. Now we will discuss the details of each of these four principles and the CCMS approach.

Principles and Benefits of Core Competency Integration

Benefits of Core Competency Integration

In this first principle, the primary focus is on the assessment of the current core competencies within the organization. It is also on education and awareness of the importance of core competency integration. The sponsorship for the focus on this integration should come from the organization's top leadership. The benefits of this integration are that the organization will eventually enhance the core competencies of the enterprise. The combination of all four primary principles will provide an integrated management process for effectiveness. It also fosters a powerful framework to implement complementary tools and processes. This should be a driver for attaining program objectives and successfully satisfying the current customer base and greatly improve our objectives to achieve a best practice management infrastructure. One of the initial steps in the CCMS process is to conduct an assessment of the specific core competencies that are inherent in the enterprise. Exhibit 2 provides an example of the three core competencies inherent within our organization and the importance of integrating these competencies.

Core competencies example

Exhibit 2: Core competencies example

Development and Implementation of Core Competency Working Groups

Now that we understand the importance and benefits of competency integration, the natural progression is towards the development and implementation of a schedule management core competency working group. In our case we were able to capitalize on the previous implementation of an earned value working group and their specific lessons learned. The elements of the implementation of our schedule management working group are shown in Exhibit 3. Our first step was to develop a charter for our group of subject matter experts and guidelines on how we would function as a team. We next conducted a survey of our population of SM members on their responses to open-ended questions on the schedule management function. From the results of the survey, we developed a subject matter expert skills matrix to document all the known skills of working day-to-day schedule integration. From there, we developed a company community site to share the tools and processes and to foster the sharing of SM throughout the enterprise. Our schedule management working group (SMWG) provided an organizational platform for the sharing of schedule management ideas, tools, and processes. The by-product of this working group was a cohesive unified group of schedule management experts (SMEs) across the enterprise.

Implementing the schedule management working group

Exhibit 3: Implementing the schedule management working group

In our case, we were able to establish a SMWG focused primarily on the functions and elements of schedule management that we provide to many customer teams. This fostered the development of a communication channel to enhance awareness and understanding of schedule management, shared learning, lessons learned, and common tools and practices. It also helped to establish a vision for the schedule management function of our organization. The benefits of this working group were the discovery of unique schedule management solutions being used across the organization that were not previously known or shared. It also allowed us to design a schedule management capability assessment to identify the baseline of skills that were currently being applied to our customer teams. This further allowed us to determine the skills needed by the schedule integrators and their associated levels of qualifications needed to meet current and future customer requirements. Participation in this process was rewarded through an end-of-year bonus provided to select members for their valued contributions to the SMWG throughout the year that were recognized by the president of our company.

Advanced Capability Infrastructure of Core Competencies

Schedule Management System Example

Once we had the opportunity to have a fully operational SMWG that was demonstrating its value and benefits to the organization, we could then move to the next level of effort in the schedule management area. The schedule management system example provides a glimpse of identifying a core competency and transitioning to the next level of capability for the enterprise. Exhibit 4 shows the hierarchy of the CCMS and its relationship to the schedule management system. This allows for an understanding of how the shared learning can foster the development of customized software solutions and new tools and approaches within the schedule community. These approaches provide a channel for lessons learned and can be infused into solutions for our customer teams.

Advanced capability infrastructure

Exhibit 4: Advanced capability infrastructure

The SMS is a compilation of shared approaches and concepts that were being used to add value to various customers across the enterprise. Because of this transfusion of shared information across the enterprise, we were able to share the benefits of success in schedule management across the entire organization. This allowed our team members to provide their customer teams with enduring ideas and approaches to help add value. The working group results truly fostered increased SM capability in a very short period of time. The by-product of this transformation is the ability of the enterprise to focus on the core enterprise skills. This allows for an evaluation of the possible gap that may be present in comparing the baseline of skills against what is needed, required, and expected from our customer teams. This provides an opportunity to quickly close that gap in this analysis of skills. Indirectly, this enhances lessons learned and provides a more robust capability of skills to bring to bear on program challenges.

Achieving Full Assimilation of Core Competencies (CE, EV, and SM)

Once we understand the importance of an advanced capability infrastructure, we are able to focus our efforts on achieving full assimilation of core competencies. This becomes a dynamic pull and push effort, that progress in one core competency may then cause stretching in another core competency to help move the entire organization to a greater level of capability. Exhibit 5 depicts a proposed unified comprehensive approach for the three core competencies of CE, SM, and EV. The important visual is that the circles of competencies are not stand-alone, but are integrated within each other and intersecting each other. For full assimilation, there must be an integration and allocation of the aspects of each core competency. This also fosters a consolidated reporting and tracking solution for the enterprise core competencies.

The bottom portion of Exhibit 5 shows an example of core competency reporting. This reporting of each subaspect of the core competencies helps to provide a unified method of real-time and proactive program assessment. In my experience, many of the core competencies are treated as being unconnected, a silo, if you will, of capability, and they are usually reported individually. The unified competency reporting ensures there is a unified reporting approach to capitalize on the integration of all core competencies. This also allows us to realize and discover the synergy among disciplines.

Example of Core Competency Reporting

Exhibit 5 - Example of Core Competency Reporting

Exhibit 6 shows the culmination of the CCMS model and the integration of these four primary principles: benefits of core competency integration; development and implementation of core competency working groups; advanced capability infrastructure for CE, EV, and SM; and achieving full assimilation of core competencies. The synergy across each of the four principles and the CCMS approach helps to foster a proactive awareness and understanding of the core competencies inherent in the organization. If these four areas receive the proper attention and focus, it will help ensure increased organizational capability and effectiveness, an enduring infusion of ideas, focus on core enterprise skills and effective program assessment, and the successful and timely identification of program gaps. It also provides an environment to foster a mature infrastructure for core competencies to flourish and achieve full assimilation into the enterprise.

The intangible benefit this methodology offers is the level of comprehension that the organization can grasp on the drivers of program success. It also becomes a learning process for the organization to use new tools to free energies and resources for new and productive initiatives. This CCMS model can drive dramatic improvements in mission performance and allow organizations to direct their focus on the truly important aspects of such core competencies of SM, EV, and CE for program success.

Integration of the four principles of the CCMS approach

Exhibit 6: Integration of the four principles of the CCMS approach

©2009 James D. Quilliam
PMI North American Global Congress 2009 – Orlando, FL



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