Innovation through collaboration

This article is copyrighted material and has been reproduced with the permission of Project Management Institute, Inc. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited.


As a global corporation, the barriers of time and distance constantly make communications and business travel a challenge to constrained staffing and financial resources. In order to help bridge the gap of these differences, Chiron Corporation's, Information Management (IM) organization sponsored an initiative called Real Time Collaboration (RTC).

The complexity of operating in a multi-national corporation of customers, virtual teams and partners on distance and time zone differentials plus adhering to stringent FDA regulatory guidelines in bringing products through lengthy clinical trials is extremely challenging. So how does Chiron address getting the most productivity and efficiencies out of its global teams?

There were identified business requirements that drove the need to change the way communication and information was traditionally exchanged and aligned with the corporate culture and business unit practices. It has been demonstrated from our customer feedback that the synergies and output of interactive collaboration far exceed the capabilities of independent research and manufacturing work efforts when done in real time.

Benefits and pitfalls during the project were not always obvious and some of those came about as pleasant surprises. The success criteria of this program were not based solely on getting the latest technology deployed. There were processes that had to be developed with the people that were going to support and use the tools. Customer focused solutions built on actual requirements were defined up front to demonstrate real value. Selection criteria and rigorous “proof of concept” testing had to be conducted to ensure that key partnerships were developed with the right global vendors. Our “secret sauce” brought all the ingredients together for a harmonious RTC recipe that blends together successful results that are consistent and repeatable. Key performance indicators or metrics were used to baseline and objectively measure the benefits gained.

Chiron Corporation

Chiron Corporation, headquartered in Emeryville, California, is a global biopharmaceutical company that leverages a diverse business model to develop and commercialize high-value products that make a difference in people's lives. Chiron applies its advanced understanding of the biology of cancer and infectious disease to develop its products through three business units: Biopharmaceuticals, Vaccines and Blood Testing.

Chiron's diversified business model represents a unique approach to the business of biopharmaceuticals. The company's three global businesses and royalty and licensing income provide multiple revenue streams to balance risk, drive innovation, deliver products and promote growth. In addition to the company's own research and development activities, Chiron capitalizes on its intellectual property by developing technology and products in collaboration with several leading companies and key partnerships.

As to promote future growth, Chiron is expanding key product franchises in each business unit and building a product pipeline of high-value compounds targeting cancer and infectious disease. The combination of these elements creates a profitable biopharmaceutical company that delivers consistent, solid financial results with 18 successive quarters of growth.

2002 Revenues

  • $1.276 billion worldwide
  • $624.597 million from U.S. operations
  • $651.683 million from non-U.S. operations
  • $198.816 million from royalties and licensing fees

Chiron has operations on five continents in 18 countries and 5,000 plus employees, of which more than half of whom work outside the United States. Our network of research centers, manufacturing facilities and administrative offices is a key part of our success as a global biopharmaceutical company. By maintaining a worldwide presence, Chiron is able to interact directly with patients, physicians, partners and customers wherever they may be.

Principal Locations

  • Distributor Network

    Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, United States

  • Manufacturing

    Germany, India, Italy, Netherlands, United States

  • Research Centers of Excellence

    Emeryville, Seattle, Siena (Italy)

  • Field Force

    Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, United States

Business Drivers and Opportunities

Chiron has a rich history of over 21years of scientific and medical research, discoveries and achievements. The constrained global staffing and financial resources challenges how Chiron conducts its daily business. The intellectual property utilized to develop products could be easily dispersed throughout the five continents or 18 countries where Chiron has offices. How does Chiron address these issues to make the best use of constrained resources?

We started out by asking our business unit customers that very same question. This helped us understand how they work and interact with each other to gain an appreciation and identify the “areas of improvement” in their workflow processes. This established business requirements directly from the source. The audience of survey and interview respondents ran the gamut from administrators to senior executives cutting across broad segments of the company. They were very surprised to find that Information Management (IM) was actually asking for their input before launching an Information Technology (IT) project. At that point we knew that we were onto something different as further validated by the better than 70% response rate to the surveys, typically less than 10% could have been expected.

It was very important to ensure that the IT solutions being developed were based on real business needs that would provide both perceived and actual value to our customers, rather than launch and deploy the latest and greatest IT hardware with a plethora of bells and whistles that no one could understand or use. The mantra of “simple was better” resonated throughout all stages of the project life cycle.

IM provides key corporate business services which keeps the seamless flow of information worldwide on a 7 X 24 basis to anyone, anywhere and at anytime. With such a broad distribution of global employees, vendors and markets it is essential for the exchange of information to occur in a timely, accurate and cost effective manner. Realistically in person meetings are not always possible due to the geographical distances and time zone changes. The next best alternative to travel and physically being there is to utilize technology to bridge these gaps in fostering more collaborative efforts between virtual teams so that face-to-face discussions can still happen. In order to address this situation, the Real Time Collaboration (RTC) program had its beginnings in March 2002 as an assessment to providing a suite of IT productivity technology, tools and processes.

Real Time Collaboration

Real Time Collaboration is the convergence of three synchronous technologies; audio, video and data conferencing, plus a fourth element the Adoption Management process. RTC systems have been deployed in improved facilities known as RTC Centers of Excellence. Synchronous is defined as communications that are conducted instantaneously and as close as possible to actually being there across the table from one another as opposed to asynchronous forms of communication such as email, faxes, pagers, or project repositories which all have inherent delays and latency associated with the transmitting and receiving of data.

The baseline in which improvements were to be made from included replacing; aged video conferencing equipment from disparate manufacturers, limited network bandwidth from 56-384 kbps, audio conferencing with room telephones and a variety of bridging service providers, and sporadic use of non-standard forms of data conferencing tools.

A standard RTC Center of Excellence is configured with the following:

  • Polycom FX - video conferencing system
  • Polycom Visual Concert – video / data hub
  • 36” color monitor
  • Polycom Premier speakerphone
  • Video projection unit
  • Projection screen
  • IP network connection for remote administration
  • ISDN at 384kbps
  • 2 – analog circuits for speakerphones
  • RTC Quick Reference guide and binder
  • Room signage identifying location

For example a RTC standard configured system allows a presenter at the “near end” to connect their laptop and video projection unit to the Visual Concert and transmit to an audience anywhere else on Chiron's RTC network. At the “far end” the audience will see the speaker's video image on the color monitor and the presentation projected onto a large screen by an identical hookup of a Visual Concert and video projection unit. If it is a point-to-point conference the roles and presentations can be switched back and forth at a push of a single button. This same type of presentation can be broadcasted to multiple-points on the RTC network. Recently Chiron held a corporate quarterly meeting where RTC brought together employees in 11 rooms, 8 cities, and 5 countries, interactively changing between primary presenters in the London and Emeryville sites and including the other “far end points” in an interactive Q&A chat session using application sharing.

Should others want to participate in a meeting at locations that are not equipped with video conferencing systems such as a remote office, hotel room, home office or customer premise they still can do so. The RTC suite of tools includes application sharing a well as audio conferencing services. The only aspect they would be missing is the video image of the presenters. Not all RTC sessions require the full suite of tools and can be selected upon as appropriate for the situation, participants and level of interaction. (Exhibit 1)

RTC Application Matrix

Exhibit 1 - RTC Application Matrix

Adoption Management

What made this initiative stand out from previous IM programs is that our CIO made it very clear from the onset that she was a strong proponent for the use of RTC technologies and advocated the development of an Adoption Management process that proactively involved staff, customers and partners.

Adoption Management became the “secret sauce” that opened doors, gained participant buy-in and promoted a truly global team environment. The key ingredients to Adoption Management are in the ongoing communications, marketing, education and training, process improvement, and measurements. These were classified as the human enablers where the greatest change needed to occur. The technology enablers that deal with the IT physical infrastructure, support, vendors and maintenance were already in place and fairly well established. The underlying foundation that these enablers are built on, combine RTC, performance support and learning, and business core strategies.

Communication was constant and consistent in working with our team, customers and management. By doing so we were able to get an understanding and define customer requirements, obtain early stakeholder buy-in, conduct customer surveys and interviews, establish rapport in terms familiar to the audience, inform them of ongoing progress, and encourage feedback and comments. This was purposefully done in non-technical terms to avoid confusion and demystify the technology.

Marketing became an opportunity to sell and tell about the RTC program to individuals, departments and at employee all-hands meetings. Placement of RTC Centers of Excellence, were in sites and rooms that were assessed for significant business usage, being easy to get to, and having maximum exposure and impact. Some rooms had to be extensively modified with acoustical, lighting, and interior treatments. Customers have started to embrace and realize the potential for RTC in programs such as weekly Science Made Simple brown bag sessions, distance learning, quarterly earnings announcements, executive briefings, strategic planning, product launches, FDA broadcasted proceedings and special events like Cancer Survivor Day celebrations.

A sound foundation was established through the education of RTC Core Team members first so they gained the confidence to be the ambassadors to the customers. Then hands-on, on-site training sessions were conducted with users in their native languages with documentation and reference material made available in hard copy and on the Chiron intranet RTC Web site. It was important to conduct these initial Global Road Shows in person. Once the relationships were built, follow up training is offered virtually or, as required, in person. The curriculum and subject matter rotates on a quarterly cycle.

Realizing that RTC was not a stand-alone project that would end at the completion of Phase 1, we anticipated that increased customer demand and positive experiences would drive future ongoing phases. The RTC continuous improvement model represents a relative decrease in training and technical support as customers gain more comfort and raise their own confidence levels at understanding and using the tools over time. There will always be a percentage of customers on the project level, and for special events, that require more personalized attention and will be accommodated for.

As a measurement to the success of the RTC program, it was important to qualify the ROI, cost avoidance/savings, customer satisfaction, and to establish baseline and usage trends. Through the travel department, the top 200 “frequent flyers” were identified and targeted for specific communications and trainings. We use them as our control group to monitor travel patterns. Compared against the amount of video conference calls that were conducted Q1 2002, usage has increased by over 200% and hit a peak of 66 meetings and 137 hours in March 2003 during the Iraqi crisis when employees were encouraged to postpone business travel and utilize the RTC tools. Feedback through customer surveys and focus groups also provides information on what's working, what isn't and where we need to go with RTC next. Root Cause Analysis is used internally within IM to track and resolve problem calls.

Best Practices

  • Gain involvement and commitment of the global team: Without a committed core group this would not have been possible. Extended team subject matter experts were called in when needed and a Steering Committee represented senior management.
  • Sensitivity to business and local cultural needs: Although Chiron is headquartered in Emeryville, California. Over half our revenue and employees are located out of the US. We wanted to make sure that this was not perceived as a corporate centric driven perspective.
  • Balance business and technology requirements: The voice of our business unit customers were heard and acted upon in gaining requirements and designing solutions that provided real value.
  • Send staff to training to demonstrate support: Managers were encouraged to invest the time in allowing their staff to attend “train-the-trainer” sessions so they could have their own departmental experts.
  • Set realistic expectations: Deliver what was promised on by knowing the customer, clearly understanding their requirements and managing scope creep.
  • Align project in support of corporate strategy: Remember what the “big picture” is of the company and the performance objectives of the business units.
  • Leverage RTC consulting for “Special Events”: Take every opportunity possible to get in front of an audience to showcase the technology, tools and ease of use.
  • Partner with global providers: Support and responsiveness with time differentials and help desk personnel in native languages makes it easy to do business.
  • Invest in scalable and flexible architecture: Think long range with the technology and direction the IT department is headed with an open architecture
  • Establish and refine corporate RTC standards: Put standards in place that can be used for reference that simplifies supporting multiple platforms and products
  • Utilize proven technology: Bleeding edge technology is cool, but has a price as an early adopter and also avoid end of life products.
  • Embrace the RTC technology walk the talk: Show others that RTC tools are accelerators to productivity and interaction and not inhibitors by using them at meetings and presentations.


The RTC implementation strategy was based on addressing the prioritized concerns in an initial rollout targeting stretch objectives that would show immediate payback and benefits. Subsequent phases in the succeeding years will build on additional system features and functionality, integration of infrastructure enhancements as well as new technology releases.

One of the first hurdles faced was to form a RTC Core Team of global IM representatives. The members were already committed to other projects and daily operational duties. To expect them to dedicate large blocks of time to RTC was unreasonable. A clear project scope and master plan had to be developed with specific roles and responsibilities laid out. From day one of our project meetings we began to use the RTC conferencing tools and processes that were going to be promoted with our customers. This gave the team an appreciation for the frustrations, likes and dislikes of RTC that we would eventually be delivering on.

The business opportunities and drivers that were discovered reinforced the industry research that had been conducted. Our customers told us that they wanted the ability to improve productivity and making decisions. By using the RTC technologies to bridge time and distance differences global subject matter expertise could be leveraged so they could build on the relationships of virtual teams. Benefits to IM included replacement of the legacy equipment and establishing RTC corporate standards that simplified administration, support and maintenance. Chiron as a global corporation now has RTC providing a means for resiliency and business continuity in disaster recovery modes or when travel becomes a risk.

RTC has been so overwhelmingly received that of the 12 original systems that were initially identified for refresh the number grew quickly to 15 when Phase 1 of the project completed under budget. Our EU business unit customers were so impressed they funded for four more systems within the last quarter from their own cost centers. With the recent acquisition in July 2003 of PowderJect a UK based vaccine business, we've inherited an additional nine systems. In just 18 months our RTC network stands at a total of 28 systems. A full time RTC position has been added to the IM team to manage and administer these systems.

There were a substantial number of key lessons learned from the RTC program that we are now applying in other projects throughout IM. The most prevalent learning was the utilization of an Adoption Management process. Which gives us the ability to blend people, process and technology together to achieve project success for the customer and IM. We are now better positioned at Chiron to deliver IT projects with consistent and repeatable results thus promoting more opportunities for corporate wide “Innovation Through Collaboration.”

Proceedings of PMI® Global Congress 2003 – North America
Baltimore, Maryland, USA ● 20-23 September 2003



Related Content

  • Project Management Journal

    Using Principal–Steward Contracting and Scenario Planning to Manage Megaprojects member content locked

    By Turner, J. Rodney Megaprojects are complex, but people use constructs inappropriate in complex situations for their management, particularly contractual arrangements.

  • Project Management Journal

    A Dynamic Capabilities Model of Innovation in Large Interfirm Projects member content locked

    By Steen, John | Ford, Jerad A. | Verreynne, Martie-Louise The time-bounded nature of large interfirm projects and technical interdependencies constrain innovation.

  • PM Network

    Quantum Leap member content open

    By Ali, Ambreen | Hendershot, Steve | Hermans, Amanda | Thomas, Jen | Wilkinson, Amy When Google announced in August that one of its quantum computers had succeeded in simulating a chemical reaction, it became the latest breakthrough for the technology. Quantum’s promise: harnessing…

  • Playbook for Project Management in Data Science and Artificial Intelligence Projects member content open

    By PMI South Asia | NASSCOM The playbook presents a framework with recommendations on resources that organizations can use to build capability for DS/AI projects and a best practices toolkit to apply to different project stages.

  • PM Network

    Edge of Infinity member content open

    Clean, limitless energy is no longer the stuff of science fiction. Nuclear fusion is very real, with the potential to generate an inexhaustible supply of zero-carbon energy, without the intense…