TO RELEASE PRODUCTS AND SERVICES THAT TRULY CAPTURE CONSUMERS’ HEARTS AND MINDS, COMPANIES NEED FOCUSED BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE WITHIN A PROJECT MANAGEMENT FRAMEWORK.
UNLESS YOU REALLY KNOW WHAT YOUR CUSTOMERS WANT,
you risk delivering what they don't. Business intelligence, a best practice that purports to allow companies to gather and leverage research on consumer trends, promises a clear picture of the marketplace and your place in it.
A growing number of companies have boarded the business intelligence bandwagon, but many of them don't possess the appropriate user skills or knowledge of best practices, according to research by Stamford, Conn., USA-based Gartner Inc. Despite this finding, 39 percent of 917 global companies across a variety of industries reported that they plan to increase business intelligence spending. To ensure that investment pays off, 20 percent of them have a business intelligence-focused competency center and 20 percent have plans for one in the next year.
Project management offers the structure needed to make the most of market research. Four executives discuss how project management competency equates to smart knowledge-gathering and implementation of best practices.
RICK LOWREY EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, DELTEK SYSTEMS INC., HERNDON, VA., USA
Our number-one goal is to ensure customers are happy; however, as competition has changed over the past decade, we needed a differentiator. There have been many horror stories about software implementations, so our commitment has been to ensure we exceed expectations. We recognize both in services delivery as well as our products that a key aspect to our success is a strong project management framework.
Today's product landscape is more competitive and there is an increased pressure to deliver leading-edge products and the best vertical solutions. With that in mind, you have to be able to plan and execute on a development effort to ensure that you deliver on time, bug-free and to the highest quality standard for user acceptance. We invoke project management in our process, design development, quality assurance and delivery.
Because tier 1 vendors set the market architecture, a large piece of business intelligence is market research. For us, the example is delivering fully Web-native technology. In the 1990s, products had to be Web-based. Later in the technology evolution, we knew that customers would want Web-native products. Our project management processes pointed to that conclusion.
Requirements definition and analysis is a huge part of our internal project management process, but many companies without that rigor lose sight of it. We have seven practice directors participating on product planning teams in charge of business and market intelligence. These teams focus on requirements definition and understanding what customers want.
It's key that your methodology to deliver products accounts for market research. If you don't pool the external forces affecting the marketplace into your methodology, you will lose sight of your customers. Developing enterprise-class products takes months and sometimes years. Without a good methodology, delivery is delayed and your product will be watered down.
|JOHN WHALEN, PMP MANAGER, SYSTEMS PROJECT MANAGEMENT OFFICE, SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT CANADA, GATINEAU, QUEBEC, CANADA|
The Systems Branch of Social Development Canada (SDC) is among the largest and most strategically important IT organizations across the entire Canadian government. The networks, computer operations, service delivery and management applications and many other related products and services we provide directly support and enable delivery of some of Canada's most important social programs, including employment insurance, Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security and Canada Student Loans, to name but a few, to millions of Canadians every month.
We have established a project management office (PMO) that serves all projects across our 3,000-employee information management and information technology organization and 25,000 departmental clients. Our PMO, through its network of project advisors and through a structured project dashboard production process, gathers project intelligence and obtains performance information from all key projects.
On a monthly basis, this information is synthesized into portfolio and project dashboard reports that depict portfolio and project health and identify key issues and risks. Currently, this process is only partially automated, but we are in the process of introducing a more sophisticated, comprehensive and fully automated “project center” that provides a dynamic repository for all project information.
It isn't always easy, but we work hard toward building a culture of continuous improvement. At specific gates in a project's life cycle—or when requested by senior management—projects are reviewed against a broad range of criteria, including business applicability based on current priorities; project performance metrics; project interdependencies; and project outcomes in the context of the portfolio investment.
This approach gives us a high degree of readiness in the event of a change in priorities. For example, a government legislative change may impact business rules, which in turn may impact several IM/IT application development projects. By properly synchronizing project gates within a portfolio, we can better assess their degree of alignment, measure the extent of multiproject impact and then make synchronized changes across the portfolio.
One of the benefits of this approach has been the timely identification of actual and potential horizontal issues and risks. Using this information, trends are revealed and extrapolated; mitigation and resolution strategies are developed to deal with current and anticipated common problems; and steps are taken to avoid such problems for other projects. This has become an effective early warning system.
SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT OF FINANCIAL SERVICES, SUNGARD WORKFLOW SOLUTIONS, BIRMINGHAM, ALA., USA
In our many ongoing internal and external projects, we always have used project management best practices in everything we do, from the development process to helping guide individual teams. We launch 10 to 15 projects per year working with the largest banks in the world, and when a project manager goes out on the road, he works with a miniteam functioning as a business unit. These project managers are empowered in the field to bring changes back to corporate, enhancing our knowledge base and business intelligence.
However, before our project managers are allowed to go on site, we go through two training programs centered on business knowledge. “Nova,” which means we're looking for new stars, is focused on expectation negotiation, communication, presentations and personality analysis. Project management really is about people and working through people, so in this first stage, we can see if they really are people-focused and not just tool-focused. Communication is paramount to sharing concepts and intelligent strategy deployment.
Next, our management impact training (MIT) focuses on hardcore, rapid application development techniques—we stress joint application design methodologies. We hammer risk analysis and needs analysis and drill down into those steps so project managers have both management and technical fundamentals.
Once project managers have the appropriate training and are working in the field, they can input information through our Web tool, Right Now Web, above and beyond the particular project specifics, further aiding our business intelligence. This helps us anticipate risks on upcoming projects and leverage that information into knowledge management, helping to understand market demands and potential for new products.
If you use a big-bang approach to projects—going off and building these designs and then showing up to install them, expecting everything to work—you're asking for trouble. Instead, we use a staged-delivery rapid development methodology broken into four phases, covering everything from design and concepts to requirements analysis, architectural design, coding, testing and delivery. As part of the requirements analysis, we leverage a joint session with managers and end users in the same room. Having those people together sparks a true understanding of what the customer really needs instead of giving customers what we think they want.
DIRECTOR OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT OFFICE, IT ALLIANCE GROUP, DUBLIN, IRELAND
I believe that project management is a state of mind. Without framing work in a project mindset, business intelligence can't be done.
To ensure we have that framework throughout our organization, we have a fairly clear project management career path. We also have a buddy system in which we align junior staff with more senior project managers as mentors. When they have issues or problems, there's always someone to help them.
In terms of project management competencies, we have a skills band model that covers five different levels. Level one is a basic project manager, with entry-level skills. At level three, we tie the Project Management Professional (PMP®) credential or Prince 2 knowledge into their development before they can advance. At level five, we have a project director, in which a range of skills are required.
We also have a different perspective on project administrative skills support—another skills band—in which we differentiate two experience levels. At level one, we look for raw talent in which project managers exhibit and learn the behavioral and communication skills of a leader. Those in level two have a few years experience doing the work.
Business intelligence also means best practices for implementing projects within a specific sector. To ensure we leverage our knowledge base, project documentation is geared to capture learnings from the start to the end of projects. For example, in data migration projects, we have a completion/closure report that is used to build up a data bank of both good and bad experiences.
Due to our experience, we're able to pick up on the nuances of a particular business and customize solutions for a particular sector. Because we understand the reasons that companies embark on these initiatives, from outsourcing to upgrading, we've built up a business case for other clients based on our past experience on other similar projects.
For example, a major bank engaged us through a partner to migrate a complex array of servers. Having delivered the project successfully and capturing all the best practices, the client recommended us to other internal entities and we used the intelligence we gathered to successfully pitch other financial services clients.
PM NETWORK | JULY 2005 | WWW.PMI.ORG