So many projects, so little time
BY TOM CHAUDURI, PMP, AND DAVID SCHLOTZHAUER, PMP
→ Using project management best practices, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), Toronto, Ontario, Canada, completely transformed 20,000 workstations at 1,200 dispersed financial branches in one year.
→ The CIBC project team used an iterative planning methodology for high-volume, multi-location projects.
→ After weighing all factors, CIBC chose to deliver its sites concurrently to level resources and maximize speed.
→ To mitigate risk, the team clearly defined the gates from phase to phase and obtained sign-off by key stakeholders.
→ In the rare case that things did not go as planned, the team conducted a postmortem, which enabled staff to identify and resolve failure-causing issues.
→ After deployment, branch survey results revealed 88 percent satisfaction.
The challenge: Completely transform 20,000 workstations at 1,200 dispersed financial branches in one year. Faced with an outdated branch IT infrastructure, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), Toronto, Ontario, Canada, needed to change everything, including its network (LAN/WAN), servers, operating system and office productivity tools. The 12th largest bank in North America, CIBC couldn't allow the project to affect branch operations or disappoint its 8 million Canadian customers.
As they began the task, the bank's experienced project managers planned the project using accepted best practices. However, leaders soon realized that delivering 1,200 projects concurrently would require special planning, execution and control tools. As a result, the team delivered the project on time, within budget and with no branch operational impact. Better yet, the project scored an 88 percent satisfaction score with its end users.
“The reason we undertake projects is to transform the bank, to improve the customer's experience and to make things better for our employees,” says Fariba Rawhani, former CIBC senior vice president and chief information officer (CIO), Retail Markets Technology. “Once we have completed an initiative, the true measure of success is if the desired goal has been achieved. With this project, the survey results prove that it has been an outstanding project that was executed brilliantly.”
A Different World
→ The CIBC project team used an iterative planning methodology based on an ISO 9000 framework that proved to be successful in high-volume, multi-location projects. “To ensure deployment success, we had very detailed planning so that we had highly repeatable processes,” says Jack Newhouse, CIBC director, Application Support, Retail Banking Technology.
As the first step, the project team worked to document “why” CIBC was undertaking the project and to articulate its goals and philosophy. With this groundwork in place, planning progressed along three iterative cycles:
1. Approach and Strategy. Define “what” the project was to accomplish
2. Process Design. Clarify the details of “who/when/ where,” focusing on key hand-offs within the process
The teamwork of all parties has been demonstrated over and over again—and must be considered both a key factor in the success of this program but also as a key success of this program.
Vice President and CIO, Retail Banking Technology, CIBC, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
NEW TELLER COUNTER
Counters were shared by two tellers prior to CIBC's upgrade. The team had to rework the counters to allow two computer keyboards to exist in the same small space and install flat screen monitors on the arm mounts.
3. Detailed Job Procedures. Document the “how,” such as the exact job procedures to be executed by each of the parties during project implementation.
Finally, the team identified an objective means of showing work completion for performance tracking and reporting.
One of the first deliverables was a typical life cycle for a single site, including all key activities and related milestones. The team modified the template to account for variations in site characteristics, such as large versus average sites.
Fast and Furious
Once the site life cycle was completed, the team worked to determine how quickly all of the sites could be deployed. Management and key stakeholders wanted the new technology as soon as possible, so the project team had to set realistic expectations by conducting objective analyses.
As an extreme example, CIBC could convert 1,200 locations across the country in a single day, but only if it could mobilize 6,000 staff for that single day and deploy them to all 1,200 locations successfully. Moreover, central office staff would be required for technical support and project coordination. Once the implementation was complete, this staff and supporting infrastructure would be demobilized. Two questions resulted: How many teams would be practical? What rate of rollout could be reasonably executed?
To facilitate planning, the project team used production-planning tools, such as the line of balance, to determine which factors limited the rollout. For example, if two vendors have the capacity to deploy sites at different rates—but one has to complete its work before the other—the rate of the slowest vendor determines the rate of rollout. This vendor is the bottleneck, or rate-limiting factor.
PHOTO COURTESY OF CIBC
The team also had to determine the sequence for completing the sites. CIBC has branches across Canada from the Atlantic to Pacific oceans. The project team could transform either all sites in one region before going to the next region or all regions concurrently.
→ The number of implementation teams available across the various regions, the political influence of the stakeholders in each region and the need to complete one region at a time to deliver a consistent service all influenced the team's decision. After weighing every factor, CIBC chose to deliver its sites concurrently to level resources and maximize speed.
Pulling Out the Stops
Because this project affected every branch and workstation in the CIBC network, bank management could not allow downtime at any site during the transformation. “The key to project success was having an objective of zero down time and building processes to meet that objective,” Newhouse says. “[We also had to] make sure that everyone understood what to do so that if unforeseen situations came up, they could always be sure of their direction.”
→ To mitigate risk, the team clearly defined the gates from phase-to-phase and obtained sign-off by key stakeholders. For example, the pilot phase required lab testing, documented processes, readiness of call center support and escalation procedures before deployment.
The project team also built checks and balances into every process to avoid or mitigate risk, especially where real-time decision-making determined the success of each install. Contingency procedures were developed in case the implementation staff had to back out and revert to the old state if certain criteria were not met.
→ In the rare case that things did not go as planned, the team conducted a postmortem, which enabled staff to identify and resolve failure-causing issues. Corrective measures were implemented so the problem would not occur again.
A Million Details
The team had to store and update substantial amounts of information. Each of the 1,200 sites in the program had 25 site milestones—30,000 milestones to track, in all. Further, each milestone had a baseline, latest plan and actual finish date, resulting in 90,000 data points. Suppliers had to be able to reference a myriad of details at each site, such as current and target configurations, contact numbers and issues to be resolved. In all, CIBC needed to store, retrieve and analyze more than 1 million data elements.
➀ Plan to acquire information, maintain the database and share the updates. Ensure buy-in by involving client user groups in key decisions during planning.
➁ Plan and celebrate early success to build enthusiasm and credibility. Over-resource at the start of the project to help ensure early wins.
➂ Quality is paramount: Pay me now or pay me later, but later is more expensive.
➃ Extensive up-front planning results in high-quality execution.
➄ Planned and unplanned changes require flexibility.
➅ Remove unnecessary complexity to expedite execution.
➆ There is no room for learning on the job. Engage partners who have deployment expertise and include them as members of the planning team.
➇ Don't make the same mistake twice. Strive for continuous quality and productivity improvement by monitoring and adjusting processes.
➈ Don't forget closeout. Do not underestimate the importance of closeout activities such as decommissioning, project demobilization, financial closure, lessons learned and recognition of success.
To deal with all this data, CIBC created a Web-based tool, called Desktop Transformation Information System (DTIS), to enable large, geographically dispersed teams to access a common set of information. “DTIS was a critical component to success,” Newhouse says. “Accurate, timely data was an invaluable management tool.”
The project team carefully managed the tricky balance of too little information to control and too much information to manage. Tracking the thousands of site issues with the DTIS tool ensured problem trends were found and proper resolutions were created.
Make It Happen
Because managing people effectively was vital, the project team clearly defined the project management office (PMO) and supplier roles. Due to resource limitations, there was a risk that one site problem could have a domino effect that could quickly cripple the rate of rollout. Clear accountabilities helped pinpoint responsibility for issues as they arose and obtain rapid resolution to minimize issues. “The teamwork of all parties has been demonstrated over and over again—and must be considered both a key factor in the success of this program but also as a key success of this program,” says Linda Dentay, CIBC vice president and CIO, Retail Banking Technology. “To have so many people all pulling with the same vision and commitment was awesome.”
CIBC divided labor functions into “line” and “staff.” Line personnel within the PMO had accountability for the day-to-day installs and related issues. In contrast, staff personnel were concerned with the big picture, including supplier management, the monitoring and management of quality, risk and productivity.
To ensure deployment success, we had very detailed planning so that we had highly repeatable processes.
Director, Application Support, Retail Banking Technology, CIBC, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
As the rollout moved into high gear, the install tasks took on a production-like quality—high-volume repetitive work with few breaks—that could lead to staff boredom, burnout and turnover. To keep the team motivated, CIBC regularly celebrated successes. In addition, job rotation provided team members with some variety and learning opportunities. Job rotation not only enhanced job satisfaction, it also provided a backup when a team member left the project. Under a “buddy system,” multiple individuals were involved with key functions.
Because the deployment occurred over a year, many changes inevitably occurred that had to be systematically managed. The project experienced a scope change in “what” was being deployed with the addition of a new device to each branch. Deliverable dates changed due to a virus attack. In addition, new sites were opened, and some sites were merged during the life of the project.
To manage this change, the project team informed senior management about the schedule and cost impact. Processes and procedures also were revised to meet the changes. Schedule management and control were key to keeping the implementation teams focused but flexible.
Measure for Results
CIBC staff measured production from a schedule perspective, including speed and quality. “There was always a focus on the “how”—executing with excellence, a view to ensuring both employee and customer satisfaction and a manic passion for continuous improvement and quality control,” Dentay says.
Using a consistent scorecard to measure productivity and to report progress versus target, the team identified bottlenecks through systematic analysis and escalated and resolved issues quickly to avoid any slowdown of the overall rollout.
The team built quality checks into each process, such as inspections of randomly selected sites and objective evidence of performance at each site. Pareto analysis and cause-and-effect tools (fishbone diagrams) were used to identify the root causes and adjust the underlying install processes and procedures to avoid repeating the problem.
The team also conducted a detailed satisfaction survey at each site when install activities were completed. Tracking responses provided excellent feedback about how the installs were perceived and helped pinpoint any systemic issues in the remaining rollout.
The project team also built checks and balances into every process to avoid or mitigate risk, especially where real-time decisionmaking determined the success of each install.
→ After the CIBC deployment, branch survey results revealed 88 percent satisfaction. Careful project planning, execution and control helped CIBC achieve its business goal: a successful rollout. PM
Tom Chauduri, PMP, is audit director with the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. He has experience in business process re-engineering and project management of information technology applications in retail, oil, pharmaceutical and banking industries.
David Schlotzhauer, PMP, is a management consultant with Project Control Group Inc. (PCGI), a firm specializing in program/project planning and controls. He has experience in the banking, real estate and health-care industries.
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PM NETWORK | OCTOBER 2003 | WWW.PMI.ORG