Re-engineering an integrated project management system within AT&T-FSAT
Concerns of Project Managers
Our benchmarking research found that industry executives and consultants agree that a standard PMP and integrated tool set must be a strategic thrust within world-class companies.
AT&T-Federal Systems Advanced Technologies (FSAT) is a business unit within the Communications Products Division of AT&T. While the primary customer base of this business unit is government, it currently supports commercial contracts and further expansion into commercial markets is a strategic thrust.
In mid-1991, as a result of internal and external customer feedback in the area of project management, the AT&T-FSAT business unit recognized the need to formally re-engineer its Project Management Process (PMP) and develop and implement an associated Integrated Financial/PM tool set. In order to coordinate and standardize this critical effort, a Project Management Process Organization was established and chartered with the following responsibilities:
- Perform an initial situation assessment of existing PM capabilities within FSAT;
- Develop a re-engineering strategy;
- Define a standard PMP that is applicable throughout a product's life cycle and tailorable for use by any size commercial and government project;
- Provide integrated tool requirements to the management information systems (MIS) organization; and
- Deploy the new PMP and tool set to internal organizations and project management teams.
The mission statement for this effort required that the re-engineered process would act as the driver for the development and deployment of an integrated financial and project management tool environment that fully supports the PMP.
The following is a summary of the efforts within FSAT that have resulted in a Best-in-Class PMP in 1993 and the deployment of an integrated financial and project management system for use by project teams.
INITIAL SITUATION ASSESSMENT
The background of project management within FSAT consisted of ad hoc approaches by individual functional managers or project managers. These managers were simply doing the best they could without the existence and availability of an FSAT-wide standard project management process and tool. As you may imagine, the result of this situation was a cycle of frustrated management and unhappy customers. Upon a review of current practices, the consensus was that there was no existing process and/or tool which, in its current state of evolution, could be used as an FSAT standard. As a result, the PM process organization was chartered tore-engineer a standard process and specify and deploy related tools.
DEVELOP RE-ENGINEERING STRATEGY
The basis of our re-engineering strategy was to utilize external benchmarking to determine the characteristics of a Best-in-Class PMP and to collect internal project manager requirements for a new process and tool set. Participants in this effort included industry consultant firms such as Temple, Barker, and Sloan (Mercer), Kaiser Associates, and Center for Systems Management (CSM), along with Defense Systems Management College (DSMC), Project Management Institute (PMI), and internal project managers and their staff.
In addition to PM process insights gained in the benchmarking exercise, it was obvious that our success would be linked to our corporate culture. As a result, our re-engineering briefings from our strategy through deployment phases began with the FSAT Executive Quality Council (EQC), which consists of the FSAT president and his functional organization vice presidents. We found this buy-in and support essential to our efforts.
Using the best features discovered in the above research, the following process and tool drivers were established:
- Common processes and tools to support both commercial and government projects
- Earned value techniques applied to all projects
- Contract work
- General engineering
- Typical set of sequential tasks necessary to satisfy customer objectives
- Used to execute PRP
- Tailoring to specific customer requirements
- Integrated cost and scheduling system with financial interface
- Planning, statusing, analyzing
- Supportive/user-friendly management information systems
- Traceability, completeness, consistent, accurate, timely
- User-friendly interfaces
- Documentation, training, tools
- Tailorable to all size/complexity jobs
Figure 1. Depicts the relationship between the Project Management Process and the Product Realization Process
DEFINE A STANDARD PMP
The scope of the PM process organization was to develop and deploy a Best-in-Class process and integrated tool set required to plan, execute and control any size project. A significant paradigm shift occurred in our redefinition of the term “project.” Unlike the past when a project meant only an effort under contract, the term “project” now includes any set of activities required to satisfy customer requirements. These activities may fall anywhere within the FSAT product realization process (PRP). The PRP consists of the front-end (marketing/proposal activity), product development/production, and support phases. The PRP defines the roles, responsibilities and interrelationships of key FSAT functional processes in the execution of a product's life cycle.
Developed concurrently with the FSAT product realization process, the project management process contains five subprocesses that provide the planning and control techniques required to manage the PRP execution and are applicable to any type project. The subprocesses are:
Each subprocess was defined using TQM flow charting techniques identifying interrelated subprocess steps and project team member responsibility for execution. Figure 1 depicts the relationship between the project management process and the product realization process.
INTEGRATED TOOL REQUIREMENTS AND DEVELOPMENT
Within a vast commercial and government market, industry implementation of a formal project management process and attendant tool is in relative infancy. Most large companies similar to AT&T business units in the past 10-15 years have adopted some type of software tool (i.e., scheduler); however, fewer have a standard project management process. Final] y, a very small number (5 percent of the market) are currently utilizing an integrated financial/project management system with business management tools and an incurrence interface to an activity-based scheduling and performance measurement tool.
Our benchmarking research found that, while implementation is just beginning, industry executives and consultants agree that a standard PMP and integrated tool set must be a strategic thrust within world-class companies.
In response to this requirement, the FSAT PM re-engineering solution contains the following features.
Budget and Schedule Management Within One Tool
A major source of frustration for FSAT management and our customers was the management of our budget baseline in one tool and our project schedule (i.e., network logic) in a different tool. To eliminate this problem, our re-engineering team conducted an evaluation of project management software vendors. Our primary goal was to select a package offering an integrated budgeting/scheduling capability and the flexibility to satisfy relatively simple project management requirements all the way through full DOD C/SCS requirements. Dekker Ltd.™ was selected and contracted to provide the primary PM tool set to support our mission.
Figure 2. System Main Menu
Integrated Financial/Project Management System
The entire project management re-engineering activity was undertaken within the larger umbrella of a comprehensive FSAT management information processes, and systems re-engineering mission. The vision for this overall activity was the development of a “single system” to satisfy the needs of the FSAT financial and project management user communities. The integrated financial/project management system is a UNIX™-based multi-user tool that was designed to provide for the tracking of and visibility into financial accounting data and project cost and schedule data. For project management users, this meant accessing required “modules” within a single data base. Similarly, financial users have access to other modules selected from a comprehensive system main menu. Figure 2 depicts the system main menu supporting a single system implementation.
Option #6 Project Tracking contains (along with the other features supporting the execution of PMP subprocesses) a sub-menu selection which executes a standard incurrence interface established as a feeder of actual cost data from the FSAT accounting job costing module into the project management system. Figure 3 depicts the “single system” implementation supported by the AT&T management information system.
Business Management Tools
Proving once again that necessity is the mother of a project manager's frustration, a PM system feature called Business Management Tools was a major component of our re-engineering efforts. During the PM requirements phase, one of our internal users’ most critical needs was to have on-line and real-time access to financial incurrence data. Often in the course of analyzing monthly incurrences, a manager would have a question about a particular incurrence value within his/her task or cost account. While questions are normal and indicate true management attentiveness, the previous process available for exposing incurrence details was very cumbersome. A manager's only options were ordering more reports or sending someone down to accounting as a private detective.
In response to this essential user need, a feature was developed that allows a manager, from his/her own personal computer, to decompose financial data down to the source transaction level. One of the major capabilities within Business Management Tools is a “project management data hierarchy” feature. This feature allows managers to decompose and relate to financial data within a project management vocabulary.
For example, to eliminate the need for a project manager and other team members to understand financial concepts and terms like account, subaccount and journal entry number, these elements were mapped into resource categories such as labor, burden (load), material and, other direct costs (ODC). Resource categories divide further into resource IDs that include specific labor groups and different types of burden, material and ODC. Only from within the familiar scope of resource ID, are the subsequent lower levels of financial data available. In addition, resource IDs and resource categories are accessible through four starting point options of:
Figure 3. From his/her own personal computer, a user has access to a complete “single system” project management functionality
- Charge number
- Work breakdown structure (WBS) number
- Organization number
- Contract number
The Business Management Tools (Option #7 on the main menu) was deployed in March 1993 and has been very well received by our project users. Figure 4 is a performance metric depicting the average time required by users to analyze a financial incurrence before and after deployment of Business Management Tools. Time required before deployment was 1.7 hours and time required after deployment is currently 11.2 minutes (an 89.2 percent decrease).
DEPLOYMENT OF NEW PMP AND INTEGRATED TOOL SET
The re-engineered project management process and associated overview documentation called “Managing Projects/Products” is currently being deployed within FSAT through a formal briefing process. A next level of documentation describing “how to” implement the planning, authorizing, statusing, analyzing and revising subprocesses in terms of the integrated PM tool is available and provided in PM training courses.
Figure 4. Average Time per Incurrence Analysis
Integrated Tool Deployment
While we would ideally like all projects to transition to the new PM system, there is the reality of a time and money expense associated with the transition of larger projects currently established on previous systems. However, smaller existing projects and any size new project are expected to begin utilization of the new PM tool (All projects are expected to tailor the standard process within their organizations).
Over the past two years, the AT&T-FSAT business unit has undergone a major project management system re-engineering effort in order to develop a standard PMP and associated integrated tool set. This activity was in response to user needs for a standard process implemented through integrated on-line tools providing timely and accurate data. The FSAT PMP is applicable throughout a product's life cycle and can be implemented utilizing “single system” features of integrated budgeting/scheduling tied into the financial system through an incurrence interface. This capability is supplemented by the availability of Business Management Tools, which allows the user to analyze financial incurrence data on-line from his/her personal computer.
The primary benefits from the implementation of a standard PMP and integrated tool set are:
- Customer satisfaction — The elimination of multiple ad hoc systems allows our customers to perceive our business as a single entity
- Teamwork – A documented standard PMP provides well-defined team driven roles, responsibilities and interactions
- Common language – A set of consistent processes, techniques, tools and vocabulary throughout the business unit
- Common performance metrics — Earned value concept tailored to any size project
Lower costs – An efficient and tailored single-system approach with restraining costs minimized as personnel move between projects.
Rick C. Haverland is the project management process manager for the Federal Systems Advanced Technologies (FSAT) business unit within AT&T. His ten years of professional project management experience includes acting as the lead FSAT cost/schedule control system consultant and as the business manager on a large contract with the U.S. Navy. In his current position, he is responsible for the development and implementation of a re-engineered project management process and integrated tool set for his AT&T business unit. He holds a B.S.B.A. from Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina.