TIGER teams on outsourcing projects

they're grreat!

 

The TIGER team, an integrated team of subject matter experts, streamlines the outsourcing project from concept to closure.

by Michael G. Martin, PMP, Michael R. Weeks, and Kevin J. Davis

MANUFACTURERS HAVE concurrent engineering. Software developers have joint application development (JAD). Managers have team-based strategies. What do these methods have in common? They are all integrated strategies for managing the development and delivery of products. In the last few years, these integrated methods have become popular in many sectors, yielding significant improvements in many product delivery projects. Concurrent engineering involves the designers, manufacturing engineers, and marketers of a proposed product from the beginning of the project through completion. Likewise, JAD involves software designers and end-users in a project throughout its lifecycle. While use of these new methods has grown in other sectors, they have been relatively ignored within the service and outsourcing sector.

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Service organizations, particularly those in the information technology (IT) industry, have lamented the inability to adequately define the scope of projects, the difficulty of meeting customer expectations, and the problems associated with unmet contract obligations. Yet they have not fundamentally changed the way they deliver services. The sales or marketing group lands the contract; the project manager, if one is assigned early enough, designs a strategy for delivering the service; then, the service or operations professionals implement the project. Unfortunately, as a project is passed from one group to another the original proposal and the expectations of the customer are often lost in the process.

Service providers are under extreme pressure to provide services to the client quicker than ever before. Thus, the sequential strategies of the past are not adequate for meeting today's complex outsourcing environment. To better meet the expectations of today's outsourcing customers, it is imperative that the service and outsourcing providers integrate the efforts of their functional disciplines within the organization. This integrated structure can be achieved through Totally Integrated Groups of Expert Resources—the “TIGER” team. We believe that applying this integrated team approach to service and outsourcing projects will yield the same types of successful results that have been seen in the manufacturing and software industries.

The TIGER team concept parallels the approach of concurrent engineering as defined by Dr. K. Joseph Cletus of the Concurrent Engineering Research Center. He defines concurrent engineering as “a systemic approach to the integrated development of a product and its related products—from conception to disposal—that emphasizes response to customer expectations and embodies team values of cooperation, trust, and sharing ….” Revised slightly to make it applicable to the service sector, a new definition might read “a systemic approach to the implementation of a service and its related process—from marketing through closeout—that emphasizes ….”

Proposed Team Structure. What does a TIGER team look like? The team should be comprised of subject matter experts (SMEs) from each functional discipline, with the project manager acting as the team leader. The integrated team concept allows the SMEs to pool their knowledge of requirements, processes, procedures, assumptions, constraints, and solutions. A sample TIGER team for an IT outsourcing project may look something like this: project manager, account manager (sales), service/operations manager, help desk SME, network SME, process consultant, reporting SME, acquisition SME, asset management SME, and the customer.

From an outsourcing perspective, it is imperative that the customer be a member of the TIGER team. Without the participation and support of a customer representative on the team, the probability of misinterpreting the customer's needs and expectations is greatly increased. This, in turn, could lead to scope creep, rework and additional costs, which could otherwise be avoided. To improve the probability of project success, the customer must be represented on the team.

Organizational Structure Concerns. A TIGER team approach may require fundamental changes in a firm's overall structure. For example, the company may have to reorganize as a hierarchy of teams or as a matrix reporting structure. A matrix structure would involve the various SMEs reporting to both their project manager and a functional area supervisor. Due to these fundamental organizational issues, top management support is crucial for successful implementation of this framework.

In 1992, Larry Hirschom and Thomas Gilmore brought these structural concerns to the forefront of business thought with their Harvard Business Review article “The New Boundaries of the ‘Boundaryless’ Company.” Hirschom and Gilmore found that the internal boundaries of traditional corporations are normally aligned along functional lines. They warned that moving to a team environment requires a remapping of the traditional boundaries of the organization. Teams do not provide ready-made boundaries, especially when teams are short-lived, organic entities forming around particular projects. Management must be focused on the supervision of disparate teams, often to the exclusion of functional department oversight. To adequately supervise teams, management must be well versed in a variety of functional areas as well as in the fundamentals of internal team dynamics.

Control Issues. Moving from a functional to a team structure creates some daunting control obstacles, including pay and evaluation issues. For example, an organization that compensates its sales force via commissions may run into significant resistance. If a team is responsible for the project from the beginning, how will individuals from the sales force be compensated? Will all of the team members receive commissions for a successful project proposal?

Evaluation poses yet another set of obstacles. For instance, who will evaluate individual performances? This can become especially problematic for companies that form teams early in the project life cycle. Employees may move through several different teams in rapid succession as projects are implemented or rejected.

Effective management of these human resource management issues is especially critical since our vision of the teams for these projects is organic. That is, teams will grow and shrink as needed during the life cycle of the project. If a team needs more expertise in a given area, the team will find members to fill the identified need. Likewise, as a project progresses, teams may release members whose expertise is no longer needed.

That's the bad news about managing teams. The good news is that well-formed teams have remarkable powers to manage themselves. James Barker did extensive research in this area for his Administrative Science Quarterly article titled “Tightening the Iron Cage: Concertive Control in Self-Managing Teams.” Barker found that the control exerted by self-managed teams is much stronger than the control exerted by a typical hierarchical management structure. The values and norms of a team are more effective motivators, both positive and negative, than those constraints imposed by management.

Is the TIGER team a panacea? Of course not; however, the ability to effectively manage teams can become a core competency of the corporation. An effective team-based organization can improve quality of its deliverables whether they are products or services.

Team-based strategies are nothing new to many project managers, but for some reason the service and outsourcing sector (particularly the IT organizations) has not embraced team-based management methods. Most service and outsourcing projects, in fact, are still designed in a sequential manner. This approach requires each functional group to focus on their area of specialty, then pass the project “over the wall” to the next group to complete their portion of the work. This approach has proved that it is neither an efficient nor a profitable methodology for managing projects.

Implementation Strategies. Implementation of a team-based structure will be a major change effort. Hence, initial implementation must be attempted on a small scale. The TIGER team concept will be more accepted by the organization as a whole after it proves successful on a number of pilot projects.

Beyond the pilot project approach, other efforts must also be undertaken to enhance an organization's change readiness. Achilles Armenakis of Auburn University proposes that two components must be present in the message used to create readiness for change: discrepancy and efficacy. The first part of the message, discrepancy, shows that there is a problem that needs to be addressed. Showing profit/loss data or customer service critiques that demonstrate an undesirable service performance level can do this. The second part of the readiness equation is efficacy, that is, “how do we improve this situation?” We must show that TIGER teams will create better outcomes for the firm. Once the members of the organization realize that the status quo is not sufficient and see an effective strategy for improving operations, readiness for the change effort will have been created.

Once a change readiness effort has been undertaken and the TIGER team concept is ready for implementation throughout the organization another issue will have to be addressed. These integrated teams will be resource intensive, in an industry with chronic labor shortfalls. Due to these resource requirements, a TIGER team will not be suitable for smaller projects. A threshold will have to be established for TIGER team implementation. This threshold can be in dollars or another measure such as seats supported in an IT outsourcing contract. For example, a hypothetical organization may decide not to use the TIGER team approach on projects that are less than $2 million or 1,000 seats. By using a proper threshold, the firm ensures that personnel resources are not wasted by using large TIGER teams for small projects.

Some of the benefits expected from implementing the TIGER team concept to service and outsourcing projects include:

Achievable service levels will be established

Customer satisfaction will improve

Teamwork and partnering with the customer will be improved

Cycle time for implementing services will be shortened

Probability of reactivating or reinitiating a project will be reduced

Profit margin will increase

Probability of project success will be increased.

THE TIGER TEAM CONCEPT for project implementation, used successfully in other industries, can be applied to the service and outsourcing industry; but organizations will have to develop improved and creative project management methods for initiating and managing contractual relationships.

The sequential management strategies of the past are no longer adequate for today's fast-paced outsourcing environment. The service and outsourcing organizations that fail to implement an integrated approach to managing projects may very well be left behind in the dynamic, interdependent service environments of the future. ■

Michael G. Martin, PMP, is the national practice manager for project management with Entex Information Services. He is president of the Georgia PMI Chapter and a charter member of the Service and Outsourcing Specific Interest Group, as well as a frequent speaker to PMI chapters, companies and schools on the topic of project management.

Michael R. Weeks, Major, USAF, is a C-141 pilot at McGuire AFB, N.J. He is a former instructor of management at the United States Air Force Academy. His research interests include various topics in management information systems, including project management, simulation, and electronic commerce.

Kevin J. Davis, Lt. Col., USAF, is an associate professor of management at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., as well as an Air Force pilot. His research interests focus on the organizational control aspects of management information systems.

Reader Service Number 5021

PM Network • October 1998

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