Project Management Institute

Visual solutions for project success in the 21st century

P.A. (Pat) Pomponio, PMP

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The AT&T Vistium™ Personal Video System.

Do you remember “The Jetsons,” the animated TV series from the 1960s about a space age family? How about the movie “2001, A Space Odyssey”? In both productions, I marveled at the concept of calling someone on the telephone and seeing their face on a computer terminal. The technology has been around for years; however, with the commitment from local telephone companies to construct the “information superhighways” and the advancement of video technology from companies like AT&T and PictureTel, the world of communications as we know it today will be totally revolutionized by the end of the century.

Over the last several years many Fortune 500 companies have been dabbling with video technology. As standards begin to develop, more and more companies are making significant investments in video solutions for their businesses. The cost benefit is simple. The cost of an average business trip for meetings is awesome (as my grandson would say). As the global economy matures, international travel becomes more and more common in many businesses. With fierce competition in the U.S. domestic markets and in the international marketplace, narrow margins are now the standard, with low tolerance for expensive travel costs within the project budget. Within the confines of project management, the industry in general is seeing larger diverse projects with multisite locations, or projects being implemented away from home project office locations.

Within the world of video conferencing, two primary video solutions exist today: Group Video, large quasi-portable units designed for group conferences; and desktop video units that look and act like a 486 PC with a camera mounted on top of the monitor. Several hardware and software manufacturers have entered the desktop market. However, unlike other manufacturers, AT&T, with their Vistium Personal Video System, has mastered software collaboration. This feature allows users to share software files remotely, via the video connection.

The intent of this article is not to dazzle the reader with technical jargon, but rather to present how AT&T is using this technology to save project travel cost and enhance communications when conducting project meetings remotely.

In September 1994, a large multinational retail chain entered into an agreement with AT&T's Global Business Communication Systems (GBCS) to provision Group Video in their regional offices, domestically and internationally. The project scope included upgrading their AT&T Definity PBXs to the latest version. Due to the scope of the project, a project manager was assigned in Chicago to manage the entire project, while domestic and international video project managers were assigned from AT&T's Video Technical Center (VTC) in Englewood, Colorado.

To save travel costs, the internal Project Kick-Off Meeting was conducted via Group Video. The video conference allowed the project team members from the VTC to interact with the Chicago project team. The standard AT&T Project Kick-Off Meeting deliverables were achieved, thanks to Group Video, with a significant savings in travel expense and time.

Due to the success of the video conference kick-off meeting, the project team decided to use the AT&T Vistium product's software collaboration feature to continue project planning. The Implementation Plan was co-developed “real time” by the project management team using a word processing software package collaboratively, thus saving time of faxing or mailing drafts between Chicago and Englewood.

Using a leading project management software package, the remote project team members developed both the domestic and international project schedules using the Vistium collaborative functionality. This activity once again saved valuable project resources (time and money). Working real-time with the project management software, “buy-in” was established quickly by jointly developing activities, task durations and dependencies.

To facilitate more efficient project communications, the client project owner was approached regarding using the Vistium product for project status meetings and sharing schedule status at a moment's notice. Due to the overwhelming positive reception to this concept, Vistium will be used by the client for the duration of the project.

The project is currently scheduled to be completed in late spring 1995. A follow-up article providing a comprehensive cost benefit analysis of the technology is targeted for publication in the May 1995 PM Network.

With the deployment of visual solutions, a revolutionary change in communications is unfolding as the 20th Century draws to a close. Sound project communications has traditionally been paramount to project success. Numerous textbooks and articles have explored the value of face-to-face communications. With the use of video technology, the old ad slogan “the next best thing to being there” should be changed to “the same as being there.” img

 

PA. (Pat) Pomponio, PMP is currently the project director for AT&T's Video Technical Center in Englewood, Colorado.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

PM Network ● January 1995

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