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ou’d think Chris Morris would be frazzled. As senior manager in charge of IT project management for Agere Systems Inc., he has up to 2,000 projects in his portfolio. But while Morris is certainly busy, he seems relatively calm. However, the situation wasn’t always so ideal. Major initiatives were stalled. Project plans were more historical record than future projection. And there was no ability to clearly see interdependencies among projects. “Everybody had Microsoft Project on their desktop and a Gantt chart on their wall,” Morris says. “The problem was, we weren’t making project decisions based on what was affordable or good for the company.”

doing the right things? At Agere Systems, effective project IT aligned with

things right – but not

What if you’re doing

Y

Establish a dedicated program management office. And apply its hardwon lessons and methodologies to every IT project in the portfolio. As a result, IT can now better meet the needs of the business units – while

management is keeping

[ ]
The solution for Agere was straightforward: …Establish a dedicated program management office. And apply its hard-won lessons and methodologies to every IT project in the portfolio.

business goals.

By Eric Schoeniger

STRAIGHTFORWARD SOLUTION The solution for Agere was straightforward: Start taking full advantage of the Primavera project portfolio management software that was already installed, but not being fully used.

operating under a drastically reduced budget. Project time frames and cost estimates are predictable and accurate. And the entire portfolio of IT projects supports Agere’s key business goals. But the journey didn’t happen overnight, and reaching the destination

PROJECT SUCCESS

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BUSINESS SUCCESS

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was no small accomplishment.

STUNG BY ERP Agere, located in Allentown, Pa., is a leading maker of integrated chips for wireless devices, disk drives and network gear, with 7,000 employees and about $2 billion in annual sales. The company was spun off from Lucent Technologies in 2001 – just when the bottom was dropping out of the technology industry. That meant drastic belt tightening. “In IT, Agere went

However, the IT department wasn’t taking full advantage of the solution. It wasn’t creating project plans that provided accurate projections of time frames and costs. Worse, it was trying to support every project requested by a variety of business units. “We were doing too many things outside the concept of business benefits,” Morris says. “We stopped making good business decisions.” The high-risk, bet-the-business ERP project was languishing.

agement,” Morris says. As a result, the team was able to get the ERP project back on track and complete it before Agere was spun off from Lucent. But that was just the beginning.

[
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“We’re now able to model 100 percent of our activities

and make project decisions based on the financial and human resources available.” – Chris W. Morris, senior manager, Program Management Office, Chief Information Office

]

from a $270 million budget in 2001 to a $94 million budget in 2003,” Morris says. In fact, before the spinoff, IT had already been grappling with major change. In 1998, Lucent embarked on a major initiative for enterprise resource planning (ERP). “The company had close to 550 business applications that we were executing the business on,” Morris explains. “It became clear that an integrated package was needed.” Lucent settled on the Oracle application suite to manage its core processes. It also chose the Primavera software to support the ERP project.

Divisional conflicts, disjointed planning and poor resource control were crippling the effort. “After a year of execution, the project was still essentially at square one,” Morris admits. “From a pure planning perspective, the project plan was useless as a guide for completion.” To jumpstart the project, the IT team embarked on a thorough analysis of the features and functions of the Primavera solution – and what it could help them to achieve. “By discovering what Primavera could do – and why it did what it did – we were able to really understand program man-

SEVEN STEPS TO SUCCESS According to Morris, Agere passed through seven stages on the road to program management success: Step 1: Block and tackle – The IT team started by clearly identifying the work that remained on the ERP project. It built sound plan logic and focused on critical path. “The scheduling log became the policeman, while week-over-week variance served as the auditor,” Morris says. The primary driver was total float. The result was the successful completion of the ERP project. Step 2: Move beyond the basics – The team then became more sophisticated in its approach to project management. It began using the resource profile and loading reports to examine resource demand and increase the accuracy of the plan. It also started running what-if analyses to determine the impact of scope changes on timeline and resource load. As a result, the team was able to improve plan accuracy, begin planning for multiple possible project paths – and start meeting commitments. Step 3: Repeat and extend – The next step was significant: extending project management to all major IT projects. The team identified all active projects and built out logically sound project plans for each. It then extended resource loading

www.primavera.com

beyond a single-project view. Most important, Agere formed a program management office (PMO) to develop standards, identify cross-project constraints, provide consistent project management support for key initiatives, and measure the success of the portfolio. Today, the PMO can provide commit dates for all projects based on projections of resource consumption and capacity. Morris cites Primavera as central to this ability. “We were able to use the functionality in Primavera as a guide for developing methods and standards,” he says. “We’re now able to model 100 percent of our activities and make project decisions based on the financial and human resources available.” Step 4: Involve the business units – With budgets tightening, the PMO needed to prioritize projects and justify their value. And the best way to do that was by involving the business units. The PMO formed a portfolio review board, with executive-level representation from each business unit. Decisions about work prioritization and the allocation of financial and human resources are now made with significant input from the business units. As a result, ownership of – and accountability for – the direction of the IT portfolio is shared. Step 5: Integrate with financial management – To some degree, project management still took place in a vacuum. It was essential that project costing be integrated with financial management. So the PMO started tracking project costs

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and comparing them with projected budgets. It also began to tie project costs to organizational financial outlooks. To a large extent this was done through the use of project codes. Step 6: Decentralize project management – Two years after its formation, the PMO was still viewed with skepticism relative to plan accuracy and decision-making effectiveness. It became clear that some measure of decentralization was in order. That process began with time reporting. “That has a few key

agement – With portfolio management more broadly distributed, it needed to be accessible to all users. The methodology management module enabled consistent and simplified planning for lower-level projects. “We built a series of templates that ask questions and, based on the answer, construct a plan,” Morris says. “Users don’t have to apply codes and resources, they just use methodology management and validate the data.” Online access, meanwhile, provided anywhere, anytime access to plan and resource-loading data.

advantages,” Morris notes. “To be able to report on work, the work has to be planned. You can then track how good you are at making estimates versus actuals.” The team then trained resource managers – the people responsible for day-today direction of a project – on making decisions about changing schedules. “Now, as more people use Primavera, we are reducing our staff of dedicated project managers, because more people throughout the company are gaining project management skills,” Morris says. Step 7: Simplify project man-

BENEFITS AND BEYOND Morris points to two key factors in Agere’s ability to transform IT project management: executive support and an effective project management solution. “We had the unwavering support of multiple executives,” Morris says. “Whenever we hit a change management roadblock, they stepped in and dictated the change.” As for the project management solution, “Primavera provided the only tool with the complete functionality we needed,” Morris believes. That includes the ability to operate across all Agere locations, the ability for multiple users to work with a project plan simultaneously, and robust, role-based security. Morris reports that Primavera is delivering tangible benefits. “The biggest benefit was the ability to reduce our budget,” he says. “We

could not have gone from a $270 million to a $94 million budget in 18 months without the ability to understand what our project load is and where our resources are.” The solution has also imposed a new level of project management rigor: “It’s impossible to hide a bad plan in Primavera,” says Morris. The results speak volumes. A recent analysis of the 11 largest projects for 2003 showed that all were on time and within budget. The project portfolio is now organized by key factors such as alignment with strategic initiatives, the business units affected, and process, which is “key in the age of Sarbanes-Oxley,” Morris says. For the future, Morris hopes to extend the active planning window from 12 weeks to six months. He’d also like to engage more business units. “We have 100 percent control over our own resources, but we don’t have that level of visibility into the resources of our business units,” Morris says. “We’d like our efforts to be more integrated.” In time, other Agere departments may view program management the way IT sees it: as a core competency. Concludes Morris: “Program management is as key as anything we do. It’s essential to our operation.” •
Eric Schoeniger is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology, based in Lower Gwynedd, Pa. Contact him at eric.schoeniger@comcast.net.

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Description: core competency