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Project Management - Common Communications Inc

Essay by   •  March 15, 2011  •  Case Study  •  1,661 Words (7 Pages)  •  2,584 Views

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Common Communications, Inc.

Common Communications, Inc. (CCI) is a thirty-year old, $50 million division of Communications Systems International, the world's largest communications company. CCI employs about 340 people, of which more than 200 are engineers. Ever since the company was founded thirty years ago, engineers have held every major position within the company, including president and vice-presidents. The vice-president for accounting and finance, for example, has an electrical engineering degree and a master's degree in engineering management from METU.

CCI, up until 1999, was a traditional organization where everything flowed up and down. In 1999, CCI hired a major consulting company to come in and train all of their personnel in project management. Because of the reluctance of the line managers to accept formalized project management, CCI adopted an informal, fragmented project management structure where the project managers had lots of responsibility but very little authority. The line managers were still running the show.

In 2003, CCI had grown to a point where the majority of their business has revolved around twelve large customers and thirty to forty small customers. The time had come to create a separate line organization for project managers, where each individual could be shown a career path in the company and the company could benefit by creating a body of planners and managers dedicated to the completion of a project. The project management group was headed up by a vice- president and included the following full-time personnel:

Four individuals to handle the twelve large customers

Five individuals for the thirty to forty small customers

Three individuals for R&D projects

One individual for capital equipment projects

The nine customer project managers were expected to be able to handle two to three projects at one time if necessary. Because the customer requests did not usually come in at the same time, it was anticipated that each project manager would handle only one project at a time. The R&D and capital equipment project managers were expected to handle several projects at once.

In addition to the above personnel, the company also maintained a staff of four product managers who controlled the profitable off-the-shelf product lines. The product managers reported to the vice-president of marketing and sales.

In October 2003, the vice-president for project management decided to take a more active role in the problems that project managers were having and held counseling sessions for each project manager. The following major problem areas were discovered:

R&D Project Management

P.M.: "My biggest problem is working with these diverse groups that aren't sure what they want. My job is to develop new products that can be introduced into the market place. I have to work with engineering, marketing, product management, manufacturing, quality assurance, finance, and accounting. Everyone wants a detailed schedule and product cost breakdown. How can I do that when we aren't even sure what the end item will look like or what materials are needed? Last month I prepared a detailed schedule for the development of a new product, assuming that everything would go according to the plan. I work with the R&D engineering group to establish what we considered to be a realistic milestone. Marketing pushed the milestone to the left because they wanted the product to be introduced into the market place earlier. Manufacturing then pushed the milestone to the right, claiming that they would need more time to verify the engineering specifications. Finance and accounting then pushed the milestone to the left asserting that management wanted a quicker return on investment. Now, how can I make all of the groups happy?"

V.P.: "Whom do you have the biggest problem with?"

P.M.: "That's easy; marketing! Every week, marketing gets a copy of the project status report and decides whether or not to cancel the project. Several times marketing has canceled projects without even discussing it with me, and I'm supposed to be the project leader."

V.P.: "Marketing is in the best position to cancel the project because they have the inside information on the profitability, risk, return on investment, and competitive environment."

P.M.: "The situation that we're in now makes it impossible for the project manager to be dedicated to a project where he does not have all the information at hand. Perhaps we should either have the R&D project managers report to someone in marketing or have the marketing group provide additional information to the project managers."

Small Customer Project Management

P.M.: "I find it virtually impossible to be dedicated to and effectively manage three projects that have priorities that are not reasonable close. My low-priority customer always suffers. And even if I try to give all of my customers equal status, I do not know how to organize myself and have effective time management on several projects."

P.M.: "Why is it that the big projects carry all of the weight and the smaller ones suffer?"

P.M : "Several of my projects are so small that they stay in one functional department. When that happens, the line manager feels that he is the true project manager operating in a vertical environment. On one of my projects I found that



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