Thursday, January 26, 2012

Overcoming challenges in Information Technology (IT)-Engineering project execution – By Chandan Lal Patary,PMP
1. Introduction:
Execution of software projects for core engineering segments like Automotive, Avionics, Building automation, Process automation, Power system automation etc is a challenging work. Interfacing with large complex systems and inserting software into those systems to get the business value is a complex and time consuming work, e.g. writing cockpit control software for large passenger aircraft, Writing software applications for total power management system like Generation, Distribution and Transmission areas, and writing software for controlling total air-conditioning system for a multistory building. Software industries are experiencing various challenges to smoothly run projects involving these complex engineering systems or domains. Most of the projects are running into execution troubles for various reasons. Project Execution processes get influenced based on various factors like organization culture, organization location, project execution location, nature of the engineering product, Return on Investment from the project etc. Executing a task in production environment (Factory) is different from executing tasks in a virtual environment i.e. on a desktop PC in 3X4 cubicles in an IT company! Managers are significantly adapting themselves to the required changing environment. Generalizing the process to achieve the result is a herculean tasks though it will be a mixture of IT and engineering process. Organization cultural plays a critical role in project execution. Engineering product companies have their own history, cultures, people, mindset and process and engineering companies are proud of all these factors. IT team members are finding challenges to get into these parameters.
2. Challenges:
Today’s Information Technology(IT) projects demand the aggressiveness and swiftness for project execution in case of large scale IT system development otherwise technology will become obsolete by the time system is ready for usages or else there will not be any buyers for that product. Knowledge workers are the major resources for IT projects targeted for core engineering segment. Team members need to be very adaptive for today’s IT project execution. IT Project execution taking lot of time with lot of issues is causing major damage to the business in engineering segments. Sometime organizations are losing projects. IT Project execution in engineering segment is quite complex because of the domain knowledge which plays a significant role for large system development. It takes several years to acquire the domain skills and only after that individual can start contributing values towards the product. High attrition rate in software organization sometime causes poor quality product deliverable and delay in project execution.
Few high level findings which can causes delay for the IT project execution in core engineering domain:
 Organizational culture.
 Organizational process
 People
 Politics
3. Organizational culture:
Today’s IT project demands quick delivery. Competition is very high. Revenue margins are low. Large organizations are having tough time to execute the projects with the expected speed. Small organizations are able to achieve up to certain extent because of the culture changes and structure. Whereas, in large organizations, the process which is a result of accumulated and sometime redundant experience not only decelerates the pace of project execution but also complicates the path of affecting any changes into the project at any stage. The employee mindset in a large scale engineering company has traditional backlogs in employee’s mind something like as Public Sector Unit or Government establishment employees’ mindset. Currently mass people moving into the IT industry from engineering industries for better prospects and career opportunities is also cause culture issues. Managers from engineering division are getting promotion and moving into IT management but mindsets does not change as per the project demands. Factory work cultures are moving into IT environment but IT- projects cannot be executed with bureaucratic lethargic execution steps as found some of the engineering industries or PSUs. Managing knowledge worker is different from dealing with factory workers.
Many private organizations are hiring people who have spent most of their work life in public sector companies or large scale government establishment as managers since there is scarcity of experienced people with domain knowledge. But several years of experience in bureaucratic environment cripples the manager’s mind and moving into IT industries creates impact into the software organization culture.
4. People:
Large scale engineering companies which are into IT project development unit, most of the time have core engineering people as domain experts or managers. IT knowledge workers are different from domain engineers and they need to be handled differently because of age and cultural differences. Hand shaking of both the culture is a mindset change and needs special care. IT resources are like migrating population in software industries where as engineering system demands long term commitment from workforces because of the inherent complexity of the system.
5. Organizational process:
Large scale IT engineering organizations which are traditionally into engineering product development and recently moved into IT product automation area to maximize the system efficiency, business values and minimize the human interference have serious process ambiguity issues especially for IT project execution area. Organization is in dilemma if it should follow CMM process, ISO or traditional engineering process excellence which is proven for those organizations.
6. Regional Politics:
Pride and arrogance are sometime part and parcel with most of the domain experts. IT project execution in engineering application need constant support from domain engineers and vice versa across geographies. The knowledge those domain experts acquired over a significant period of time is quite appreciable which need to transferred to the IT team members to effectively execute the tasks. Due to various political issues, knowledge transfer is not smooth. Reason could be many like fear of losing the jobs, to become obsolete, duplicate the knowledge and produce in different fashion and get the credit, repeating the same knowledge transfer for IT migration population etc. Unwillingness or inability to understand the domain for IT resources causes poor quality software output.
7. Can we Change?
Changing the execution environment is like turning the Titanic ship from East to West direction in a fraction of a minute! But experience says it is possible and organizations are changing to sustain the business growth. It needs leaders to drive the changes.
To become productive and provide value and come up with innovation solution for engineering segment through IT needs long term continuous commitments from Organization, from top executives and team members. It should be a virtual company with one goal and one execution model irrespective of origin location or execution location.
8. Change is possible, how?
Organizations need strong leaders to drive these issues out from the system. Business leaders should be in synch with the middle level managers on regular basis to look for conflicts or issues. Leaders have to constantly communicate with the stakeholders by thinking about the bigger picture like 360 degree communication. Communication has to be firm, continuous and persistent to achieve the result. Managers have to be trained on critical people management aspects if it is missing.
Team members need to see the bigger business values and long term benefits and the leaders have to make the big picture visible to the team. Once resources visualize the bigger picture than automatically contribution will start towards the organization, products, and society for the better future. It is possible only by constantly, persistently producing values through the same domain or systems.
Organization policy should ensure resource retention for those areas where IT project is a long term business for that engineering segment.
Top executives should ensure smooth execution happen with proper regional handshake so that organization can achieve the maximum business value and target.
Follow standard from project management framework for project execution. Deviation should be minimized.

No comments:

Post a Comment