Archive for Demand Management

CorasWorks Solutions for Engineering

Hard core engineering is at the heart of all companies products and systems. Increasingly, success depends on how effectively globally dispersed individuals are able to work better together.  In this article, I’ll review several CorasWorks solutions that we have delivered recently for the Engineering business function. I’ll look at 3 customers and cover 7 work management solutions that address the “soft side” of engineering – how you get the engineering function to work better together.  The solutions are are all based upon the CorasWorks Solution Platform running within a Microsoft SharePoint environment.

Engineering Work Management Hub for Automotive Supplier

The customer is a 4,000 person division of a Top 100 Global Industrial company.  This global division provides components and systems to the automotive industry.  The Engineering function is a 250 person organization.  The customer wanted to create a central Hub where engineers could go and access the core information and participate in key processes.  Using CorasWorks on SharePoint they wanted the Hub to be a single place where the engineers could to access information and to do their work WITHOUT having to go to a different application interface.   They wanted to avoid the app interface proliferation that they experience with the multiple legacy PLMs that they have used over the years.  Accordingly, the specific applications were designed as “services” so that they all surfaced within the Engineering Work Management Hub. Below I will cover three specific applications that are part of the Hub.  Each is a custom application created jointly by CorasWorks and the customer using the CorasWorks v11 Solution Platform.

Design & Engineering Work Standards (DEWS)

This is both a resource and a process.  It provides engineers with access to the approved design and engineering work standards.   In addition, it provides the full process to manage the creation and change control of proposed and published DEWS.  This process consists of three core roles of Engineers, Document Control and Design Engineering.  The system is automated to keep all parties informed of review update reminders, new updates, reviews, and newly approved items.  All work is done within the Hub.

Equipment Management

A key role of engineering is the maintenance of manufacturing equipment and the use of equipment for testing and calibration.  This application manages all pieces of equipment used by engineering.  It serves as the system of record for the Certificates of Inspection for all equipment.  In addition, it includes check out processes for testing equipment and maintenance and calibration alerts.  A nice feature is the inclusion of images of the equipment as part of equipment descriptions.

Purchase Requisition

Engineering is responsible for a large number of purchase requisitions.  This application supports the full process from request through final approval.  The requestor receives constant updates via email and within the Work Management Hub.

 

Resource Planning and Demand Management for Electronics Component Manufacturer

This customer is an 11,000 person manufacturer of components for computers and consumer products with $5B in revenue.  The engineering function was looking for a better way to manage their global resource planning and allocation process and to provide visibility into the project load for their product roadmap.  Their standard planning cycle is 5 years ahead with a rolling quarterly estimate of engineering resources by technical function.

The customer had tried a number of approaches in the past to address this need ranging from spreadsheets to Microsoft Project Server.  They wanted something in the middle that provided a structured work process but was highly visible and collaborative.  They had found that the most effective estimating was a rolling solution where the more near term estimates should be very accurate, but, they are able to generally project the needs as far as five years out in order to manage the demand side of their project portfolio.

The CorasWorks-based solution provides a central place where engineers from around the world get a single view of all projects in the product pipeline.  The function managers then make estimates of the required resources from their function and by team (skill) on a quarterly basis.  This information is then correlated to provide resource estimates by projects, by function, and by skill (overall resource allocation).  The solution integrates with Microsoft Project Server which is the system of record for the project portfolio and actual project activity.

They now have a single place where global Engineering management can collaborate and get a single view of the allocation of their resources.  They have ongoing and historical estimates for each manager (which has become quite interesting as they can see how the estimates change over time).  In addition, they have a robust. real time dashboard reporting system with drilldown into actual project work.

Idea Challenge Management for Engineering Function of Defense Systems Integrator

This customer is a 10,000 person organization providing advanced systems and services to the Federal Defense Agencies.   The organization had been a customer of CorasWorks for a number of years.  Over the last two years they had been evaluating third party Idea/Innovation Management solutions at the enterprise level but had made no decision due to cost and common lack of core process management capabilities.  One of their business divisions is a 1,000 person organization with 550 engineers that provide systems services primarily on a cost plus basis. This unit wanted a solution that would enable them to drive timed, specific idea challenges out to the engineering group with a detailed downstream review and management process.  They selected the CorasWorks Cim solution for Idea and Innovation Management for this purpose.

Their solution was implemented in a 3-month pilot.  During this time they launched 6 idea challenges across the 550 engineers of their division.  Three of the challenges were general to all 550 engineers and 3 others were specific engineering challenges for 3 different lines of business.  The ideas went through a detailed initial management screening by their Engineering Management team including a Quadrant (Impact High-Low, Cost High-Low) to provide a quantitative approach.

An important element of their pilot approach was that they had a structured set of downstream activities to drive to conclusions.  The resulting initial actions on the submitted ideas broke down as follows:

47%   Deferred (largely not priority)

12%   Requiring more research

26%   Promoted to Line of Business

12%   Process Improvements promoted to Working Groups

3%     Approved for immediate implementation

The pilot was successful with ideas approved for immediate implementation and with subsequent Integrated Research and Development (IRADs) fundings being approved by the lines of business.  Remaining ideas continue to be managed through the funnel.  The customer has since moved up to an enterprise license of Cim for the organization.  However, they envision a two step approach moving forward.  First, they are working on cross-pollinating their challenge model across the engineering groups of the 4 other business divisions (a total of 3,500 engineers across the 10,000 employees).  Then, they will open up the model to the broader organization managed at the business division level.   The interesting part is that there is no definite commitment whether they would even role out enterprise-wide idea management initiative as they now believe that the greatest business value is a challenge approach driven by specific business needs of specific groups (a bottom up approach to innovation).

The Soft Side of Hard Core Engineering

Information technology solutions in engineering have tended to focus on the hard core aspects of engineering like their CAD/CAM diagrams.  What you see above are solutions that address the softer side of engineering, the way that work is managed and how engineers are enabled to work better together across globally distributed organizations.

Examples of Collaborative Resource Forecasting that Drive Global Manufacturing Results

It is a challenge to forecast, allocate and coordinate resources across a globally dispersed manufacturing organization.  It is even more challenging when the work spans functional groups or separate divisions making different products.  These kind of activities typically fall into categories such as Demand Management, Forecasting, and Resource Allocation.  However, the common objective is to simply get all stakeholders working off the same page and collaborating in their forecasting, estimating, and supporting activities.  The value of doing it well can be extraordinary.  In this article, I’ll look at two customers with different needs that leveraged CorasWorks on SharePoint to get the job done.  They cover two of the primary classes of resources where we need to forecast demand: people and material (others being capital, equipment, and facilities).  The solutions are relatively simple, however, leveraging collaboration they drive a new level of global effectiveness.

The General Challenge

Almost by definition, a global organization has a need for coordination and collaboration to forecast demand and allocation of resources.  However, we have lots of barriers to success.  In many situations, organizations reach for two classes of tools.  If the problem is “deep” they tend to leverage their ERP system and build or buy an app.  If the problem or opportunity is not as deep, the tool of choice is usually a bunch of spreadsheets.  However, there are a class of problems where what people really need is a simple way to work together off the same page.  They need an app that is visible, accessible to all stakeholders (even across divisions), easy to use, provides for collaborative work, and has a specific feature set that addresses the needs.  For such an app, the ERP approach can be too heavy and restrictive and the spreadsheet approach is usually a mess.

The Right Solution for Global, Purposeful Collaboration

When you need people to work together globally to coordinate and collaborate on demand forecasting, using CorasWorks on SharePoint, gives you an effective solution.  SharePoint provides the collaborative platform.  CorasWorks provides the application.

Lets see how it works by looking at two specific customer scenarios…

 

People Forecasting and Resource Allocation for Electronics Product Development

A global electronics manufacturer of 20,000 people has a global division that creates graphics products.  They have a rolling planning process with a five year horizon where new products/product revisions are submitted, approved, and planned.  They wanted a way to forecast the demand and coordinate the people (FTE’s) allocation across many different component functional groups.

They had tried a number of different approaches to the problem.  They first tried spreadsheets which was a mess.  Then, they tried their ERP which was far too heavy.  Then, they tried MS Project Server, which was too inflexible to meet the needs.  With CorasWorks they found a just right solution.

The application lives in their private cloud.  People submit their projects which go through an approval process.  Then, each of the component functional groups enters estimates of FTE’s on a monthly basis to allocate to the projects.  At any time a functional manager can update their estimates which may impact the overall plan.  Each functional manager is able to manage their estimates across projects.  Each product manager is able to see the estimates across functions and across other products.

The solution now provides all of global engineering with a single view of the project demand, the planning, and the resource commitments at a high level over the next five years.  The stakeholders get a full top down view that is consistent.  The level of detail is enough to coordinate the commitments from each of the groups.  Then, each group leverages their internal systems to take it to a lower level of detail to manage specific projects and resource utilization.  When they need to make a change, that change is reflected back up at the global level.

 

Forecasting Steel Consumption for Automotive Component Supplier

Now, for the flip side – we are looking at a scenario for demand management for commodity materials.  A 15,000 person $2B revenue, global supplier of automotive components wanted an effective way to forecast their demand and track their steel availability and consumption.  Steel is the primary material used in their products.  It is used across all of their main divisions and in plants in more than 15 countries.  Each division can track their purchases using their financial system.  However, given the financial impact of steel prices and supply/consumption they wanted a way to globally collaborate across divisions.

The solution was an application created using CorasWorks running on SharePoint.  Given the scale of the solution, it is a SQL Server database application, but, the front end is CorasWorks on SharePoint, thus, providing the global collaborative framework.  The application tracks forecast needs of steel by type and grade.  It tracks purchases including currency management.  It tracks and organizes the information by plant and supplier.

This application is elegantly simple to serve the needs of a mission critical process. It is global, cross-division, cross-plant in scope.  It puts all of the information at the fingertips of the users and the buyers allowing for the optimal efficiencies on purchases and consumption in the 100’s of millions of dollars per year.

 

Global Collaboration with a Purpose

At the heart of these applications is collaboration.  It is about people across functions (graphics products) and divisions/plants (steel) working together to get the best results. Each application only has a few hundred users but they have a lot of user interaction in a many-to-many, collaborative environment.  The apps provide a virtual place for many people to see and interact with many others – people they probably didn’t know.  And, note that the applications are for very specific purposes based upon hard data vs. soft collaborative activity.

 

Summary

The two customer scenarios above are very different applications for Demand Management.  One is about people allocation in complex projects.  The other is for commodity material purchases.  Yet, they are both about forecasting, estimating and tracking across a globally distributed manufacturing organization.  Simply put, they make it far easier for a distributed group of people to get a global job done.

Drive exceptional results by combining social business collaboration and project management

We kicked off October as an exhibitor at the SharePoint Conference in Los Angeles.  At our booth, we were showing our two core solutions for SharePoint 2010 – CorasWorks Cim for Social Business Collaboration and CorasWorks PPM for Project Portfolio Management. These are two robust solutions that work great stand alone.  However, we  got people really excited by demonstrating business scenarios where the two are combined to drive a new experience.  In this article, I’ll cover the three combo scenarios that we were showing and give you an explanation of how they come together.

Background

Over the last year, we have driven each of these solutions forward in their own categories with at least 3 releases for each.  Each solution has its own competitor vendors.  Thus, your analyst reports treat them separately.  And, most customers see them as separate animals.  However, when you start to consider the scenarios where they work together on top of SharePoint – you begin to uncover business results magic.

The three scenarios are as follows:

- Project Collaboration

- Project Initiation, Approval, and Management (Demand Management)

- Innovation Management

 

Project Collaboration

In our PPM solution, people primarily work in project sites like many other solutions.  It has all of the great structured project management features you’d expect. Yet, how much of the success of a project is based upon structured management vs. collaboration (people communicating and working together)?  80/20? 50/50? 30/70?

With Cim we have collaborative communities that can be embedded into the CorasWorks PPM project sites.  Thus, smack dab in the middle of structured project work you have a very robust collaborative community.  In addition, users can be anywhere else in SharePoint and go to their Cim Activity Stream and see, contribute, and collaborate within any or all of the project communities for all of the projects that they watch.  Even further, other people that may not be part of the specific project team can be enabled to also watch the community and help drive success.

Here is a schematic depicting a typical user experience where Kim White, a web designer, is working on multiple projects.  She only needs to go to her Activity Stream to collaborate on multiple projects.

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Let’s look at the types of items that you’d find in your project community.  How about: project updates and snapshots, meeting agenda and notes, issues and resolutions, all points bulletins for required resources and responses/volunteers, technical challenges and solutions, posts of core knowledge/information, announcements of handoffs, ideas to move the project forward and discussions…

One collaborative community to handle information, communication, discussions, and resolutions to drive the success of a project by getting the team and the expanded community to work together.  (NOTE: in many of the types of posts, you have two way communication, like a question and an answer or answers).

 

Demand Management: Project Initiation, Approval and Management Workstream

I previously wrote about this scenario with a focus on the New Project Initiation part of the workstream.  That article describes the business value of having a robust front-end project initiation process so that you make sure that you are doing the right projects.  More formally, this is often referred to as Project Demand Management.

Our full demonstration shows an integrated workstream where you start with people entering their ideas for projects.  This gives them visibility and allows for robust collaboration.  Then, the projects are evaluated via the Cim Process Management site that enables management and subject matter expert collaboration.  Once approved, you are ready to go into the project execution phase.  The approved projects may be pushed into the PPM Program Management Office.  Or, they can be pushed into a PPM Project Portfolio to kick off the project.

Thus, in this scenario the two solutions are aligned in a sequential workstream.  Again, at any point users can collaborate from their Cim Activity Stream.  Accordingly, a user that proposed the project can track the entire process and be engaged via the project community in the actual execution.  This is depicted in the following schematic.

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Innovation Management

This is another workstream similar in design to the scenario above but delivering a different business value – innovation success.  In a typical innovation scenario you have a number of front-end communities.  They may be standing communities or challenges that capture ideas and allow for collaboration.  Then, the ideas go through a process where they are reviewed and worked on.  The additional boxes below at the process stage represent task management.  For instance, you may assign tasks to technical teams or marketing teams whose work supports the decision process.  The users can just use SharePoint team sites or they can use CorasWorks PPM sites so that the tasks can be more thoroughly managed in a programmatic manner.  The approved ideas are then pushed into project execution phase which might be managed by a Program Management Office, a Portfolio or Program Manager, or just a Project Manager.

As in the above scenarios there can be a great deal of collaboration at the front-end, amongst managers, subject matter experts, and, delegated teams in the process phase, or, as part of the project execution phase.  This collaborative activity is all surfaced via the users Cim Activity Stream wherever they like to work.

 

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The Wrap

Typically, we have thought of the two types of solutions as separate animals.  They have been targeted at different user groups who see themselves working in very different ways. With CorasWorks, we have now designed the solutions so that they can be naturally integrated to drive the types of scenarios noted above.  They give you the structure you need to properly manage work and the power of robust collaboration to drive the results.  And, it all works on top of one platform – SharePoint.

william

Driving Business Value with the New Project Initiation social business process

Last week we added the New Project Initiation (“NPI”) application to our App Showcase.  This CorasWorks Cim-based app running on SharePoint 2010, front-ends your Project Management systems and provides you with a broad funnel for new project idea/proposal capture and collaboration and a process to review, evaluate and approve them. The application addresses an area of Demand Management that is common across all departments and types of organizations. In this article, I’ll look at the business scenario, drivers of business value, and common objections/pushback that you get by adding this front-end app for Demand Management to your project work.

The Business Scenario

All organizations do project work and we typically have many tools to manage the details of execution of a project.  CorasWorks even provides such a tool, the CorasWorks PPM, for Project Portfolio Management on SharePoint.  In working with our PPM customers, we found a major gap and opportunity to better manage the front-end funnel of project work – a gap that we have now filled with this NPI app.

Any standard Project Management methodology will talk about the importance of Project Initiation.  They reference techniques such as the form of a good Project Charter, the review criteria, etc.  However, the big opportunity is to change the game by adding a collaborative front-end for Demand Management.  The idea with the Cim New Project Initiation app is to open the front-end to a much broader group of people.  To make it easy for them to contribute new projects.  To provide a rich collaborative environment for them to enhance proposed projects and vet them.  All of this activity then feeds into a managed process (that can vary) where the proposed projects can be reviewed, further enhanced, evaluated, and then approved or not.  Then, the approved ones get pushed downstream to be worked on as a project. This workstream helps you funnel demand into a structured process – giving you greater visibility and engagement, as well as, control over what gets worked on.

The schematic below depicts the typical way that the end-to-end “workstream” works.  The Cim application handles the Collaboration and Process phases of the workstream.  It then connects to the Projects phase which is where you manage “execution” through your normal Project Management tools.  You have feedback loops across the workstream.

New Project Initiation Workstream

 

The Business Value

The business value that you derive by adding this NPI front-end comes in a number of different ways. It boils down to lower costs, better return on your project investments,  increased chances of making the right investments, and, less friction and greater readiness internally when the projects are delivered. These benefits are all part of doing proper Demand Management.  Let’s look at some key drivers of these outcomes:

- Eliminate Duplication – What projects is your organization doing?  Which are duplicative and even wasted, unmanaged competitive efforts?  By having a visible front-end, you eliminate or lessen duplicate efforts that cost you valuable resources and time to market.

- Encourage managed competition – What projects is your organization doing? Sometimes you actually want managed competitive efforts, such as two projects to vet two different technical approaches.  They are duplicative in terms of the objective by design, yet, by making them visible and managed you can quickly determine the right way to go and reallocate to the winning solution.

- Balance Project Work with Resources – There is a never ending desire for projects.  They always outstrip available resources.  By seeing the full pipeline of proposed projects and the portfolio of active or completed projects, you can throttle the projects that are initiated to match the available resources.  If people are required to put projects into the system to allocate resources (of course over a threshold) then you can manage this balance.

- Do the Right Projects – Which are the right projects to do?  If you could always do the right projects at the right time, you’d be unstoppable.  First, you need to know the Pipeline (future) and Portfolio (active and past).  Then, you can leverage your entire workforce to weigh in and vet projects collaboratively in the Pipeline.  You can then evaluate the Pipeline projects against one another AND against the ones that are already active or that were done.  You are leveraging the front-end for collaboration and then using it in your decision making for your project portfolio.

- Scope Projects Right – The benefit of the visibility and the collaboration on the front end is that the project gets more eyes on it, in a comparative context, and, the “charter” can be enhanced to try and arrive at just the right project scoping that is relevant to the objective, the resources, and the time.  You’d be surprised how a small fact from someone usually outside of the normal, back-room process, such as a new competitive initiative or market change, can alter the scope and thus the ultimate success of the project.

- Visibility Driving Readiness – The app never sleeps.  As a proposed project goes through the cycle the status and supporting information is at the fingertips of the organization.  They get to have their say up front.  They know which projects got funded.  They can track the progress of execution and be ready – to help or benefit by the result.  The system takes care of keeping interested people informed.

 

The Pushback to Adopting the New Process Initiative App

Many of our customers are adopting this use of Cim.  In particular, our customers using CorasWorks PPM are dropping this application onto the front-end to have an integrated project work stream all running on SharePoint.  But, these champions and most others face pushback within their organizations.  Let’s look at some of the common objections:

“Our people aren’t ready for this level of visibility” – Most are not.  But, isn’t that perhaps the problem, the constraint, and the opportunity.

“We don’t know our process to approve projects” – This is very common.  Many organizations don’t have a process or criteria to approve projects even at department and division levels.  A manager just approves it if they have resources.  If they need resources, they go to their manager.  One approach is to use this system to have people ONLY register projects. Then, learn how they go about approving them, getting their resources, and, what the success is.  You’d don’t have to even have a process to approve projects to realize value.  You don’t need the same approval process and criteria for all divisions and project types – in fact, it should vary and the Cim solution supports different work streams.

“We have a very deep process” – We can accommodate that also.  Cim is unusually flexible and deep on Process Management.  But, whether you have no process or deep process the key is the front-end capture and collaboration that feeds into it and supports the decision making.

“We already have a PMO” – Great.  They can manage the process of approval for that threshold of project.  Now, just bolt on that front end that engages the whole organization, department, division, get the collaboration going, and, they will now have some real-world input into their process.  In addition, you can capture and manage projects at a lower threshold, effectively having mini-PMO’s so that the value of good visibility, collaboration, decision making, and management gets pushed deeper in the organization.

“What about our secret projects” – Secret projects like Corporate Acquisitions should not go into a broad, collaborative front end.  This solution is about the super-majority of the projects, not the few.  (NOTE: We could provide you with a secret project solution like we do for our Military and National Security customers.)

“We really need to get our Project Management system going first” – Maybe.  But isn’t this a bit like building your manufacturing plant before you have a handle on demand.  Maybe getting control over the project pipeline, and getting people used to engaging and collaborating on the front-end should be the first thing that you do.  Then, use that to determine which tools will be best to execute on which type of project.

“We use different Project Management systems” – Everybody does.  The truth is that the number 1 tool is the spreadsheet.  The key is that this front-end can be open, collaborative, and consistent, and then, integrate with multiple execution tools.  The Cim solution integrates natively with the CorasWorks PPM.  It also integrates with native SharePoint Project Sites, third party apps on SharePoint, and Microsoft Project Server on SharePoint.  And, it can integrate to external systems such as Sopheon, Siebel, Salesforce, MS CRM, Clarity et al in a read-write manner.

 

Summary

In summary, the shift is to apply a Demand Management methodology on the front end vs. being focused on just the project work itself.  By taking a broad view of project work across your organization, we hope that you can see the value of greater visibility, engagement, and collaboration on the front-end.  And yes, there are internal objections.  It helps that Cim is quite flexible so that you can start in a way that makes adoption more organic.  You may use it for just registering projects or put strong process behind it.  You may just start with a single department.  Or, you may open it to a whole division or the entire enterprise.  And, you may have different work streams for different project types or business groups.  Whether you have one NPI work stream or many, you are able to see across them all and the full life-cycle to help you make the best decisions that you can.

I believe as the research indicates, that for most industry segments the organizations that master the front-end approach of Demand Management will out compete those organizations that master the mechanics of project delivery.  You need both Demand Management and Project Delivery to succeed.  But, right now most organizations are lacking on the front-end, since the types of tools such as Cim are relatively new and just getting adopted.

 

william