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By Diane LeRoy, VP-Project Management, USANA Health Sciences
For years, USANA left the management of IT projects up to the IT department with no formal project management methodologies—an approach typical for the time. This tactic worked effectively for over eight years, until technology became the focal point of how we conducted business.
Within just a couple of years, we began growing faster than ever, resulting in larger IT initiatives rolling out over the entire company. These projects were much more complex than before and included the use of cross-functional teams from various departments.
In order to manage the overwhelming barrage of tasks and projects ahead, the IT team realized they would need assistance. With an impressive track record of global manufacturing product launches, our Project Management department provided the right answer in supporting their daunting responsibilities.
However, the first small IT projects assigned to the Project Management team were difficult to manage, due to the team’s lack of IT knowledge and experience. While the projects were delivered on time and basic project management practices were used, there was still considerable room for improvement.
After much trial and error, it was determined a small team would be hired exclusively to manage IT projects. These specialized project managers would hold extensive IT knowledge as well as a breadth of experience managing IT-related projects. Additionally, they would provide strong organizational skills and the ability to motivate and build relationships.
The result of using IT project managers (PMs) has been a huge triumph for our company. Just recently, we launched our most ambitious digital marketing tool ever—a fully personalized website for each of our distributors in all 19 markets. Because IT project managers were included early on in the process, they were able to drive the project to success from the very beginning.
“I would encourage every company to consider adding an IT PM team to your organization”
A team was gathered and focused on creating initial documents, outlining the scope and plan. Timelines were created, requirements gathered, and user stories written, allowing the team to jump into action. Even progress reviews were delivered to stakeholders at critical milestones throughout the project, resulting in no surprises and sufficient time to incorporate any changes requested.
By utilizing a dedicated IT PM team for launching new products and services, we have discovered many benefits, since IT project managers can do many things:
• Provide realistic project deadlines Because IT project managers create scope documents, requirements, user stories and timelines, they are able to paint a better picture of when a project will most likely launch. On the other side of the equation, there are times when unrealistic deadlines to be met since we are a dynamic company. Working with IT as business partners, we can find a solution to meet the need.
• Control scope changes Scope changes can easily get out of control. IT PMs monitor and assess the impact of the change and ensure stakeholders approve and understand the impact.
• Manage risk Acknowledging risk and creating contingency plans is a crucial role of the project manager, which saves the company time and money.
• Manage communication at project launch I T P Ms are the center of correspondence to essential department members. They communicate all updates, status meetings, risks, change of scope, and any other critical information in a timely manner. They also store project documents in a central repository for all project team members to access.
• Involve stakeholders It is critical to involve stakeholders in the project and review progress. IT PMs are essential in managing project expectations.
Aside from those mentioned, we’ve seen additional benefits to utilizing IT PMs. IT project managers are able to focus their attention on the planning and execution of the entire project and leave the programming to IT. This frees up the IT management team to concentrate on their tasks for the project rather than focusing on the overall execution of the project.
And because project managers report to the Project Management department and not IT, we are able to continually improve our processes, modify processes for our environment, discuss lessons learned and share new practices and methodologies. It also prevents us from being influenced by or showing favoritism to one group, since our department is neutral.
I would encourage every company to consider adding an IT PM team to your organization. We have been able to build greater communication and trust, which has been crucial to our success in achieving common goals. We truly work as business partners so the communication is transparent and flows freely.
In addition, we have reduced risks, cutcosts and improved success rates overall. Not only has our Project Management team quickly become valuable players in all projects across the business—particularly IT—but it has also become the communication hub of the entire company.