Going Paperless – Post Mortem Analysis

16 05 2014

This week in our project management class we looked at identifying key stakeholders who can influence the outcome of your project.  One project I recalled to mind happened during my 26 year career in the property and casualty field.  Our company entered the 21st century and decided to go paperless with a system called ImageRight.  This system would eliminate the hundreds of file one could see lying on everyone’s desk as they walked around the office. Of course, this change meant learning a new system and also learning new workflow processes.  It was a huge project, but a rewarding project because in the end the company saved office space and increased productivity.  Our North Carolina branch president chose me and another manager to travel to the Alabama corporate office to spend about two weeks learning the system.  We were officially chosen as the project leaders for our office.  Back then I had no clue I was acting in the role of a project co-manager.  It was a jammed pack two weeks of learning the system and also meeting with other team members to discuss how to rollout the system to others in the company.  Once my co-worker and I finished up our training, the difficult task before us was to go head back to our office and come up a plan to train the whole office.

One of the things me and my co-worker did as we rode for hours in the car was to use our time strategizing!  Back then I hated highway driving and barely did any, so my co-worker did not mind doing the driving there and back.  I was really grateful to her and she was grateful to me for being the highly organized person and note taker.  We had formulated a plan to hold a kickoff meeting with each manager to put together our project team and to get their buy-in for our training plan.   We also knew in this meeting that managers would quickly select key personnel from their area who they knew they could rely upon to follow through and make the project a success.  Successful projects more than likely result from a project team where team members have established working relationships among themselves.  Portney, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, and Kramer (2008) explain:

Projects assigned to a group are performed by combinations of the people employed within a specific unit or division.  Therefore, over time, team members become familiar with each person’s skills, knowledge, and operating style.  Managers come to know which people they can count on to honor their promises and commitments. (p. 61)

I believe our planning on the way back from Alabama paid off, and the kickoff meeting was a great start to the project.  In our kickoff meeting, we were able to identify key stakeholders for each stage of the project and team members from each department who would participate in the initial training phase.  We also established how we would control the project in regards to reporting problems and resolving conflicts.  “All project assignments are made or approved by the director of a specialty area.  Therefore, choices for how to resolve conflicting demands can be made by one person” (Portney et. al., 2008, p. 61).  

One of the biggest hurdles and frustrations I recall was pulling team members away from their daily work schedules to do the initial training.  We did not realize how much overtime was going to come into play as the project progressed This was definitely the part of the project that we underestimated.  We eventually had to bring in temporary employees to fill in the gaps as this was not a short project!  We had hundreds of files to convert to our new system. We should have built assumptions into our project plan early on to accommodate for overtime and additional resources.  Progress tracking became critical to the project in order to be good stewards over our resources.  Josler and Burger (2005) write:

The second main area of project management methodology that can add value to human resource management is progress tracking. This can be done with various levels of formality, involving weekly team updates, reports to stakeholders, baseline and variance reports, and earned value analyses. A seasoned project manager will possess the various tools necessary to promote efficient reporting. Progress tracking enables the project manager to report to stakeholders on the status of risks and also keeps the team and other affected parties aware of progress. (p. 28)

Overall, the training process and conversion took us about 2 years to complete.  Our team had to draft training manuals, create workflow diagrams, prepare files to be scanned, and still keep up with our daily work of servicing customers.  We definitely had to plan, schedule, and control to get through the project even though at the time we did not know we were carrying out stages of project management.

References

Josler, C. & Burger, J. (2005). Project management methodology in human resource management. Cupa.Hr Journal, 56(2), 25-30.

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

 

 


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4 responses

18 05 2014
Damon R

Hi Cheryl,
It sounds like for a project of this size that could have such a significant impact on the company conducting business progress tracking was very important. When the company decided to make this change did they expect that the entire process would take two years? Thanks!

18 05 2014
cbpoole12

Damon,

Thanks for taking time out to visit the blog and leave a comment. Yes, business progress tracking was very critical to a project of this size. It became even more critical as backlogs occurred. The company knew the project would be a large undertaking, but I don’t think they believed the entire process would take two years. Just think about it every paper file had to be scanned and some staff members had to get used to having two computer monitors on their desk to view the new electronic file format.

19 05 2014
Melissa Topinka

Hey Cheryl! It looks like you had some great PM experience there, even though you mentioned you weren’t aware of your formal role at the time! From your example, it seems you experienced a successful full-cycle PM process. Though we have only been in class a few short weeks, we have been exposed to so much. At the time, did you use any formal documentation like a Statement of Work? With the time it took to complete the project, in retrospect, what could you have used to estimate the time needed to complete the project? Michael Greer (2010) recommended a number of ways to build a schedule that I had never considered.

Resource

Greer, M. (2010). The project management minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your projects! (Laureate custom ed.). Baltimore: Laureate Education, Inc

26 05 2014
Wallace

I’ll be following your blog and looking forward to interacting with you.

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