In my last post I gave an overview of eProject, an Enterprise 2.0 tool for managing projects and enhancing collaboration. Here are two examples where this approach has worked that can added to the collection of Enterprise 2.0 success stories.
Austin Hardware is an industrial business-to-business hardware development manufacturing and distribution company. They do real old style hardware, not servers and laptops. Austin has 18,000 products, 15,000 customers, and 110 employees with nine locations across the country. New product development is a key process for them but it was siloed in the pre Enterprise 2.0 world. It was difficult for the sales people, who were most aware of customer needs, to be involved in product development. Prior to eProject they had a non-web database that made it difficult to easily share information.
With a transparent web 2.0 style system for managing projects, geographically dispersed teams can connect, everyone can see what is going on, and anyone can contribute. Now the sales people can be involved for the entire process. Mark?, the Austin Hardware - role? said, "before eProject, we could spend 50 hours or more on a project before we even did basic research and scoping or had a commitment from a customer. Now, we have more insight into our projects and can be more certain that every man-hour we spend increases the likelihood of market success. Instead of a belly flop off the diving board, we now stick our toe in the water first and make our way to the deep in with confidence."
Austin has also used the eProject Dynamic Application feature to put together custom applications for each stage of the product development process, as Mark said, “We have created numerous new dynamic applications that are tied to each stage of a given project, from the initial sales lead to the final delivery of the hardware and customer sign off. We refer to this as a man-hour investment "pyramid" strategy. Our early stages are designed to consume a smaller amount of man-hours that help us decide (i.e. review and sign-off) whether the project is worth the next level of man-hour investment. The tiered man-hour strategy actually allows us to work on more projects simultaneously. The dynamic applications themselves are configured to serve as an aggregator of project requirements and information, increasing accountability and providing greater insight into the potential profitability of a project from the get-go." The ability of business teams to quickly put applications together mashup style without heavy IT involvement allowed them to have the application fit the process rather than the other way around
In the pre- web 2.0 days, I was involved in a large scale portal implementation with similar objectives at a large UK retail food chain. It was successful in connecting the retail outlets and customer needs with the product development group but much more heavy IT lifting was required because of the lack of mashup style capabilities and much more ongoing manual effort was required to keep the connections open because of the lack of the common transparent workspace offered by tools like eProject
C&S Wholesale Grocers is a family owned and operated $20 billion wholesale grocer headquartered in Keene, New Hampshire with 20,000 employees. Over the past 25 years, the company has experienced strong growth, both organically and through multiple, rapid acquisitions. Within the IT team itself, there were varying philosophies and toolsets, running the gamut from Microsoft Project to a hodgepodge of Excel spreadsheets. Additionally, the lack of a central help desk meant that business users would have to contact IT on a one-off basis in order to request needed features in production systems. C&S found itself in the position of throwing people at problems as they came up, and they were unable to easily answer the fundamental question: what were their people working on?
C&S decided to consolidate their project management efforts with an Enterprise 2.0 approach using eProject. Due to its SaaS, web-based model, the eProject system was much faster to implement and simpler than old style systems. As with Austin Hardware, Dynamic Applications allowed to the system to fit their process in 8 weeks. Then a transparent project portfolio in one central repository allowed all those who needed to know to gain visibility into and understanding of the firm’s time investment in major technology initiatives. Now everyone could see what everyone was doing.
This increased transparency through an Enterprise 2.0 tool allowed for more intelligent resource and portfolio decisions. They could also begin to develop insight into key questions like how long a merger or acquisition takes to complete and if a certain project is strategically aligned with business goals. PPM6 also allowed C&S to use the same system for SOX compliance and production change management.
Madeleine Kerr, Director of the IT Program Management Office (PMO) at C&S said, “We were able to rapidly deploy eProject to our entire team, and immediately realized value in terms of improving our visibility into the project portfolio, understanding the time we're spending on projects and improving the overall project management process. We’re also experiencing great success in using eProject’s Dynamic Application functionality to create customized applications in eProject that are improving many fundamental day-to-day processes within our IT department, such as our change control process. We expect to expand use of eProject into other areas of the company, and truly let data drive our day-to-day processes and activities.”
To me, C&S is another example of how Enterprise 2.0 opens up the organization and creates the intelligent enterprise that can actually see what it is doing. I think we will someday wonder how we worked without it, just like email, the telephone, and the printing press. However, to be successful you need an organizational culture that can handle and benefit from this transparency. Austin Hardware and C&S Wholesale Grocers deserve credit. These tools and food companies are examples for other, seemingly more complex, industries.