Delivering multi-disciplinary technology projects successfully
Developing and implementing innovative products and services is widely regarded as the most important and valuable activity of any organisation. It differentiates a business from competitors and has the potential to generate substantial changes to shareholder value. Successfully delivering these new offerings, however, requires development projects spanning organisational functions that are often challenging for large and small organisations alike.
Barriers to successful delivery often include low awareness of technical risks or interdependencies, and poorly defined specifications or quality requirements. The greatest obstacle for one global pharmaceutical company we worked with was the lack of a risk management process that was consistent and transparent. Risk handling was not efficient because project teams were unable to quantify and manage risks across multiple work streams; and because they were unable to understand the impact of interdependencies they were not sharing solutions to common risks.
Another challenge is setting up a team structure that is fit for purpose for a multi-disciplinary project environment and quickly building a culture to match. Project teams are often created in the image of the parent organisation in both design and culture. The familiar lines of separation are drawn between functional work streams and ‘business as usual’ ways of working and communicating are replicated in the project team. Hierarchical team structures, a rigid approach to project management, and separation of ‘management’ from ‘technologist’ roles often serve to make the situation worse.
This was the problem facing a company developing a complex medical device and associated manufacturing processes when we were asked to help the team. Discipline-based work streams found it difficult to make decisions requiring inter-disciplinary collaboration and agreement because they had little experience of working that way. By restructuring into functional teams and clearly defining joint goals and responsibilities we were able to break down these barriers to communication. We worked across the team to facilitate the decision making process and, in one notable case, helped resolve a key issue which had been open for several months, in 15 minutes.
We work with clients from a wide range of sectors and we see that the most successful project teams outperform their peers in three areas:
adopting an approach to project management that encourages a culture of collaboration whilst actively managing technical risk
identifying, monitoring, and communicating technical interdependencies to achieve successful solution integration
embedding quality assurance in all processes and at every stage of the project.
Our approach is built on extensive experience of integrating the roles of project management and technical experts and we use it in all aspects of day-to-day project delivery. In larger projects we achieve this by building an ‘integrity’ workstream of one or more experienced technical consultants to support the project manager and team leaders by working within and across the functional teams. We act as information conduits, breaking down organisational silos and encouraging collaboration. We ensure the right quality is achieved in deliverables and that technical risks and interdependencies are highlighted and managed effectively. Most crucially we make sure the right decisions are made at the right time by maintaining the entire integrated project view.
Most recently we used this approach with a FMCG company in the creation of a ‘new-to-world’ solution to comply with industry regulation to track and trace products through the manufacturing supply chain. Working within and across each technical workstream, we successfully managed the integration of a complex system of physical components in manufacturing and logistics environments with existing live equipment, working processes and IT infrastructure. We made sure the solution was robust and fit for purpose, we managed the implementation to minimise the impact on business as usual operations, and achieved delivery on time and under budget.
To discuss further the key success factors in delivering complex projects to help your company, please contact us now.