Atlantic Canada Telco’s use TimeControl and Open Plan for Year 2000 Project

Telecom Towers

"The quality and reliability of the plans for project managers and team leads improved greatly."

Brian Giswold, Senior Project Manager for DMR Consulting Group

On November 18, 1996, NB Tel, MT&T, Island Tel and NewTel announced a joint "Customer Service Management 2000+ project; an advanced technology project designed to adopt and implement common systems and deal with the Year 2000 problem.

No small logistical task. The scope of this $75 million project included the management of 450 people working over 130,000 days (18 months), spanning four provinces, and a large percentage of the project team was to be shared on the 20+ subprojects.

Given the scope of the project, it became clear early on in the planning stages that a strong project management team was needed along with a planning tool that would hold up under the myriad of project data and resources. It had been previously assessed that the planning tool being used by the telcos was falling short on delivery. The number of workarounds and ureliable data had begun to prevent the project support office from accurately and efficiently reporting on the project.

"As the project support office evolved, remarks Brian Giswold, Senior Project Manager for DMR Consulting Group and Senior Consultant on the Year 2000 project, we began to look for extra functionality which did not exist in the current tool such as advanced coding cababilities and sophisticated resource scheduling."

In the fall of 1997, the decision was made to purchase Open Plan Professional, a scheduling tool well known for its success in handling large projects, and TimeControl, a time tracking system which according to Giswold " was very important to us since it would give us more control over the timeliness and accuracy of the data going into the plan."

A seven-week implementation plan was laid out by the Project Support Office. It spanned project managers, managers and 450 resources. Their objectives were clear: implement with as little disruption to daily life as possible, give users a set of tools that would manage the project efficiently and effectively and provide accurate and up-to-date scheduling information vital to the success of the project such as slippage or insufficient resources.

Due to the fact that this implementation was actually a conversion from another planning tool halfway through a very large project, it was extremely intensive and stressful, as well as risky", says Giswold.

With minor delays however, all implementation activities were completed in about 9 weeks.

"One of the most satisfying aspects of this implementation was when all of the old plans were converted and we were able to use Open Plan to get information out of the plan data with such ease. Before it would have taken hours or days or wouldn’t have been possible at all," says Giswold.

As well as implementing a new scheduling and time tracking tool, "the most challenging aspect of this implementation, says Giswold, was organizational. Implementing a system like this required standardizing processes and procedures across multiple organizations and cultures." "It took determination, perserverence, negotiation and patience" he adds.

The implementation of Open Plan Professional and TimeControl has enabled the Project Control Office to analyze and resolve scheduling problems very quickly. The quality and reliability of the plans for project managers and team leads improved greatly.

"Overall the use of Open Plan Professional and TimeControl has substantially enhanced the Project Support Office’s ability to support the planning process."

Brian Giswold, Senior Project Manager for DMR Consulting Group

The Project Control Office took on a more pivotal role during this implementation. It began to standardize planning and control processes and to take a more active role in the planning process. Planning guidelines were developed and managers were trained in how to use them. This made the plans easier to use, easier to change and easier to manage with.

If the Customer Service Year 2000+ project were to be repeated? "There would be more senior management education about the capabilities and benefits of using tools of this calibre," says Brian. "Managers need to know before embarking on a project of this magnitude what the minimum organizational, resource and procedural changes will be in order to ensure an implementation goes smoothly and benefits are realized. You cannot overeducate, over document or over communicate when it comes to implementing project management tools of this caliber."