Bill Swanston and Gary Biggar work, respectively, as an Operations Manager and Senior Business Analyst for Robbins-Gioia, Inc. delivered a presentation to the Project Management Institutes (PMI) annual Seminars & Symposium on September 7–16, 2000 in Houston, TX. I will be summarizing their article “Developing a framework for establishing cross-functional integration within a product development project” (Swanston & Bigger, 2000), published on the PMI website, and showing how what they do to run projects relates to the concepts we will be studying in our course this semester.
In order to understand Project Management Integration one has to first understand what makes up a project. All projects have a start and a finish; they’re not an ongoing endeavor. The parts between the beginning and the end are what concerns Project managers the most. And it’s how these parts are brought together to perform the required tasks, at the right time, bringing the project to a successful conclusion that is known as project integration. This integration management comprises the processes and activities that identify, describe, join, and synchronize the various processes and activities within the process groups (PMBOK, 2013). What Swanston and Biggar have developed is a process they use to manage the various projects they work on within the auto industry, but these processes are applicable to any industry.
Swanston points out that the creation of project templates in which to organize integration of projects is essential. The first of these templates Swanston calls the “Overall Project Template”. It contains the major milestones and key events for a typical product development project within the organization. The Overall Project Template is used to set the margins or parameters for the project. These parameters are commonly referred to as the scope of the project. All team members, once this is complete, will use the Overall Project Template as a reference to plan their exact detailed work.
The Project Integration template is second of the templates and it is the integration/management template that incorporates the details for the milestones and the key events used to effectively manage the project. The Project Integration Template includes the detailed tasks needed to complete all of the high-level tasks. It basically fills in the blanks for the Overall Project Template. But this template should not be too detailed; it should not go deeper than 3 or 4 levels down. The smaller details will be handled at the functional level by developers or programmers.
One thing to note, as in any Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), which is basically what the integration template is; the project integration template is best when it’s structured by function. By this Swanston and Bigger mean that all functions need to be included in the template and each task identified needs to be linked to an appropriate deliverable. They do this linking using the “Text” and “Flag” fields in Microsoft Project in which to filter out the essential tasks from the summary tasks. Swanston points out that developing these templates requires participation from all involved in the project. Their buy-in is extremely important to the successful conclusion of the project (Swanston & Bigger, 2000). They advocate holding weekly strategy meetings in which at least one member from each impacted team is required to attend. Swanston and Biggars use these templates to help define the high-level requirements of the project and to bring together all the different impacted teams in order to properly integrate the management of the overall project.
How the Overall Project Template and the Project Integration Template Relate to Course Goals
A key in any project; the earlier the Project manager can get a high-level plan to the impacted teams, the better. Part of the process, in the beginning, is to get all of the impacted teams thinking of what this project is about and to get them started on discussing project strategy, to identify tasks, and what resources will be required in order to complete those tasks. Swanston’s overall project template is much like putting together the project charter which includes the project scope, project work statement, and business case on a high level.
The Project Integration template begins to put the teams on the planning path bringing together expert judgment to review the charter and scope requirements and creating the WBS from which the project plan/schedule/budget will be created. The WBS, like Swanston’s Project Integration Template, allows the team to tie together the different tasks to a specific deliverable which is tied to a specific business requirement. It also allows the team to ensure that all tasks are completed in order and on time.
Getting team members to work together is also an essential part of integration management. Part of the challenge with many projects is that the teams involved come from a variety of departments. Getting them to work together has its own issues. Each department can have its own set of rules and requirements. One department could require a special work request form to be submitted. Another could require that it needs authorization from another department before it can begin work. And each of those departments didn’t bother to mention these requirements until shortly before their work was to begin. There is a certain amount of skill and experience required on the part of the Project Manager in order to stay ahead of these types of obstacles. Integration plays a huge role in defining the skills a Project Manager will need.
Implementation of the project management process presented is essential to the successful integration of any project. True cross-functional integration involves bringing together multiple vertical and horizontal functional tasks in developing the project charter and scope, creating the project plan so that the work and tasks can be identified so that execution is properly scheduled. Swanston and Biggars use a tool they created that aligns quite well with the PMI PMBOK requirements and it shows to be quite adaptable to other industries as a result.
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Swanston, W. J., & Biggar, G. T. (2000). Developing a framework for establishing cross-functional integration within a product development project. PMI publication. http://www.pmi.org/learning/cross-functional-integration-product-development-8906