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Issue of October 2004 
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Project resource management

Project resources within arm's reach

Tata Consulting Engineers Limited deployed a project resources management solution to keep project management information and other resources within arms reach. Here's how they did it. by Soutiman Das Gupta

Tata Consulting Engineers Limited (TCEL) was overcome by a pressing business need. It had to streamline communications flow across the company and provide an organizational view of its projects and operations. Since each of the numerous projects was assigned teams and resources that operated in separate silos, it was difficult to manage project resources and follow a 'projectized' model to deliver services to clients. It deployed a solution called ProjectByNet (PBN), which “allowed the company a number of benefits like project initiation, project planning and scheduling, and task-based allocation of work to resources. It also gave the company the ability to map the existing project processes,” said Prashant Navalkar, Senior Engineer - Electrical at TCEL.

Legacy creates a burden

TCEL, an ISO 9001 certified subsidiary of Tata Sons Limited, employs 700 nationwide personnel and performs a number of services like pre-project activities, design engineering, procurement assistance, project management and co-ordination, inspection and expediting, construction supervision, and commissioning assistance. The company used legacy software applications for its man-day control systems, and project tracking and scheduling. These applications were stand-alone in nature and created data silos with no real-time access capabilities. “It was tedious and time-consuming to generate MIS reports from these legacy applications, and the reliability of the information was doubtful. At times the same information had to be entered separately into each application since these systems were not based on an RDBMS. The systems had issues of scalability and security. Thus, we needed to have an RDBMS-based project tracking, monitoring, and scheduling system,” explained Navalkar.

Solution-seeking

Based on the past experiences with stand-alone systems and solutions, the company decided to use an integrated solution. “We evaluated an ERP application called IFS (a UK-based company), which included the Project Management module. We chose PBN, which was provided by Compulink since it met our business requirements in a cost effective manner,” said Navalkar. “TCEL also had to consider whether to build the solution in-house or to procure an existing solution. But it decided that it was best to procure an available solution from the market,” explained Uday Kothari, CIO, Compulink Systems.

PBN at TCEL

The company performed a systems study, based on which it made an integration plan, followed by a process of applications engineering. It took between 18 and 20 months from the system requirement study to the training of users. A core team of four personnel from TCEL and a team of five from Compulink headed by a Project Manager were dedicated for the deployment of PBN.

How it helped

The company has already received most of the following benefits. And after all the legacy applications will migrate, the company expects more benefits.

  • The solution provides an easy user interface for routine tasks like time booking, authentication of timesheets, and preparation of project timesheets.
  • It allows online generation of project invoices and tracking of payments. l manpower planning can be made according to competency levels.
  • Project managers can get online and real-time project accruals, project expenses, and profit & loss reports through integration with a finance package.
  • Online project information can be shared with customers and vendors. l Resource utilization can be planned group-wise, office-wise, and at a corporate level.
  • Knowledge management processes can be used to capture and retrieve data from projects related to site problems, document reviews, and compliance reports.

Other operations like resource planning and allocation, and quality processes can be handled with the help of additional modules.

Extra resources

Other than the involvement of the IT team at TCEL, a few extra resources were needed. A system administrator has been deployed at the data center in TCEL's Worli (Mumbai) office to take care of the daily administration needs. Two dedicated servers, one for Web applications and the other for the database have been set up at the data center. A VPN connects TCEL offices in Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune, and New Delhi.

Challenges

“The greatest challenge was to get users to shed the mindset that accompanied the use of legacy software. We had to arrange training for 700 nationwide users in a short time,” said Navalkar. “The roll-out process at all the nationwide locations was also a mammoth effort,” he added. In the entire process the IT team gained a considerable amount of experience and knowledge in the areas of deployment and roll-out of hardware, software, and networks. Personnel from Compulink carried out initial rounds of training, and an in-house team held subsequent training sessions for TCEL's engineers.

Taking it on in future

“We will deploy resource allocation and forecasting modules that will help TCEL utilize its most important assets and its engineering workforce in a more effective manner. We also plan to implement a quality process pack,” said Navalkar. The solution will also allow TCEL to comply with the specifications laid down by the Tata Business Excellence Model (TBEM). TBEM is a complete visibility model based on parameters like project status, customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, and responsiveness of the task. Executives need to monitor these parameters on a real-time basis to ensure TBEM compliance. The company aims to meet the terms of the model within the next few months.

Soutiman Das Gupta can be reached at soutimand@networkmagazineindia.com

<In a nutshell>
The company

Tata Consulting Engineers Limited (TCEL), an ISO 9001 certified subsidiary of Tata Sons Limited, employs 700 personnel and performs services like pre-project activities, design engineering, procurement assistance, project management and co-ordination, inspection and expediting, construction supervision, and commissioning assistance.

The need

Since each of the numerous projects used teams and resources that operated in separate silos, it was difficult to manage project resources and follow an integrated model to deliver services to clients.

The solution

It deployed a solution called ProjectByNet (PBN) from Compulink Systems.

The benefits

The solution allowed the company benefits like project initiation, project planning and scheduling, and task-based allocation of work to resources. It also gave the company the ability to map the existing project processes.

 
     
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