Case No Norigen Communications

It's been a year since Norigen Communications Inc. of Toronto arrived on the scene as a competitive local exchange carrier, offering a range of communications services to businesses across Canada a year of massive growth from 15 to 500 employees and several key acquisitions.

Managing that magnitude of growth is never easy, acknowledges Allan McNeely (2001), Norigen's director of program management; but with a strong corporate commitment to project management behind it to keep the company on track, business continues to thrive.

The powerful thing about what we're doing here at Norigen is the way we're set up. We have a formal program management office where we handle not only all of our projects, but we also handle the processes ... Project Management gets into every aspect of the business it's absolutely full spectrum. (p. 1)

Under McNeely is a team of nine project managers who execute specific projects in specific departments. If a project spans multiple departments, that project is termed a program and is handled by a program manager charged with the task of pulling it all together. One reason for the group's success is that company president and COO Bill Baines throws "170 percent support" behind the concept, said McNeely. Another is that it breaks down the communication barriers between departments, building a more collaborative and efficient work environment. McNeely continued:

The biggest thing project management brings to the table is to help a company stop looking at itself as a functional matrix, the classic silos (departments) of doom where you have information randomly popping out of the top. Some lands in the next silo but a lot lands in between and just rots away. (p. 2)

Instead, a project management focus helps a company align itself horizontally so that information from departments is shared. "They don't fly the plane, but they have a view of what's going on across all of the projects," he says. It's a model he has seen in other companies during the course of his research in the area and one he prefers to others.

In a June 1999 report designed to find ways to improve IT project management, Shevlin concluded that although companies were managing IT projects well, they were not achieving results. The problem he identified was that more emphasis was being placed on the process of managing the project than on the application or product being built. To help shift the focus back to the product, Shevlin advises dividing project office teams into two groups: product managers and project managers. Product managers focus on the business reasons for doing the project while project managers focus on the process itself.

Finding good candidates, however, isn't easy. McNeely, who interviews people daily, says:

It is a challenge to find people who are real project managers. There are a lot of folks out there who have the title project manager or project coordinator, but they're not really professionally trained project managers.

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What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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