Trek Bicycle Corporation is a major multinational bicycle manufacture based in Waterloo, Wisconsin. Up until recently, different divisions used varying software programs and communication styles to perform its project management. This lead to constant delays in getting new products to market as well as missed sales due to stocking out at key times. When Kris Lamp took on the newly created position of program manager, she initiated a search for a unified project management software suite. There was a clear organizational need for a product that would allow for seamless communication amongst divisions around the globe.
The company chose AtTask (which in early 2015 rebranded as Workfront) as their Enterprise PMIS solution. Under Lamp’s guidance, the implementation was kept simple. They opted for a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, which transferred the support risks onto the vendor. Also, the company opted for minimal customization to the PMIS and chose to implement the rollout to one group at a time. This slow start allowed for the project team to work out any issues as they came up and before larger scale implementations. This mitigated the risk of project failure by starting simple and allowing time in the schedule for early rework.
Trek and the PMIS project management team heavily relied on management buy-in to help with employee adoption of the new system. Because the PMIS was eventually rolled out company-wide in many different countries, the project management team utilized local managers to encourage and/or mandate employees to adopt the new PMIS. In return, the PMIS project team kept manager notified of changes far in advance and conveyed why and how the changes would happen. The overall consensus from employees was that the PMIS not only helped with daily work, but also helped them feel more connected with the company’s work.
The PMIS implementation was almost immediately considered a success. End-user buy-in was high and due to their slow but steady implementation, they were able to begin to introduce customization. On-time delivery rates improved 20 percent, which directly benefited the bottom line. A few years after implementation, 800 projects were being managed using the PMIS. These projects were being managed much more smoothly than far fewer projects the company had prior to the implementation.
Lamp credits the PMIS’s implementation success to decisions made early on by the project team. Choosing a vendor that had an off-the-shelf product that fit most of their needs and was able to provide support alleviated much of the early risk of failure. By using a slow and careful implementation, group by group, change requests were minimal and easy to handle. Most importantly, the team was sure to provide ample advanced communication to managers about the software. This allowed managers to educate employees on why the change was happening and why it was so important to the company. Overall, the PMIS took Trek’s project management from an ineffective and redundant process that frequently went over schedule and budget, to a transparent and seamless linking of divisions.
Does your company utilize a PM software suite? If so, which product do they use and what is your opinion of it?
Overby, S. (2014) Trek Bicycle Rides Project Management Tool to Efficiency. CIO Magazine, retrieved 7/23/15 from http://www.cio.com/article/2377427/project-management/trek-bicycle-rides-project-management-tool-to-efficiency.html.
9 thoughts on “Trek Bicycle: How PM software can change an entire company”
Great blog post, Jessica! Honestly, it’s things like these that make me feel like my company is missing out by not having a more formal project management infrastructure and culture in place. While I’ve never led a larger-scale project at work, my firsthand experience in project meetings as well as what I’ve learned from my interview with one of the ad hoc project managers in my company is that we use Microsoft Project and little else. Excel becomes a supplemental tool to help track details, progress, and others. I think it’s neat to read about how this company made a conscious decision to standardize their software to eliminate broken communication and to promote cohesion.
I can also appreciate your highlighting the benefits of taking a slower approach to the project. Often when people look at the benefit of finishing within a certain timeline they tend to overlook the potential benefits of taking it slower. Having survived a couple of IT conversions, I can tell you it’s a lot more pleasant when everyone takes their time and makes sure things come together as they should, even if it means lengthening the conversion timeline.
How was your own experience with your employers? As someone who works out of the home, I’m interested to hear how your project development interfaces with the rest of your organization.
Thanks Mark for your reply! From what we have discussed about your company during class, I know they are expanding very quickly through acquisition. With that in mind, I can see where Microsoft Project may have been completely sufficient when the company was much smaller. It sounds like you do not think that the software is sufficient to grow with your company and that makes perfect sense. Microsoft Project is a great tool, but does not have the full wraparound features than larger more complex project management information systems (PMIS).
Drawing on my experience with my employers, the most important factor in the usefulness of a PMIS is how well it is utilized. Both the project manager and project team needs to have a good understanding of how to use the software and the buy-in has to be high. This is not the case at my work as many of my upper level managers are not computer savvy enough to fully utilize Project. I find Project to be sufficient for my small to medium sized company, but I often have to print reports and ask for hand written feedback to then input back into Project. (It can be a whole lot of fun.) Like you said, I work from home and have to have some type of PMIS in place to keep things moving forward. The lack of buy-in by my whole team makes my job a whole lot more difficult by having to balance direct communication with the information in Project.
I completely agree with you on a slower approach to projects, especially IT related projects. There is almost always pressure to meet or beat a tight deadline, but when going into the uncharted territory (like new software instillation) slower can be better. It can lead to less rework and lower costs. There is something to be said about taking the time to do it right the first time.
Good point Jessica. I think there is another point that is to be made here though. No matter what sort of PMIS you have and no matter how high the buy-in is, there needs to be some sort of set training and implementation plan in place. Having a good system only goes as far as the people using it. For example, above you stated that some people are not as computer savvy. Maybe companies that want to utilize a more advance PMIS should also focus on establishing and implementing a training program to help the integration go more smoothly and effectively. What sort of training does your company use for PMIS?
Kathleen, thank you for your feedback. I very much agree with your point of how vital training is. As I said above, it is vital to have a PM and project team that has a good understanding of the PMIS. In a perfect world, at my company that would be everyone, however it is not possible on all projects I work on. I work for a health care company and frequently there are physicians on my project team who serve as medical director or on the board of directors for a facility I am working with. These tend to be older physicians who are resistant to EHR, let alone PMIS. I do my best at my company to advocate for training on our PMIS system and most of my admin project team members have been through at least an online training session. However, there tends to be a certain mindset in the health care industry where the physician is handled with ‘kid gloves’ so to speak. I think this a longstanding mindset that is hard to shake, even from my upper level non-medical executives. I totally agree with the points you made though and it is something that I advocate for on a regular basis.
Great job Jessica! I agree with Mark as well, reading this makes me want to advocate for more formal project management infrastructure in my workplace. I feel that I am fortunate because I work in my family business and this is exactly why I came to get an MBA! I can now utilize formal project management structure to effectively run meetings and see projects through completion. Hopefully by utilization of software and other management tools communication and a cohesive culture can be created at my workplace.
I do agree that the Project management tools are very helpful with assisting project managers. But I think there are several advantages and disadvantages with using these tools and careful evaluation has to be done prior to investing in this tool. The advantages are as follows:
1. Collaborate with team members in real-time: The programs usually have communication tools that can assist teams in discussing issues in real time. The benefit is that each team member can be kept up to date and can quickly deal with issues as they come up.
2. Document sharing: document sharing tools will allow individuals to edit, update the status of reports and create systems that allow for transparency and communication.
3. Manage project costs. PMS generally has tools that can assist in managing project costs.
4. Ability to manage risks, forecasting, and budgets.
5. Reporting capabilities: flexible report formats and the ability to quickly access needed data
However, the disadvantages are:
1. Some programs can be very costly with very little ROI.
2. Project management software may complicate simple projects.
3. Execution issues when relying on automated alerts.
Before purchasing a certain project management tool, it is important to evaluate the requirements and needs of the organization. Knowing exactly which functions will be needed will help to streamline the decision making process. Carefully developing a list of functions and characteristics in terms of “required” and “optional” will help to determine which packages most closely fit the needs of the company.
Great article. This type of information and system would be great at my work. It would allow my team and group to manage the 20+ concurrent projects in process. This would also allow us to give easier updates, manage documents and create a strong culture of accountability. Our group has looked at these types of systems to help align projects, but it never seems to come through because there isn’t buy in from some of the managers. Any thoughts on how to get buy in ?
Matt thanks for that interesting question and I am glad that you asked. I am far from an expert on this subject, but from my previous replies above, you can probably tell that I struggle a lot with PMIS buy-in. While my company does have a very basic system that we use, there are a few physicians who are a bit older and technology-adverse who are reluctant to buy-in. I have spent a fair amount of time scheming to come up with ways to persuade them on the benefits of PMIS.
The best advice I can give (although I am sure there is better advice out there) is to do your best to try to dig into the source(s) of the resistance. It is most likely budget restrains, time restrains, or an overall aversion to new technology. It seems like you would have a strong case against the first two concerns. There are numerous examples like the article I posted that sing the praises wraparound PMIS systems like AtTask offers. While there is a time and money commitment upfront, with such a large concurrent project load, the efficiencies gained by the software should more than make up for upfront requirements. Maybe try to get a manager behind you to work champion PMIS and persuade the holdouts. If it is an overall avoidance to new technology, then I don’t have much advice, but if you figure that one out be sure to let me know.
In my opinion, this article highlights two important issues: all divisions of an organization need to be able to speak together. In other to successfully advance a company, it should not be disjointed. As this article mentioned, individuals may end up with a better understanding of current and upcoming projects, as well as leadership decisions.
Also, when individuals are trained appropriately, it sets a positive start. Then, as individuals begin to see the benefits in their day to day tasks, they become sponsors of the program, further advancing the success of the implementation. I have gone through many EHR changes in healthcare and have seen positive and negative examples. When training individuals on a new business tool, it is important to select highly respected individuals to serve as “sponsors” or “super users.” By utilizing individuals who have a positive outlook and are respected by their peers, the program has a higher likelihood to succeed. Technology transitions can be very successful if managed appropriately. Unfortunately, a lot can go wrong, including technical glitches. From this perspective, an effective and thorough project manager is key!