Collaborative project management
Collaborative project management is a method used to plan, coordinate, control, and monitor distributed and complex projects. It enables project teams to collaborate across departmental, corporate, and national boundaries and to master growing project complexity.
Faced with unresolved issues in the management of complex product development projects that were beyond the capability of classical techniques such as network planning or critical path analysis, Dr. Rupert Stuffer developed the methodology of collaborative project management in the '90s. Initial projects at industrial companies such as BMW and Bosch demonstrated the practicability of the methodology which was then further refined.
Since then, Dr. Stuffer has given papers on this methodological approach at a large number of events by specialist organizations (such as GPM, 1998), at management congresses (e.g. Munich Management Colloquium, 2001), and at industrial companies (e.g. IBM, 2003; BMW, 2005).
Features of collaborative project management
Collaborative project management is based on the principle of actively involving all project members in the planning and control process and of networking them using information, communication, and collaboration modules. Management is not regarded as an activity reserved solely for managers but as an integral part of the project work of all team members.
Collaborative project management makes extensive use of localized control loops. Complex projects are broken down into smaller "more tangible" sub-systems which are then assigned to members of the relevant departments. Consequently, planning and control responsibility is assumed by those who are also responsible for project content.
Sub-plans are networked and synchronized to tie all partners into the system of planning and control and to promote a common understanding of overall planning. Changes and/or delays are communicated directly to the relevant project members without active intervention in their areas of responsibility.
The technical platform on which collaborative project management builds is a central database that makes current and consistent planning data available to all project participants wherever they may be located.
Communication and collaboration are the basis for early identification of the impact of potential problems on linked sub-projects. They create a high level of transparency and a shared awareness of quality among team members.
Collaborative project management usage scenarios
Ever shorter product lifecycles and faster time-to-market coupled with the individualization of products and services are giving rise to value networks between suppliers, customers, and partners. And new technologies, such as electromobility, increasingly demand collaboration in cross-company and cross-industry development networks that are characterized particularly by the following features:
- Projects with geographically dispersed teams and worldwide locations
- Parallel and highly complex product development projects
- Dynamic, innovative, and interdisciplinary projects
- Projects that require major planning and control effort and are characterized by a multitude of technical changes
Sectors and industries
Partners in different sectors bundle their expertise to research and develop materials and manufacturing processes. Coordination of schedules and activities becomes a decisive factor in collaboration, and an efficient method of cross-company interaction across the product development processes is needed.
This applies to all sectors that feature the following:
- Complex products
- Long-term development cycles
- Great pressure to significantly reduce development and project completion times
- Projects with a large number of participants such as suppliers and cooperation partners spread throughout the world
- Projects with a multitude of interdependent project steps
- Projects with comprehensive and varied demands on the quality of results
Such sectors include, for example, the automotive, aerospace, mechanical engineering, IT, and energy industries.
The collaborative project management methodology provides adequate support for the widespread practice of working in development teams with direct responsibility.
- Proactive, tool-assisted communication and collaboration replace the rigid algorithms of conventional project management systems.
- A central database provides current and uniform planning information for all project members – even between companies and across locations.
- Clearly allocated responsibilities and interfaces promote transparency and currency of information, thus ensuring improved planning reliability and quality.
- Project management sets up a top-down planning framework by defining important milestones and key data. Project members plan their work scopes independently, confirm that specified requirements have been fulfilled, and assume direct responsibility for coordination with other sub-projects.
- Communication modules permit simple and intuitive networking of sub-projects and thus support rapid and transparent problem resolution processes. Changes are communicated automatically to those involved and problems are resolved by reaching mutual agreement on suitable measures.
Collaborative project management software for the automotive industry
Automobile makers, such as BMW, face growing pressure through shorter development cycles and higher productivity targets – often in a globalized development environment. One of the biggest challenges is cross-enterprise collaboration along the value chain. Complex and cross-company collaboration processes cannot be mastered without end-to-end IT support.
The consequence is:
- Mastering complexity in product development becomes a crucial factor in the fight for competitive advantage.
- Project management as a guiding process has a decisive integrating function in distributed value networks.
For this reason and for many years now, most German OEMs have put their faith in the collaborative project management methodology, the de facto standard in the German automotive industry, to plan and manage their development processes.
- 'Kollaboratives Projekt-Management in der Praxis: BMW koordiniert weltumspannende Prozesse' (Collaborative Project Management in Practice: BMW coordinates global processes), Computer Woche, 5 July 2002. Retrieved 9 July 2012.