Aligning people and practices to deliver
In the middle of its toughest-ever project, Citi's Product
Design and Development (PDD), a large applications development and
integration group, found itself in what software author Edward
Yourdon calls a "death march project": the likelihood of being way
over budget and very late was approaching 100%.
PDD, with a team of over 550 assigned to this project, was the
biggest of 42 such groups within Citibank. It had committed to a
two-year, US$350 million development project to shift the bank's US
retail banking system from a traditional product and geographic
structure to one that would provide consolidated services across
all products and locations to individual customers.
On occasion, PDD had delivered high-stakes projects late and
over budget, despite good project management practices and
first-rate people. However, the political consequences of being
late on this project looked bad for the bank, PDD, and all the
people involved. PDD managers were bracing themselves for a year or
more of heroic effort in the face of antagonistic critics.
Consultants who now work for VISION worked for a year with PDD
executives and management in a four-phase engagement. PDD delivered
the project on time, on budget and to the satisfaction of its
Following a week of interviews and analysis, the consultants met
with the top 40 PDD managers for two days. The consultants
confirmed what the managers had suspected - the project was in deep
trouble. The consulting team identified the source of the
difficulty and an opportunity to repair the situation:
- Coordination practices that were not up to the scale of the
- Project management roles that would not allow the speed that
- Widespread mistrust at all levels of management.
- Management redesign
A joint team refined and implemented the consultants'
recommendations, including a redesign of PDD's management structure
and the introduction of new practices for project management. The
consultants introduced new communication and coordination practices
and provided extra coaching to senior executives, tailored to their
particular management needs.
At a critical phase in the engagement, the consultants informed
PDD that, to succeed in the overall project, project leaders would
have to get groups of people who weren't used to working together
to collaborate with each other. The team designed and implemented
new processes to help to bring these people together quickly, to
work effectively with one another. By implementing this design, PDD
managed to avert a potentially catastrophic project threat.
While the project was underway, and in the middle of the
consultant's engagement with PDD, Citi declared that all its
application development groups must attain a level three ranking in
the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) within two years. Developed at
Carnegie Mellon University, CMM provides a grounded framework for
gauging the maturity of an organisation's software development
processes and identifying key practices required to increase the
maturity of those processes.
At the time, PDD was ranked a Level One on the 1-5 CMM scale. At
PDD's request, the consultants helped the group rebuild their
software development and process management skills so that they
achieved Level Two and were prepared for Level Three, all in the
middle of the same project.
Results in record time
- National implementation of the new Citi retailing system began
on time and on budget
- The PDD organisation significantly improved its capability to
design and manage large, complex projects
- The morale of PDD employees improved dramatically during the
engagement: ambition replaced doubt as the prevalent mood
- The development organisation attained CMM Level Two in what the
independent CMM assessor described as "record time". The average
transition period had been 26 months. PDD made the jump in just 12