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PM Essence

Project Management in Concurrent Realization of System of Systems

- R. Pugazhenthi, PMP, BEL

Some of the projects, handled by BEL are 'System of System' types, involving not only electronic systems, but also other areas. 


Managing System of Systems (SoS) comes under Program Management. SOS is a process of managing multiple projects which need to meet or exceed business goals.


Concurrent Engineering (CE) is an engineering management philosophy and a set of operating principles that guide a product development process through an accelerated successful completion.


The characteristics of CE:


Iteration' principle: As the design process progresses, new information, ideas, and technologies become available progressively that require modifying the design. Each iteration results in changes that must propagate through the design stages, requiring upstream rework.


Parallelism' principle: The SoS need to be executed in parallel in order to reduce development cycle time. Otherwise valuable development times and resources are wasted.


Decomposition' principle: The complex SoS are often decomposed into a number of simpler subsystems that can be controlled independently into smaller manageable pieces.


Stability' principle: A product development process is said to be stable if the total number of design problems being solved remains bounded as the project evolves over time and eventually falls below an acceptable threshold within a specified time frame.


SoS Environment

The SoS environment poses challenges associated with program management in addition to issues arising from Concurrent Realization. The most common SoS challenges are:


Underestimating program complexity. Lack of integrated planning.


Lack of firm leadership, commitment and sponsorship.


Poor cross-functional communication. Morale drops and staff turnover is too high.


Too many stakeholders: User, Design agencies, Quality agencies, Network of both Public and Private Partners & Misaligned stakeholder expectations are some of them.


Lack of resources: Some resources overloaded with work and others are under utilized. Overload leads to high stress and imbalance of work with life.


Organizing for Right Program Organization


Generate a solid business case: To determine whether a program should be initiated and continued, a business case is needed. An effective business case provides the required justification to commit the organization's resources towards a program's intended outcomes and benefits.


Build a Well-Defined Program Architecture: While SoS programs will differ vastly in terms of team size, a number of crucial roles must exist to ensure proper governance. There must be a Program Manager who has the overall control over the SoS. The individual projects can be headed by respective project managers.


Involve User Participation 

In the CE SoS projects, the requirements will be progressively elaborated as the project progresses. Hence user involvement from the beginning of the project is very crucial in order to understand the complete scope of the project.


Energize Teams

The project manager needs to be high initiative and drive and energize the team towards the project goals. PM should be accountable for project success and should know effective delegation. Delegation is a win-win strategy in managing SoS projects.


Building WIN-WIN Partnership with Vendor Partners

Vendor management allows you to build a relationship with your suppliers and service providers that will strengthen both businesses. The partnership builds over long time by understanding mutual requirements, transparency and trust. Finally WINWIN only works.


Practice Systematic Risk Management

Even though the program manager is focusing on the program level, he should not be afraid to conduct risk reviews on individual projects to ensure the project manager has been actively identifying and dealing with risk.


Enhance Project Communications

Poor communications within a team lead to misunderstanding and therefore mistakes in project work. In any case, miscommunication will result in loss of time, money and increase of stress levels.


In the SoS, we need to interact with multiple stakeholders who play a critical role in the success of the program. They are the ones who ultimately decide whether a program is successful.


Adopt Integrated Program Planning

Integrated planning begins with a program charter - which is more detailed than the business case and provides high-level program scope, objectives and constraints. The Program Manager (PM) should define boundaries for each project to avoid gaps on the one hand and overlaps on the other. The PM should:


Try not to manage every project in the same way.


Integrate the project schedules.


Keep plans realistic and up-to-date.


Resource and Knowledge Management


Resource Competition: In the concurrent projects, scope is progressively elaborated and there exists the unforeseen rework / iterations, it is indeed needed to plan for additional resources as a part of contingency measures.


Knowledge Management: In the SoS scenario, every field is the area of competency. To keep the knowledge, implementation of Knowledge Management across the corporate is very essential.


Concurrent PM of SoS impose many challenges when compared to other programs. It starts with setting the unrealistic deadline. System realization and proving will go in iterations. Things are likely to slip. Added to this there is always a continuous delivery pressure on the project manager. There is need for dynamic updation of project schedules, resource allocations, continuous monitoring and mitigation of risks. The organization need to be flexible and agile to take care of mid-course corrections and moving ahead. We may face failures during iterations. Team needs to demonstrate patience. The project manager need to be accommodative to accept the short comings and motivate the team members. Sometimes self motivation will be the need of the hour.


Top management support to overcome the constraints is essential. The support need to be extended to our vendor partners also. The user need to be apprised about the development regularly and need to be involved in the various stages of the project.


In short, program success factors of a SoS depends on clearly defined goals, top management support, sufficient and appropriate resources, competent team members, adequate communication, collaborative planning and management, formal risk management, user involvement, effective knowledge management process among others things.