» Archive for the 'Project and Task Management' Category

Towards a Friction-Free World

Friday, October 24th, 2008 by Jonathan Spira

Friction denotes resistance.  Within the context of work, friction implies a resistance that slows down a task or prevents it from happening at all.

Most knowledge workers are too busy to learn new applications or even to keep existing ones updated.  Indeed, many so-called productivity tools remain as shelfware as a result.  Vendors that can eliminate this kind of “friction” will have the upper hand in gaining adoption and helping companies increase efficiencies in operations.

We even have a term for it: “Friction-Free Knowledge Sharing.”  This connotes tools that remove inherent friction, such as multiple steps (logins, cutting-and-pasting or dragging-and-dropping of text or documents) or other obstacles (search results numbering 564,768) that make knowledge workers more into knowledge engineers and stop them from actually accomplishing much work.

Fortunately, a few smart vendors recognize that the secret to adoption and knowledge sharing is to reduce or eliminate such friction.  One such vendor is Smartsheet.com, a provider of a collaborative work management tool that is an intelligent spreadsheet, which functions as a worksheet capable of managing a variety of tasks and work items.

Smartsheet 2009, just released this week, is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) that does not require most users to register or log into a system.  Instead, the owner of a project (who is logged in) sends an e-mail to a colleague or group that contains a link that is active until each person completes whatever is required of him, for example entering updated figures or other information.

Smartsheet has an extremely low friction quotient and is therefore fairly nondisruptive.  Through Smartsheet, knowledge workers can define, manage, and control tasks.  Smartsheet also enables management of the work behind the task by providing the linkages and showing the related actions that must be taken.  To collaborate, colleagues can use Smartsheet without training, downloading, or even signing on to an application.  Everything they need to know, from project status to changes made in a document, is available in the format that creates the least friction for them, either through e-mail, or through the Smartsheet online interface.  Users can choose the method best suited for their personal work style.  Either way, they will be made aware of what is going on with their colleagues, as well as what is happening in the organization as a whole.

This is clearly not intended for knowledge workers who need to stay in an application throughout the day, but for organizations where many knowledge workers need to provide or tap into applications on an occasional basis.  Smartsheet 2009 provides a path with a lot less resistance.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

How Airbus Lost €4.8 Billion: Part II

Friday, December 14th, 2007 by Jonathan Spira

With the release last week of our report  Airbus Hits Turbulence: How Knowledge Sharing Failures Cost Airbus €4.8 Billion,  we are presenting the report’s executive study in two parts.  Part I was presented in last week’s edition of Basex:TechWatch and here on the blog.  We now continue now with Part II.

With significant orders from some of the largest names in the airline industry, including Emirates, Virgin and Lufthansa before A380 production delays set in, Airbus seemed well on its way to establishing itself as the leader in the wide-body jet market. But Airbus’ lack of foresight in project management led to significant multi-national knowledge sharing and collaboration failures.

Far from being a unified company, Airbus’ management and production teams span many European companies. Although Airbus technically unified under the auspices of EADS, Airbus still operates as multiple semi-autonomous companies. The merger did not include significant advancements in how the production was carried out across national borders. Instead the production processes remained fragmented and split, with no significant efforts made to improve the collaboration among the factories. This is a significant problem and the company is being destroyed by a lack of corporate collaboration. Former CEO of Airbus, Christian Streiff, admitted that Airbus was a “juxtaposition of four companies.”

Faced with few alternatives, Airbus announced a massive restructuring plan designed to fix management and production problems, but also help with losses associated with other problems such as the weakness of the US dollar. Termed Power8, the plan hopes to increase profits in spite of the company’s projected losses for the year 2007 due to the costs associated with the program and the A380 disaster.

For years, Airbus was considered an innovator and technology leader. But in a short period of time the company went from darling of the industry to pariah. Airbus S.A.S. can learn from its mistakes and regain its title as a leader in the field. But significant challenges must be overcome. The company has been working on improving how its different national groups collaborate with one another. Ensuring that Airbus operates as a unified concern, where the sharing of knowledge and best practices across borders is the norm rather than the exception, however, is a battle still to be fought, and the outcome is far from certain.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

Airbus Misses Its Connection

Friday, June 22nd, 2007 by Jonathan Spira

Last October, in this space, we looked at the multi-billion euro cost of Airbus’ knowledge sharing failures.

We’ve continued researching this story and what we’ve learnt goes well beyond the € 4.8 billion profit hit parent company EADS will take over the coming four years.  Production of the A380 was halted because of a wiring problem, namely that the wiring harness for the cabin power supply, lighting, and electronics systems was too short.  This was due to the Airbus factory in Finkenwerder, Germany using an older version of CATIA design software from Dassault Systèmes than the Airbus factory in Toulouse, France.  Hence, while groups in the two factories thought they were exchanging very detailed, exact information, it turns out that the incompatibilities between the two versions made such information exchange rife with errors.

Why were there multiple versions?  Someone at Dassault put it succinctly, namely the “lack of foresight in process management at both the national and international level.”  In addition, the company was unwilling, by all accounts, to invest in the training that would be necessary for an upgrade.  Penny wise and pound foolish comes to mind.

But our story doesn’t end there.  Airbus then demonstrated an inability to share knowledge, this time between customers and the company, when it unveiled its A350 aircraft.  The A350 is in the mid-sized passenger plane market, estimated to be ca. 6,000 aircraft over the next 20 years.  Chief competitor Boeing has been selling the 787 Dreamliner for the past two years and Airbus is behind Boeing by over 550 orders.  Airbus thought they could get market share with a warmed-over version of an existing plane while Boeing was selling an aircraft that used innovative, high-tech materials that as a result was markedly more fuel efficient.

Had Airbus listened more closely to customers (a necessary part of knowledge sharing and collaboration), this error in judgment on their part may have been avoided.

The A380 problem made customers somewhat wary of Airbus; the A350 made customers flee to the competition.   Only recently did Airbus introduce a version of the A350 that looks as if it may compete with the Boeing 787 but the 787 will be in the air several years before the A350.

In a few weeks we’ll be publishing an In-Depth Research Report looking at Airbus’ plight so stay tuned.  We’ll let you know how the story ends.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.