On the Right Track
Anjali Prayag

Winners of the 2015 PMI Project of the Year awards redefined project management excellence through rigorous planning, the adoption of the latest technology to collaborate among teams and monitor progress, the right incentives to mobilize resources, and change management to counter frequent iterations from the client. Manage India features Jindal Power Limited (JPL) and UST Global that overcame the odds through the use of innovative processes and systems, and achieved project success.

The second phase of the O.P. Jindal Super Thermal Power Plant project started with a project deadline of 17 months. The team in charge of this project had set a record by completing the first phase of the plant in 22.5 months. That was the only time when a mega project of this nature was completed in less than 24 months. This time, the team had an even tighter time schedule of 17 months from the start of the boiler erection stage. Hence, all obstacles had to be resolved with an eye on the clock.

The team adopted a holistic approach to project management in which the actual schedule and cost indices were monitored regularly against approved schedules and budget. This included initiatives like setting up of a project management office team at the project site and head office, drawing up detailed schedules and rigorous catch up plans, regular monitoring using 'S curves' and earned value management, and putting in place a unique target-based incentive plan for agencies, apart from prioritizing health and safety of workers at the site.

    Special incentives to the Sub agencies to fast track the work progress.
    Backward integration to use JPL's resources reduced dependence on vendors.
    Defaulter agencies were penalized or removed. Result-oriented culture was set up among all stakeholders.
    Monthly project meetings with agencies held to focus on all challenges.
    Round-the-clock working with day shift team working up to midnight with deployment of additional manpower
    A web-based dashboard and a project monitoring system (PMS) developed. The PMS, which was developed in-house, tracked the planned versus actual progress of more than 1000 activities. A project gallery, graphs, database, milestones, and SMS DPR (online systems generated daily progress reporting) were used on a daily basis that could be accessed online from anywhere.
    Parallel working on all the fronts without interlinking the sequential requirement of systems was also carried out.

These measures helped the project customer group to develop best practices in erection, project management, and technical expertise, which will benefit them in getting future orders.

Narendra Gupta, assistant general manager, Project Planning and Monitoring Office (4x600 MW), Jindal Power Limited, said the project challenged all established benchmarks in terms of rapid commissioning of a 600 MW unit. "The drivers that made this mission possible was the application of best project management practices, innovation in execution, learning from previous achievements, and offering special incentives to sub-agencies," he said. He added that the results have now inspired the team to achieve even better results in future projects.

UST Global developed a shopping portal for one of the largest health insurance providers in the US as part of the ObamaCare initiative. Through the portal, US consumers would be able to shop and apply for individual insurance products. They can also compare and opt for new plans.

The project team was spread across California (US), Manila (The Philippines), and several locations in India including Trivandrum, Kochi, Chennai, and Bengaluru.

The software lifecycle model used by the UST development team is based on the iterative approach that helps business analysts and testing teams to test the developed modules multiple times as they move towards the delivery stages, thus enabling better change management

Once completed, the portal would support five brands, eight user types, two languages, and implemented across 14 states.

The team worked against challenges like prefixed deadlines and delays in getting information from the US federal agencies. The project exceeded the business targets by around 150 percent, a first for the business segment. Four new patents were filed that was also unprecedented in the market.

Apart from the standard project management principles like risk tracker, issue tracker, configuration management plan, audits, and information capturing for sharing with other teams, the project used best practices like collaboration with other dependent divisions, and generated a SONAR (an open source tool for measuring the code quality) report. The project achieved a compliance of 96 percent, which exceeded the customer expectation of 90 percent.

An internal pre-System Integration Testing (SIT) team was identified to test the application t delivery. This helped to uncover integration defects before SIT handover. The team used the Hallway method of testing wherein the application was given to users who had no prior experience about the application. The feedback from the users was recorded and was given to the development/testing team. This helped to test the unexpected flows, thus ensuring application stability.

The development team came up with an automation framework using Selinium scripts that would test all the application flows after each build. This saved 18 hours of manual effort per week.

The project used automated daily build using the HUDSON tool (open source tool for build and deployment) for continuous integration.

The project resulted in a new channel for doing business and more than US$110 million revenue was generated using the application. About 450,000 new customers were added to the client in the past one year.

Premchand Nair, project manager, UST Global, said, "Among the main drivers for the success of the project are proper project planning, selecting the resources with the right skill sets, in-house training, tracking the dependencies, and effective status reporting."

According to him, this experience has helped the UST development and testing team members to improve their career paths.

The UST project management team develops a customized model which it names STEP that stands for the four stages of software development lifecycle, testing, environment, and people to manage the project with higher efficiency. The STEP model at UST is now a reusable asset for future projects in the company

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