In today's high-tech world, a project manager must use a variety of skills to develop, execute and implement a successful project. The planning process for complex command, control, computers communications and intelligence (C4I) projects can be a major undertaking when you examine the many factors that must be considered.
At Headquarters U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), Yongsan, Seoul, Korea, Air Force Col. Frederick W. Mooney, deputy assistant Chief of Staff, C6, Combined Forces Command (CFC) and assistant Chief of Staff J6, is responsible for providing C4I systems and services for all operational requirements of the joint USFK and combined CFC commands in armistice and war. This means that Mooney is responsible for providing reliable communications support for the entire Korean theater of operations.
But while communication systems are in place, there are always major technology projects in the works. Those communications projects represent the largest portion of the USFK annual budget. This year, the J6 spent more than $31 million for C4I projects.
Project Management Tools
Every project, large and small, must be tracked and managed to the finest detail. But because the average tour length in Korea is 12 months, long-term projects often have multiple project managers over the project's life, which can sometimes cause problems with continuity and ability to deliver capabilities on schedule.
To mitigate this problem, the project management office developed a comprehensive, systematic approach to project management. Looking at many options and considering budget and training timelines, the PMO decided to use Microsoft Project. MS Project allows you to control project work, resources, schedules and finances in one integrated tool.
With many different types of projects in the J6, getting the project scope right is usually the first challenge faced by the project manager. After brainstorming sessions to identify the mission and scope of the project, the project manager can start using MS Project. The initial process involves entering all of the project tasks and estimates, dependencies, deadlines and constraints. After the tasks and limitations are entered, the resources for the project can be added to the database.
With the resources identified and tasks defined, MS Project can help the PM develop a work schedule that can be optimized for efficiency and cost effectiveness.
MS Project is also flexible; it produces progress reports tailored to the needs of the PM and senior leadership.
As more and more managers become trained in MS Project the command hopes to see better long-term tracking of projects. Using MS Project also allows a smoother transition between project managers. Once the project has been mapped out in MS Project, the actual day-to-day management is really simple.
Because MS Project offers so many features that can help effectively manage a project, training is required for project managers to realize the full benefits of the software's capabilities. To this end, recently, 18 military officers and civilian personnel completed training in three certification levels: White Belt for those new to MS Project: Orange Belt for experienced project managers; and Blue Belt for multi-project and program managers.
According to Army Maj. Ivan Montanez with USFK J36, a student in the classes, the training increased his understanding of the process that the J6 uses to manage operational projects. He said the training was comprehensive, and he used the analogy of drinking from a fire hose to express the sheer volume of features covered in the MS Project training.
Army Maj. Earl Freeman, another student, is the chief of the project management branch in the J6. Freeman had a lot to say about how the use of MS Project helped him to manage successful C4I projects. Freeman said the reports that MS Project produces enhanced his ability to report project status up the chain of command.
Freeman, who is responsible for assigning managers to projects, as well as for overall monitoring for all USFK projects for the PMO, said that the features of MS Project have improved his ability to manage multiple projects.
In addition to the software training, Freeman, and about 20 other J6 action officers, attended project management classes for certification as a Project Management Professional.
The PMP certification is issued by the Project Management Institute (PMI), the world's leading not-for-profit association for the project management profession. To obtain a PMP certification, which is internationally recognized, much preparation and the successful completion of a four-hour exam are required.
The PMP classes cover many approaches to management fundamentals, but they are covered in a broad sense so that they can be applied to any sort of project, in any country, throughout the world.
A commitment to professionalism is shown by the J6 budget for project management training: J6 has spent $100,000 on training this year and more than $200,000 in the last three years.
By breaking up a project into manageable phases, the PM can frame a general plan to tackle a project, no matter its size or complexity. A PMP divides a project into five phases: initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing. Each phase is then further subdivided into processes specific to the phase.
By asking questions early in the project planning, solutions to potential problems can be addressed and corrected at a much lower cost than if they were to be addressed later in the project. This systematic approach to problem solving greatly enhanced the efficiency by which the J6 can bring a project to completion.
Many of the management subjects taught in the PMP program are not new to military students. Over the years, military training has embraced many topics related to leadership and quality management.
At Yongsan, many civil service C4I professionals can also be found proudly wearing their PMP certification pins. The current leader of the Regional Chief of Information Office (RCIO), Mr. Trinidad Capelo, is a qualified PMP, and he uses a PMP approach in the development of RCIO projects as well. Capelo is also the local PMP preparatory class instructor.
Army Lt. Col. Shelly Matautia, chief of plans and resource management, said the focus in the J6 has been on process improvement. For the last three years, she has been managing a decreasing budget while the number of projects have increased. But by using project management fundamentals, she has been able to direct funds into critical projects based on well-defined requirements.
J6 projects and requirements are validated by the J3, which provides operational direction for all Republic of Korea (ROK) and U.S. forces assigned to and under the operational control of USFK.
By opening the project management training to J3 action officers, we have gained even more efficiencies as the project management strategy is adopted. Matautia believes we have made a great start in the future of project management and that we will need to be proactive in seeking even better processes to manage our decreasing military budget.
While we will continue to train new personnel on the software, the volume of trained experts on the staff enables new personnel to learn from their coworkers as well. By creating templates of specific types of projects, new projects can be initiated in less time and by using templates, processes become repeatable and more efficient.
A good example of a successfully completed project involves the power and air conditioning upgrades for the Northern Node Control Center (N2C2), the J64 N2C2 Integration Lab and Command Post Tango, CP TANGO. The N2C2 is the network control facility which provides primary connectivity to the Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System–Korea. CENTRIXS-K is used for information sharing and collaboration, as well as transport.
The N2C2 formerly had only 15 minutes of electrical back-up power when commercial power was lost. The N2C2 integration lab did not have sufficient power for the current let alone future equipment that needed to be tested, and CP TANGO required additional equipment to upgrade the network. Without power enhancements, the facility was unable to support future technology upgrades.
The project was complex involving the use of several contractors and subcontractors, as well as the U.S. Army Korea Command's department of public works.
Operational schedules and the work of the contractors had to be carefully synchronized. At the same time, network outages had to be minimized. Digging permits were required and had to be processed and approved. Most of the materials had to be procured in the United States, and shipment and customs clearance had to be carefully managed to coincide with the arrival of the installation team.
In early May 2007, a J6 project manager was assigned and numerous meetings were conducted with the project stakeholders. A work breakdown structure (WBS) was developed, which detailed 100 percent of the work defined by the project scope, the deliverables, in terms of the products to be completed, and the forecasted schedule for completion.
Installation began on schedule in early July 2007 and work was completed Aug. 1, 2007. While issues arose during the installation, they were quickly resolved by the PM working with the team and stakeholders. The result was a much more robust set of facilities supporting the USFK networks in Korea. A similar project is currently underway at the J6 facilities in Daegu. It is also under the management of the PMO and will be completed in January 2008.
Mooney is applying the project management approach to a theater strategic vision for all future projects in the Korean theater. He recently held a "strategic offsite" to gather inputs from senior communicator leadership in Korea. The output from the day of strategy sessions will be used to shape the future of communications project for years to come.
Mooney commended the efforts of the more than 50 officers from each of the services that attended the conference. The conference also included senior government civilians and contractors working on communications and intelligence systems. Mooney often proclaims that as "staff officers" each must embrace the work and produce results.
Clearly, the USFK J6 is producing results using great project management processes.
Lt. Cmdr. Steve Bowman is a project manager on the U.S. Forces Korea J6 staff. For information about USFK, go to www.usfk.mil/usfk/index.html. For information about the PMI, go to www.pmi.org/.