An Interview with Tark's COO, John Zahora.
John Zahora is joined by two of his engineers who use the software on a daily basis.
Were you using project management software before you implemented BeingManagement?
GH: Yes, originally we didn’t use anything. Then we used Microsoft Project very sporadically. We really didn’t track anything, and each engineer did it differently.
Why did you decide to implement BeingManagement?
GH: Prior to us having a system we were essentially running projects however we can so, we basically just we got engineers for different projects and we jumped on the hottest fire from whomever was yelling the loudest of our customers. It wasn’t the most effective way to do it.
We are growing that we are at a point that I think we need some structure to prioritize what we are doing and to basically get our infrastructure ready for growth, we are at a point where we are wanting to grow into some new business opportunities and what we call new boxes here. Basically we try to grow our business and diversify our portfolio, and in order to do that our structure this wasn’t conducive to it, so we needed something to help guide us really.
Can you tell me more about the kind of projects you work on and the way you applied BM3 to your business?
GH: We have a few customers, big companies that we do customized development work for. We make pumps and cooling systems essentially for customers in the medical field. For example, we make pumps and cooling systems for cat scans, for explosive detection scanners (the baggage scanners at the airports).
Our customer are working on the latest and greatest scanners to make them faster and better, so they are looking for customized products from us. They have very unique specifications because, in this medical equipment industry, space is very tight and many of these components go into a spinning gantry where weight is a big issue. All those specs will boil down to which type of project we are going to run. If it is a purely a conceptual design project, we are doing a design and build project where we are going to go through the design quickly and go to concept. Or it might be an existing technology that we will provide something with a slight modification to it and then send it right into production. So once we get that kind of information, then we build the project template out of it. So, out of the initial process we have created a bunch of templates that we pull to create a unique network for each product for each customer, and then we have a portfolio from anywhere from roughly 10 to 20 projects at a time. Then they are synchronized and run that way.
JZ: I’ll just add a little bit to that, we are a product development house and a production house. One of the other ways that we use the software is also supporting the production side of the house. Seeing the demand on our resources is a critical thing for us, because if we are 100% on product development, we are sacrificing something else, so the other way we are using BM3 is the resource graph. We can look at that graph and that’s how we stagger projects. We have certain percentages that certain resources can’t exceed or we know we will have a big issue. BM3 does that very well. But the ease of that whole visual, the visual side of BM3 is stunning and it follows the process that we were taught, so when you put those two together it’s powerful and easy. Since we are production and product development, we use BM3 to give us the answer about capacity.
G2: During the build projects we absolutely capture things like the build times and the resources that are used to build them, even the outside vendor’s delivery times are captured on there. All of that of course is important.
What do you like most about BeingManagement, what are the things that stand out for you?
GH: That’s a good question, it seems to be a good fit for what we need given the length of our projects, what I like about it personally is the network diagrams. I am a very visual person and like the graphical interface. That was one of the big ones for me. I think it also seems to be a modern package. It gave us a quick interface for people to input data and spit out what you needed. It’s a simplified package but it has all the power we need and it has a lot more that we haven’t learned to use just yet.
JZ: I am sitting here listening and that is exactly what we have found. BeingManagement has great ease of use and it’s powerful.
G2: Absolutely, it works well and seems like you can see more of what’s happening, but we still need to learn some things. It fits us really well.
Can you talk about some of the benefits that you feel that BM3 brought to your business, what kind of improvements did you see, and what was important to you?
JZ: One of the biggest benefits, given this is a family owned business, is to go to the owner and have him feel comfortable that we have the project under control, we know where we are, we know where we are going and we know what else we can take on. Why is that important from a very, very high level? He is very hesitant to go get more business unless he is confident that it is stable, so from a very strategic level answer to that question is that we can prove stability to that owner, so that we can keep marching forward.
G2: To build upon that, what BM3 is giving is allowing us to have visibility and the data to be able to make decisions on can we take on a new project. And what can we promise on that project? Prior to this we just went by feel. A customer would say, ‘I need this product this new pump designed. Can I get it in 6 weeks?’ And we would think about it and say, ‘okay’ most times. If we put in some overtime, give another few days, so we would give them a date and we would move heaven and earth to get it done. A lot of times we do get it done, but it’s a lot of load on people and jumping around to drop whatever they are doing. And it’s a cycle. When you get that project done you jump back on the other one you are running like crazy again the goal and the hope is to get to some steady, less stressful method of doing things.
When we were smaller 10 years ago, we jumped through fires. Now our customers require us to change quite a bit. It’s just the nature of our business and the niche we are in.
We have to be a lot more organized in the structure of our development efforts so that we can do things the right way and still hit the due dates. And without this data there is no way, because we have so many projects there is no way to see the complexity of the tasks for each project clearly and synchronize correctly. It’s helped a lot. We have a ways to go, we are still learning with this, but we get better all the time. And we see some systematic improvements – that is basically what it is giving us. Visibility and clarity on what we have today, and the ability to make decisions on new projects and how to handle that is important.
Did you face any major challenges or any kind of obstacles in implementing BeingManagement?
GH: In my view one of the toughest things to break from, me included, is the mentality of people the tendency of people, engineers, and project engineers when it doesn’t ‘feel’ right. You put the project and the tasks on a schedule and you feel like a certain task is not ready to be worked on yet, but you feel like why not I have the specs? I can order that item now or I can do that task now, but that task is scheduled in the software to occur in the future. Although it makes sense logically, the software is telling you to do something else, so it’s doesn’t feel intuitive sometimes. So that’s one of the struggles is asking people to give this a chance, follow this schedule and if we run into an issue, lets find out what that root cause is and we will fix it. It’s the tendency to continue to run the way we always ran and that’s the biggest challenge, to try and change that habit. To me that is the toughest challenge, and as I said earlier, I fight that myself.
G2: He took the words right out of my mouth. That is what I was thinking a lot of times when I have a task, sometimes I get negative feedback, “We can do this now.” And they try to jump through hoops and not to follow the software’s schedule. That is the biggest obstacle that I have come across.
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