Analysis of Communication Challenges and Potential Solutions:
Case Study of a Laboratory Information Management System Project Team
Author: Kevin J. Hricko
September 30, 2008
Analysis of Communication Challenges and Potential Solutions: Case Study of a Laboratory Information Management System Project Team
This paper examines the communication challenges observed during the execution of a project to design and deploy a global Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) to support worldwide research and development in a major pharmaceutical company. LIMS applications are software components for the management, business process standardization and information sharing efforts of a large research organization that result in new modes of operational performance across the enterprise. Business operational processes, human resources for administration and the application software comprise the entire system.
Worldwide Research and Development (WWRD) within the company is comprised of multiple functional areas, management lines and multiple locations throughout the world. Variations in business operations have led to divergent business processes, inconsistent management and communication of scientific data. A team of individuals from key functional lines, such as Informatics (computing science team) and the various research organizations was assembled from the main sites located in Sandwich, England and the American sites of Connecticut and St. Louis to create a virtual global team that would infrequently be collocated during the project.
The team had the challenges of firm schedule deadlines and limited budget to harmonize global business processes, customize the LIMS software, deploy and assist in adoption of the system within global WWRD. The team was led by an American project manager that reported to a Governance Board with members from the different sites and business lines. The Project Manager (PM) had matrix-based authority over dozens of individual subject matter experts from the business and informatics lines represented at the sites. The overall structure of the team was a collection of separate sub-project work streams focused on the harmonization of individual research group processes into standardized global processes.
The first challenge the project manager had to deal with was developing a productive virtual team environment of members spread across time zones and large distances. Use of teleconferencing and videoconferencing to support initial meetings helped form general acquaintances and roles were assigned from the project manager to the members of the virtual team. Soon after the project started it became evident that there was great reluctance within the work streams to share ideas during the daily teleconferences, resulting in minimal project progress. This was an indication of low trust within team despite the frequency of meetings. “Virtuality requires trust to make it work: Technology on its own is not enough”1.
The Project Manager traveled to the various sites to meet and interview the multiple work stream members and determined that they were aware of the general global project goals, but that the primacy of business unit team goals in preserving their existing business practices were perceived to be of greater importance to them from an operations and individual career advancement perspective. Coupled with a lack of open debate within the work streams over how they would achieve its assigned goals this contributed to the lack of effective communication within the work stream and greater project team. The Governance Board had also issued directives enforcing high level business process changes that did not take into account the skills and capabilities of the distinct research units at the sites, which also contributed to communication problems. The team was failing to progress the project goals as a cohesive group.
Analysis of the aforementioned factors indicated that a...
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