The Best Use of Technology: Program Management

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More than anyone navigating through the various aspects of global, modern business, program managers benefit from 24×7 communication.



Overuse of such technology such as BlackBerries can interfere with business goals by creating an atmosphere in which the focus turns to the tool itself and not the program. Thus, while attempting to balance and run multiple interdependent projects, many managers explore the communications options offered by social networking sites and programs such as WebEx or Interwise.



These are especially important when dealing with teams from all around the world, when language and culture can be barriers. Stan Carr, Tektronix Inc. senior manager in project and program management, said finding this balance is indicative of an overall shift in his job.



“We’re in a transitional phase, trying to figure out how to embrace a lot of the new, available technologies, especially in communication, but not lose sight of what we’re about as a company,” he said.



Tektronix is a for-profit organization, which leads to a perpetual search to improve efficiency, especially in an area like communication. Carr has been in the field for nearly two decades, and he has seen tools and methods come and go. Before Tektronix, he worked for Boeing, which he said took a cue from NASA in the structured way it managed projects and programs across disciplines.



Tektronix recruited Carr four years ago, and he was sold on the company’s similar organization in lieu of the many different products it produces.



“I was very impressed with the framework,” he said. “The process, first and foremost, is very tried and true and is a sound model. I was really taken with what the company had put together.”



Carr’s position at Tektronix entails leading groups both home and abroad. Especially in the case of a global program, Carr said he considers an important first step to familiarizing culture and practices. In what he calls “cross-pollinating,” members of each group meet and get know one another, usually with a aid of a translator or an expert. Carr has seen this work with groups from both Russia and Japan, where Tektronix has purchased certain companies.



In today’s world, misuse or overuse of certain technologies can be just as debilitating to productivity as not speaking the same language — sometimes, more time and effort seem to be spent figuring out how to use the equipment properly.



“That’s been a single focus that I’ve had with all of the different international meetings we’ve had here,” Carr said. “Let’s not waste time — we purchased these pieces of companies out there in the world to complement and build a stronger company, so let’s not hamstring ourselves by getting wrapped up in the technology with every meeting where we’re burning valuable dollars and time.’”



Direct communication among team members is a fundamental skill Carr said can get lost in the shuffle of using technology. He also said one of his big pet peeves is when lengthy e-mail exchanges are used to solve a problem instead of just a simple phone call. He emphasizes the importance of letting the policy, program or project dictate what tools are used — not the other way around.



“You can never forget to make it personal and build the relationships in your team, and I think we all take the journey together,” Carr said. “New things come in, and we walk through the storm and try to figure out, ‘Is this a strength or just more noise?’’”

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