Industry Spotlight-Distribution Supply Chain
Contributed by Scott Casstevens, PMP, M.S.
(reprinted with permission - originally published Jan 2018)
This is the first in a series of articles that focus on Project Management in different industries. This month’s spotlight is on wholesale distribution supply chain in the grocery industry. Scott Casstevens, Business Analysis Group Manager, provides us with a vignette of the Project Manager/Business Analysis role at Associated Grocers of New England.
Because grocery distribution is a low profit margin industry, the roles of Business Analysis (BA) and Project Management (PM) are tightly integrated. The BA requires fluency in both disciplines and methodologies. BAs at Associated Grocers research solutions to problems and technology options for the senior team, then lead the implementation using Agile or Waterfall processes. BAs architect the project in every detail, making implementation easier and risks easily identifiable.
Scott is involved in all phases of Project Management. He manages the Business Analysts and develops the workflow for the development team. His group is involved in a variety of project types, including technology implementations, process improvement, business systems improvements and upgrades, and business analytics for all cross functional groups. From a management perspective, one significant challenge is controlling priorities within the workflow from project definition to implementation to the development team or contractor.
Scott has improved project management execution by implementing a visual Kanban board to track projects through to completion. Here is his description on moving from traditional to Agile-based tools.
With Agile and Waterfall projects occurring at the same time, Scott needed a way to visually share project information across the BA/PM and Development teams. He wanted everyone involved to understand project priority and the status of each in the project lifecycle.
Initially, he chose MS Project but quickly moved to MS Excel because of the teams’ lack of familiarity with Project. Using Excel, he found that he was the only one reviewing and updating project information. Eventually, he built a Kanban, or Process Flow, board and set it up in the common area of the workspace. He labeled the columns Pending, Selected, Ready, Development, Test & Done. During project implementation, sticky notes are moved from left to right, visually showing current status. This approach is working well. Scott says that people like moving the sticky notes when they accomplish something.
If Scott could have given himself advice five years ago, he would have said, “get out in front of things and anticipate the organization.” Future challenges are learning the skills needed to make accurate business assessments.
What advice does Scott have for other Project Managers/Business Analysts in this industry? He says, “embrace the BA/PM role as an integrated tool. In medium to smaller organizations this person is more valuable than a PM.”
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