In-Depth

Convergys Corporation

2006 ADT Innovator Award Application

I. Project Information

Company and division name:

Convergys Corporation, Core Products Unit

Web site URL: www.convergys.com
Project designation: Application Engineering

Brief explanation of the goals of the project:

Traditionally, Convergys allowed its numerous development projects to select their own Configuration Management (CM) solution and to develop the processes needed to manage their CM environment. In 2003, Convergys decided it needed a consistent CM environment across all projects. The company initiated the WMCM (Work Management Configuration Management) project to select a single corporate CM solution, to develop techniques and scripts to use with the tool, to provide CM mechanisms, and to roll the solution out across the enterprise.

Brief description of the business risks involved

Some of the business units involved in the solution selection lacked executive support for the conversion to the target solution. Projects running the WMCM also risked cost overruns and delays when converting their CM operations to the target operation.

Brief description of how the system helps users

New projects no longer have to select a CM solution or negotiate pricing or contracts. These new projects can accelerate their CM preparation by using scripts provided in the WMCM product. As these teams begin to implement the target CM solution, the WMCM project team provides consulting on tool usage and the WMCM scripts. Users can make their own scripts available to other teams by sharing them with the WMCM team. A standard CM environment reduces the learning curve for resources allocated to new project teams.


II. Organizational Objectives

What short- and long-term benefits did the organization achieve from the project?
Did the solution meet the projected goals for saving time and money? How were benefits measured?
Was the system mission critical to the organization?
Benefits
  • Convergys was able to negotiate a deep discount from the vendor by purchasing licenses of the target solution in bulk.
  • The bulk purchase was cost-effective as Convergys avoided the cost of individual purchases for each project.
  • Convergys now has a company-standard CM solution, so new projects don’t need to struggle with selecting a CM solution or the pricing and contract negotiations for that solution.
  • There is an in-house Subject Matter Expert (SME) team for the CM solution, obviating the need for the vendor's consulting and training services.
  • The WMCM product provides scripting to promote best practices and re-use, while minimizing the learning curve and start-up for new projects.
  • The WMCM product provides solution add-ons, which individual teams might not have the time or resources to produce (e.g. robust web interfaces).
  • The WMCM product allows teams to contribute to the CM environment, enabling the organization to take advantage of CM scripts that have been previously developed.
  • The WMCM project team provides consulting for projects implementing the new CM environment.
  • The WMCM project enables a user community to share ideas and resolve issues related to the CM solution.
  • Individuals moving between teams are more productive as they don't need to learn a new environment.
Results Ability to gather and report metrics
  • In November 2003, Telelogic SYNERGY™/CM was selected as the target CM solution. At the same time, Convergys signed an agreement with Telelogic to purchase a block of licenses.
  • In February 2004, a four-man WMCM team was formed.
  • The WMCM product has created one major release (WMCM 1.0), 5 minor releases (1.1 – 1.5), and several maintenance releases.
  • There are at least 11 project teams using Telelogic SYNERGY/CM and WMCM.
  • At least 5 project teams will convert in the near future, and more teams are slated to convert at some point.
  • Connections to other mission critical systems has been integrated into WMCM.
  • The web interface enables teams to perform tasks they could not with the vendor product.
  • As a result of these successes, executive management is on board with the solution and committed to rolling it out across our division. There is an interest in expanding it beyond our division.
  • Convergys is achieving its internal and executive goals by streamlining projects, enhancing administration, and increasing productivity. While this is tangible, it has not been measured.
  • The WMCM project is mission critical, as it conforms to the executive directive to reduce costs through vendor and product consolidation.
Describe the business purpose of the new system.

Convergys has an executive directive to reduce costs by consolidating vendors and software products. Establishing Telelogic SYNERGY/CM as the target CM solution helped us meet this directive. Creating the WMCM team, a central shareable resource, further addressed this directive as the WMCM team helps projects adapt Telelogic SYNERGY/CM to their needs.

Describe the features of the new system.
  • Telelogic SYNERGY/CM provides task-based management of software objects, which Convergys felt is critical to successful project management.
  • The WMCM team created an extensive portal with information related to the WMCM project, the WMCM product, and Telelogic SYNERGY/CM, including all vendor documentation.
  • The WMCM team created a web page which gives users access to additional SYNERGY/CM functionality.
  • The WMCM team created various command line scripts.
  • The WMCM team regularly consults with teams preparing to use and already using SYNERGY/CM.
Explain the functions of the new system.
  • Both the files and their metadata can be viewed and accessed from Telelogic SYNERGY/CM via a web interface.
  • Users can specify a URL to any file within the SYNERGY/CM database, enabling the inclusion of hyperlinks to documentation in Web pages and Word documents.
  • SYNERGY/CM uses the concept of tasks to aggregate separate but related file changes. With SYNERGY/CM, developers operate in terms of logical changes, tasks, rather than individual file versions - they still edit files, but modifications are aggregated into tasks.
  • Using the Command Like Interface (CLI) , users can set up a connection to WMS. WMS can then be configured to work with your particular instance of SYNERGY/CM.
  • A WMS ITEM must be created to define work. Then, SYNERGY/CM tasks must be associated with a WMS ITEM before work can begin.
Who were the internal sponsors of the project? Which officials or groups were opposed to developing the application? Why?
  • The internal sponsors were the governance board who regulate software purchases and the selection of target tools. Also, the executives in our division sponsored the search for members and the subsequent creation of the WMCM team. The skeptics were those using competing CM tools, but in reality, there was little resistance.
Were users of the system involved in the project during the planning and development phases? If so, how?
  • Individuals from the various divisions were included on the team selecting a candidate CM solution. Monthly WMCM user group meetings are held for users to provide feedback on current features and wishes for new features. The WMCM team openly solicits questions and offers support for problems.
What were the greatest challenges in completing this project? How were they overcome?
  • Selection of the target CM solution – resolved by involving individuals from the various divisions, and by using a spreadsheet to list and weight selection criteria (including requirements for the solution), and scoring each solution against the criteria.
  • Project conversions – resolved by keeping the old solution operational for some time after conversion to retrieve old history, alleviating the need to convert data. The WMCM team was also available to answer questions, and to provide training and support. This sometimes included daily calls with projects transitioning to the new CM solution.
  • User mistakes with the tool – resolved by developing a “best practices” document, several FAQs, and providing other information to users via a WMCM web portal. And, by advising users to avoid certain common mistakes.
Were the goals changed as the project progressed? If so, what were the changes and why were they made?
  • No, the goals did not change.

III. The Project

Methodology/Process
Describe how productivity tools or techniques were used in the project.
  • Scrum methodology was used to organize projects, to reinforce teamwork and to improve communication within the project.
  • TWiki was used to manage all project information, both for our customers (the project teams) externally, and internally for our team.
  • php was used to developed the web pages.
  • perl was used to write the scripts so they would (mostly) port between Windows and Unix.
  • XML was used to send data to/from WMS.
  • WMS wrote a threaded listener to manage the requests from all the SYNERGY/CM installations.
  • Citrix© was used to solve some performance problems from remote sites.
Were testing tools used during development? If so, when were they used? Was the testing cost-effective?
  • No testing tools were used.
Was a formal or informal software development life-cycle methodology employed? If yes, please describe it.
  • Scrum methodology was used.
  • Convergys met in a “scrum” every day for approximately 15 minutes to discuss each individual’s progress and plans.
  • Convergys did not have formal “sprints” but, in effect, produced releases like sprints.
  • Each release contained a set of product backlog items.
  • See www.controlchaos.com
What formal or informal project management methodologies and/or tools were used to manage the project? If used, please describe how.
  • Scrum methodology was used.
Were software quality metrics used? If so, what were they, and did using them significantly help the project?
  • No quality metrics were used.

IV. Technology

What were the major technical challenges that had to be overcome to complete the project successfully? How did the team respond to those challenges?
  • Learn Telelogic SYNERGY/CM – this challenge was overcome by studying the documentation and asking the vendor lots of questions. Telelogic was very helpful and brought in professional services to resolve complex problems.
  • Transition projects with lots of version history to SYNERGY/CM – we overcame this challenge by migrating each release as a separate baseline, ignoring file versions between releases, and keeping the old solution to display historical metadata.
  • Complaints about the solution – this challenge was overcome by identifying user errors, developing best practices, providing helpful information on the wiki portal, and setting up daily meetings when needed with project teams. The WMCM team helps projects resolve issues.
What software tools, including databases, operating systems and all development tools, were selected for the project? Why were they selected over competing tools? What process was used to select development tools and software platforms?
  • SYNERGY/CM was selected as the target CM solution for a number of reasons - the success of the large team already using it, the fact that it is task-based (which was rare), and the value that it brings to Convergys. SYNERGY/CM is supported on both Windows and Unix, our 2 primary development platforms. The Convergys Governance Board provided a spreadsheet template and guidelines to use in our selection of the target solution.
  • Convergys selected php to develop our web pages, as Convergys has developers successfully using it.
  • Convergys selected TWiki as our portal, due to its easy setup, power, and ease of use.
  • Convergys selected perl as our scripting language, due to its portability between Windows and Unix, and the extensive availability of open source modules for special functions.
  • Convergys select Informix as our database to use with SYNERGY/CM, since licensing and installation of Informix is built into SYNERGY/CM.
Describe the overall system architecture. Were elements of the technical infrastructure put in place to support the new system? Please describe.
  • WMS runs on a single server (virtual) against a single Oracle DB. WMS listens over a socket connection for requests from WMCM, in the various SYNERGY/CM installations (Windows and Unix).
  • SYNERGY/CM operates with a separate Informix database to store the metadata for each file managed by SYNERGY/CM.
  • SYNERGY/CM, in addition to the Informix database, also has a file system cache to manage the actual file versions (compressed).
  • SYNERGY/CM runs server processes in each instance.
  • SYNERGY/CM has either Unix or Windows clients, which can be access via Citrix if needed.
  • Each SYNERGY/CM user defines their own work area, to make changes, to bring in others’ changes, and to operate their personal builds.
  • The system build manager operates a separate work area for project builds.
What characteristics of the tools and technologies used were most important in achieving the business purposes of the system?
  • Since most of project members manage files in Solaris (Unix), it was critical that the target CM solution have a feature-rich operation in Unix.
  • SYNERGY/CM's out-of-the-box, task-based Configuration Management was critical. Also, important were SYNERGY/CM's release and baselining mechanisms, and the flexibility and strength of its database replication.
  • The ability to write perl scripts to interface and enhance SYNERGY/CM was also important.

V. Project Team

What was the size of the development team?
  • The project team consisted of 4 developers and one manager.
Describe the software development experience of the team members.
  • Each team member has worked extremely well together, and is very positive about what and how Convergys have accomplished WMCM. Each member aggressively takes on and accepts their responsibilities.
What was the composition and skill level of the team? Did development teams require training to work with the technology?
  • The 4 developers include one senior technical consultant (technical equivalent of a manager) and three senior analysts.
  • The development team learned SYNERGY/CM and php from scratch. All but one were comfortable with perl. Some of the more complex uses of perl (e.g. socket connections) and the downloaded modules had to be learned. The team had to get up to speed with XML. All members were fairly comfortable with build management and software versioning.
How many person-months/days did the project take, and over what calendar time frame? Was a formal schedule created at the start of the project? Did the project stay on schedule?
  • The project will be ongoing as Convergys rolls out to more project teams across the organization. Within each calendar year, approximately 43 person-months are applied, along with about 2 personmonths of time from each project that converts to WMCM.
  • Although Convergys had goals, there was no formal schedule. Convergys has not converted the project teams in the initial division as quickly as they had planned because of project schedules unrelated to the WMCM effort (2 project teams were located in a city whose office was closed and the work relocated). Executive management is pleased with the progress of the WMCM effort.
Did management and the user community consider the project a success?
  • Yes, both management and the users are satisfied with the work of the WMCM project. There are hopes for more features in the WMCM product, which are currently being developed
  • Although Convergys had goals, there was no formal schedule. Convergys has not converted the project teams in the initial division as quickly as they had planned because of project schedules unrelated to the WMCM effort (2 project teams were located in a city whose office was closed and the work relocated). Executive management is pleased with the progress of the WMCM effort.
If you had to do the project over again, would you do anything differently? If yes, please explain why.
  • I would formalize the use of Scrum earlier, as I learned more about the methodology as the project progressed. Otherwise, I am very pleased with how the WMCM project has progressed.

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