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Program Management vs. Asset Teams April 13, 2012

Posted by Tim Rodgers in Management & leadership, Product design, Project management.
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Many product development organizations struggle with conflicts between program teams that are focused on a single product introduction and design teams (sometimes called asset teams) that deliver to multiple programs. This is a classic “sharing of resources” problem. Managers generally love it when they control all the resources necessary to execute their plans. However, shared asset teams have evolved around areas of engineering specialization (e.g., mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, software development). Asset teams also enable lower costs for designing, prototyping, testing and qualification by re-using and leveraging designs to amortize development and tooling cost over several programs and market introductions.

Any new product (or software release) is ideally a modular design with clear interfaces; an integrated solution made up of leveraged subsystems, and any newly-designed subsystems that are necessary to provide the differentiation to meet customer requirements and compete effectively. In this development environment, a program manager may rely on several asset teams to qualify the subsystems and deliver them on-time so they can be integrated and qualified in a whole product.

However, when there are multiple program teams relying on the same asset team to deliver product-specific subsystems, this can lead to confusion, overburdening of critical resources, and improper prioritization.

There are several processes that organizations can implement to minimize these problems.

1. Program managers working with asset teams should clearly specify deliverables, expectations and due dates so the asset team can accurately estimate the workload for each individual program. The program is essentially contracting for engineering services.

2. Any asset team supporting multiple programs on a common timeline must meet with the program managers regularly to discuss critical resources and priorities, and resolve capacity overruns by balancing the demand.

3. Program managers working on a common timeline can proactively avoid resource conflicts by meeting early in the lifecycle to identify shared resources and adjust their schedules accordingly.

4. Program managers must use change control processes with explicit approvals to make sure that asset teams are not derailed by urgent but un-prioritized requests.

Program managers shouldn’t be tempted to bring in program-specific, dedicated resources and “shadow” asset teams. Asset teams shouldn’t be overworked or blamed when capacity overruns occur. The benefits of modular designs, specialized engineering, and leveraged subsystems are great; however the asset team approach requires collaboration and compromise in order to be effective.

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Comments»

1. PM Hut - April 16, 2012

Hi Tim,

This is an excellent post and I would really love to republish it on PM Hut under the Program Management category. I’m sure many project/program managers will benefit from it.

Please either email me or contact me through the “contact us” form on the PM Hut website in case you’re OK with this.

Tim Rodgers - April 16, 2012

Thanks for the feedback. I would be glad to share this with your readers at PM Hut. Please feel free to link or otherwise cite the post.


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