Thought Leadership

The Cognosante Performance Center: a better way to deliver project management excellence

Article by
Author: Anita Griner
Anita GrinerChief Performance Officer

April 20, 2017

Cognosante has made a significant investment in project management excellence by establishing the Cognosante Performance Center, an innovative centralized unit for project and quality management dedicated to improving performance objectives for all our clients. The center maintains and monitors our elite quality and service delivery industry certifications and appraisals, including ISO 9001:2008 and CMMI maturity level 3 for both development and services.

Chief Performance Officer Anita Griner oversees the Performance Center. Having spent a decade in federal government service, she understands how vital effective project management is within tight federal budgets and exceptionally high expectations on project performance. Here, Griner talks about what makes the Cognosante Performance Center unique and how the center collaborates with customers to improve and sustain operational excellence.

Q: What’s the role of the Cognosante Performance Center?

Griner: The Performance Center is really focused on being a center of excellence within the company. It is a fortification engine to help support operational excellence. Our specific mission is to help promote performance excellence in all our delivery projects, and we do that in two primary areas: project management excellence and quality management. The two offices establish checks and balances on each other to provide customers with an unbiased, independent view of a project and support best practices and sound project performance.

Why does Cognosante have a dedicated Performance Center rather than a traditional Project Management Office (PMO) the way many other companies do?

I’ve run half a dozen or more PMOs in my career, in both the public and private sector, and I’ve constantly looked for ways to do it better—to figure out what was lacking and how to improve upon it. The Performance Center is something very different and inventive. We’ve separated quality assurance from the project management and delivery side so that we can provide an unbiased, independent quality assessment and necessary improvements. We can objectively assess how projects are doing, how our delivery is going, and how our customers and partners are feeling about their work with Cognosante. This separation and unbiased assessment allow us to make changes to our process when necessary, ultimately providing better results for our customers.

What methods or tools does the Performance Center employ to promote excellence?

Cognosante has developed a sophisticated framework of tools called COMPASS™ that provides a range of resources for project and quality management. It’s an integrated ecosystem of tools, standards, templates, and automation that are at the disposal of project managers and their teams. It lets them access project information with the click of a button in whatever phase of the project they’re in. So if they’re in the planning or execution phase, all of the tools and resources they need are right there to help the team navigate that aspect of the project. COMPASS also aligns Cognosante practices with industry standards and certifications, including Project Management Institute, CMMI, and the International Organization for Standardization.

What role does technology play in the Performance Center?

Our mantra is “automate it if you can.” We want project managers to be freed from administrative tasks so that they can focus on deep analysis. For example, we created a tool that can automatically analyze project schedules. A schedule for a large program, such as a state Medicaid IT PMO, can be 5,000 or more lines, consisting of a dozen sub-schedules, and it takes a long time to analyze that manually and determine exactly what we must improve. So, we created a macro-coded tool called Schedule Inspector, which combs through the schedule data and produces a detailed report. That dramatically cuts the time it takes to do complex schedule analysis, from weeks to a matter of seconds. And that lets the project manager and team focus on what’s really important—the analysis and strategy of those results.

Do Cognosante’s customers interact directly with the Performance Center?

Yes, very much so. We purposely built the Performance Center to engage directly with our customers and have transparent data portals that we share with customers. Our customers can access dashboards that show the live status of their project, the main issues, levels of risk, and what decisions still must be made. We also meet directly with customers to facilitate project sessions for “risk elicitation,” or “lessons learned,” where the client can invite dozens of stakeholders. Together, we work on improving their planning, scheduling, risk assessment, or whatever other issues they may have.

What’s been the reaction of customers to the Performance Center?

We receive a lot of great feedback. I think customers like that Cognosante provides the Performance Center as an additional layer of help to assure high levels of performance delivery. I can tell you from my work experience that it’s rare for a company to invest in a performance unit the way Cognosante has. Over my career running projects and PMO, I wish I had always enjoyed access to such support. I think it says to our clients that we really are delivering on excellence. It’s not just a promise.