by Eric Berkman

How Effective Project Management Got JP Morgan a Secure Extranet

Sep 01, 20012 mins
Project Management Tools

Twice a year, J.P. Morgan Partners’ investment associates and affiliates update the outlook, financials and board seats of every portfolio company to determine upcoming investment decisions.

In the past, it could take two associates working full time for five weeks e-mailing different versions of Word documents back and forth; then they’d manually enter all the completed updates.

The interim solution was a Lotus Notes-based system that tapped into a more centralized repository. That was fine for associates in the company’s New York City offices, but some affiliates didn’t have Notes and were too remote. So the company would mail Notes-enabled laptops to them, and they’d send the laptops back after making the updates.

To change this process, J.P. Morgan Partners worked with Syncata, an El Segundo, Calif.-based systems integrator, to build a secure extranet that could be accessed from anywhere in the world. This project was tough to pull off in the 100 days available.

Aloke Nath, Syncata’s chief strategy officer, says the time crunch?it typically takes six or eight months to deploy a global extranet?forced his developers to adapt on the fly. Syncata has a formal development methodology that calls for interviewing users on how they work?and then conducting an analysis and design phase. Some interviews gave way to a behind-the-scenes study of the existing system. And the developers began testing before completing construction.

The extranet team also postponed features. For example, after the investment professionals update the company profiles, the updates are supposed to be uploaded into J.P. Morgan Partners’ accounting system. The team decided to forego that part in its first implementation to meet the deadline, says Nath. And Syncata needed 12 developers instead of the usual seven or eight.

Syncata and J.P. Morgan Partners implemented a virtual private network that allows the sharing of encrypted data taken from a special, pared down database at J.P. Morgan Partners’ offices. The database, which is in a different location than the company’s website host, contains only information needed for the financial review.

J.P. Morgan Partners completed the extranet on time. And now, there’s no more laptop mailings.