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Stepping Up

When planning and implementing an RFID project, it's vital that someone assume a leadership role.
By Mark Roberti
Aug 16, 2013

I've always loved history. What fascinates me is how some men and women can lead others to accomplish great (and sometimes awful) things. In high school, I liked to discover the wide variety of skills people brought to bear on solving a problem or achieving a goal. Some leaders, like General Douglas MacArthur, were groomed for their missions. Others, like President Harry Truman, rose to the occasion when circumstances thrust them into a leadership role.

Thankfully, planning and implementing a radio frequency identification project is not as difficult as launching a military campaign or rebuilding global geopolitical alliances after a major war, but it's not a simple matter, either. It's complicated by the fact that most companies do not have RFID experts on staff. Typically, someone sees a problem RFID can fix, and he or she assumes the role of project leader.

In the coming months and years, many people in myriad industries will likely find themselves in such situations. To discover what the job entails, we asked the heads of four successful deployments to discuss the skills they called on and cultivated (see What It Takes to Lead an RFID Project).

It begins with the vision of a relatively new technology solving a problem or improving a process. It takes awareness that there will be obstacles or difficulties, and confidence that you will be able to overcome them. It takes patience. And it takes breadth of knowledge.

BP's Mike Haley led a project that developed an RFID solution to make oil refinery maintenance procedures faster, safer and more accurate. Learning about RFID tags and readers was important, he says, but it was also essential to understand back-end systems.

Communication skills are crucial, says Vinny Pagliuca, who headed the development of an RFID system for managing costumes worn at Disney Resorts. "The implementation of this project required so many different areas, teams and people to make it a success that without excellent partnering and communication skills... the project would have failed," he says.

Managing change and taking care of the "small steps" are among the lessons learned, says Fernando Matos, who led the development of an RFID solution to track engine overhaul components and tools at TAP Maintenance and Engineering, a subsidiary of Portugal's national airline. Betsy Cohen says implementing an asset-tracking system for Florida's Seminole County required a willingness to learn on the job and keep an open mind.

If you are thrown into an RFID project, remember that you are not alone. All four project leaders we interviewed say teamwork is essential—not only for the skills different people can contribute but also to earn colleagues' trust and cooperation.

I've had the privilege of meeting many RFID project leaders and learning how they accomplished their missions. You can, too, because we invite them to discuss their deployments at our LIVE! events. Cohen says attending the conference helps her keep up with RFID technology—and pick up project leadership tips.

Photo: Tom Hurst / RFID Journal

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