Improving IT Project Management with the Right Software
In a 2019 market study of IT leaders in education, 78 percent of participants stated that resource constraints were their top concern. In a recent webinar hosted by projectmanagement.com, IT leaders in education and government talked about how they are using project management software to help them better manage limited resources like staffing and technology. A common thread among all the speakers was that the right software helped them to deliver projects on time and under budget.
Moving project management from spreadsheets and Microsoft Word documents to a software platform specifically designed for project management dramatically improved Denver Public Schools ability to get projects finished on time. Kristen Stevenson, service strategy and design manager of DPS explained why this is. “When we moved our projects from spreadsheets to TeamDynamix software, we could see resource conflicts at a glance,” she said. “Now we can see how many projects we can take on. With spreadsheets, we couldn’t do that.”
Being able to quickly see trouble spots is helpful but avoiding those is what project management software is designed to do. Stevenson went on to say that in a school district, the staff are mostly full time. So, it’s not about allocating the cost per project, but about staff allocation. And that’s hard to do when each project sits in its own spreadsheet. But, when an organization moves from spreadsheets to dedicated project management software, they move up the maturity model toward better efficiency and resource management, able to spot trouble before it derails a project.
Studies show that when an organization adopts a more mature model of project management, they are 6.5 times more likely to have successful projects and 200 percent more likely to deliver projects on time and on budget. This was echoed by users at the college and university level where the volume of projects is even greater than in K-12. “Project management is a lot tougher job than most people anticipate,” said Dr. Hector Molina, IT director at East Carolina University. “We manage over 300 IT people, day-to-day, on their projects. It’s a challenge.”
For Dr. Molina, the software their campus uses tracks a project’s end date and if it’s overdue, which allows his staff to allocate more resources to troubled projects while minimizing the impact on others. His staff can also track hours spent on a project, again, planned versus actual.
Such knowledge allows a school district or college to learn from patterns of failure and successes, so that future projects are more likely to succeed. Project Management (also called Project Portfolio Management) software gives management transparency into a project’s status and allows adjustments in resource allocations to either add staff hours or reassign them from other projects.
This ability to reallocate resources is critically important for educational institutions because adding staff is not usually an option. In scenarios like this, being able to see when a project is progressing ahead of schedule or if it has stalled can give managers critical insight for reassignments and adjusting timelines. One of the unique attributes of TeamDynamix is that it offers both IT Service Management and Project Portfolio Management together on one platform, a combined approach helping organizations to more easily manage resources assigned to both tickets and projects.
Touro College has a lens on the status of projects to help them avoid problems. “With the right PM software, I can see roadblocks to a project and management gets reports on the health of a project,” said Marie Carianna, deputy CIO of Touro College. GANTT charting applications like Microsoft Project are clearly a step above static spreadsheets, but they aren’t quite at the top of the ladder. Project Management software sees all the ongoing projects in an organization at one time.
Info-Tech Research Group researches products and advises companies on purchasing IT solutions including Project Management software (see the Info-Tech Data Quadrant on Project Portfolio Management software here). Even the most sophisticated Project Management solution can fail and waste money—something few educational institutions can afford—if implementation is poorly planned and executed. Dr. Trevor Bieber, a consulting analyst with Info-Tech, suggests that it is critical to know an institution’s existing Project Management maturity level before picking a commercial solution. “A poorly planned PPM solution selection and implementation project will result in non-adoption, lost investment, and unsatisfied stakeholders.”
On the other hand, when Project Management software fits the institution, it becomes a strategic hub helping to bring significantly greater efficiencies at a time when the complexity of technology and device proliferation will continue.
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