Friday, August 31, 2012

Now that fall classes have begun, the campus is once again buzzing with activity. As the Division begins to tackle new project requests for the academic year, it's the perfect opportunity to review some of the accomplishments and recent changes to our project management program.

We're pleased to share a narrated video presentation (running time approx. 7 minutes) with some important updates about our program.

Project Management Update September 2012

Please contact Peter Mosinskis at peter.mosinskis@csuci.edu with any questions.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A few weeks ago, we published and distributed Part 2 of our annual report to Division employees. Part 2 focuses on the employee perspective of our project & portfolio management program, and is available to University employees upon request; please contact Peter Mosinskis at peter.mosinskis@csuci.edu to request a copy.

It's always a challenge to launch a new program. For our young IT organization, formal project and portfolio management practices represent a big cultural shift. While some IT operations are still starting up, on the whole our organization has matured significantly over the past 10 years. As we have matured, we have slowly moved from a reactive organization that constantly put out fires to one that is more measured, thoughtful, strategic and ultimately more proactive about how academic and information technology solutions are deployed to the campus community and supported by IT operations.

The results of our employee evaluation reflect how important it is to ensure that your IT project approach matches up with your level of organizational maturity. In our employee survey, we observed a moderate reception of the formal project processes and forms we implemented over the last year.  I believe these results reinforce the importance of low start-up cost and low barrier-of-entry to establishing formal project and portfolio management practices in a growing organization, as well as the challenges brought on by the resulting cultural shift.

One major area where we need to improve is how we get the word out about our projects and our project processes. Over the next year we will focus on improving visibility of these areas.

Monday, December 5, 2011

We've recently completed and sent an annual report about the first year of our project and portfolio management program to Division staff and key campus stakeholders. 

The report is presented as a 14-minute narrated presentation. It discusses the goals, successes and challenges of the program from the perspective of our customers, and summarizes the feedback that campus stakeholders provided to us a questionnaire sent at the end of September.

Here are a few key finding from the report:
  1. Capacity is key. We opened 46 new projects during our first year, and completed 76 projects (66% of which were legacy projects). As of November 1, 2011, we have 42 open projects. On average, 86% of T&C staff time is spent on support of operations, leaving only 14% of time for projects. More importantly, over 80% of T&C staff spent less than 20% of their time on projects over the last year. The Division's ability to complete projects on time, on budget and to our customers' satisfaction is directly tied to our capacity to take on projects, and the division must take care to ensure that it has the capacity to take on new projects.
  2. While the tools could be improved, they have paid for themselves. Although staff reactions to using Freshbooks to track time for project and cost-recovery activity tasks has been mixed, the use of this tool has enabled us to fully recover the cost of the service. In addition, staff spent less than 100 hours total over the course of the year tracking time on project tasks.
  3. We met our initial goals. We are now able to make better strategic decisions because we have data; we have created a process that has enabled us to correct problems as we move along and stay flexible to adapt to projects of different sizes; and most importantly, we have created more predictable project outcomes for our customers. 77% of our completed projects were completed on time, and all were within 5% of their proposed budget. 
Members of the campus community that wish to view the narrated presentation may request a link to the presentation by contacting me via email at peter.mosinskis@csuci.edu.

In other news, we've recently reorganized and updated the T&C Projects web site to make it easier than ever for our customers to find project information and submit new project requests. 

We look forward to working with our customers and Division staff to continue to improve our project service over the next year, and we wish happy holidays to you and yours!

Friday, July 1, 2011

On June 16, the A&IT management team met to assess the project management and project portfolio processes and tools that were put into action earlier this year. June marks the completion of the first 6 months of our new project and portfolio management program.

One of the outcomes of the meeting was a SWOT analysis. Here are some of the strengths that the team noted:

  • Documented, defined process for projects
  • Improved communication about projects
  • Improved ability for capacity planning
  • Focused responsibility on managing the project portfolio
  • Improved ability to bill back for cost-recovery activities
  • We have data and history we can use; they can be used for assessment & continuous improvement
The team identified some weaknesses as well:
  • Visibility of project information could be improved
  • Project classification system needs to be further refined (or re-defined)
  • No electronic forms or workflow; as a result, sometimes project approval takes too long.
  • Our project repository in SharePoint has not been fully developed to support our project & portfolio activities
  • The tools in our project toolbox are not tied together 
  • Aggregating data from "electronic paper" forms is cumbersome
  • Some employees perceive that data from project and time on task activities aren't being used, and are skeptical about the process and information. 
By building on the process strengths and addressing the weaknesses, our organization has an opportunity to further improve communication, reduce the amount of time require to complete a project, improve our strategic planning capabilities, and use our project management expertise as a model for other campus organizations to use. 


We are continuing to build on our strengths by launching our new Business Practice on Project Close (BP-00-008) today, which provides project managers and leads with a more consistent way to close projects and to communicate about their closure with our clients. Our new project closure and project cancellation forms will enable us to document key project statistics and lessons learned at the close of every project to enable continuous improvement of our project management capabilities. The process and forms have been distributed to all A&IT staff, and will be available shortly on the A&IT Policy & Procedures web site.

In addition, we are revising our project intake process and project charter form to address project classification issues raised by the group. We expect those changes to be approved and made available in the next 2 weeks.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Today I came across the dilemma of changes requested to a project charter. This brought me to think more about the purpose of a project charter, and how inevitable changes to projects should be addressed. 


The purpose of a project charter is to provide a high-level, not-too-detailed-but-just-enough outline of the work that will be done in a project. More importantly, it also represents a commitment by all parties involved (including the client, project manager, CIO, and other stakeholders as required) to complete the work according to the general parameters defined. Changing the commitment requires communication & re-approval to make sure everyone still agrees on the charter. This means that a charter should be broad enough not to change.

In the case of today's example, fortunately the changes to the charter were not substantive. The only change being requested was addition of detail to the project deliverables, which got me thinking about scope of work and project planning. 

Project managers have a need to document in detail the work that was loosely defined by the charter, to communicate to the client about what exactly will be done, and when. This is totally normal and expected, and an important part of our project process. As project planning takes place, a clear picture of the work required develops and is communicated to all those involved in the project. 

This need is exactly why our organization developed a Project Scope document.

During the planning part of a project (i.e. after a charter is approved), the PM uses the Project Scope document to define all of the tasks that will be completed during a project. This is especially important for large projects which are time-consuming and/or high-risk. You know it when you see it: a project that is likely to experience scope creep, time creep and other project challenges is a good candidate for using the Project Scope document and process.

The Project Scope document helps the client and PM agree on the detail of what will be done before the work begins. If changes must occur after you & the client have agreed on the project scope (i.e., once project execution begins), then you have two choices:
  1. document new tasks and scope change requests separately as issues; or
  2. go back and change the project scope 
Solution #1  means that an Issue Log is created for each new problem or issue. This solution is recommended, as it is the most flexible and lowest cost. As time and resources permit, these issues are addressed over the course of project execution. The PM will keep the Issue Log with the rest of the project documentation, and monitor resolution of noted issues. In this way, issues can be documented, prioritized and repaired in the time available for a project. (Did I mention it's important to add some buffer time to your project schedule to make sure you can account for these unforeseen issues?)

Solution #2 should only be used for projects that are in serious trouble. Going back and substantially updating the project scope is expensive in both time, resources, and political capital. 

For a well-run project, a PM should expect to have 80% (preferably more) of all major tasks documented in the Project Scope, so that you minimize issues during execution. Project managers that encounter frequent unforeseen issues or problems during project execution should spend more time on project planning activities. 

The bottom line: it's important to spend some time documenting exactly what will be done, by whom, and when before you start executing project tasks. Planning might seem expensive, but it typically saves cost and aggravation, builds client and stakeholder goodwill, minimizes risk, and helps keep projects running smoothly and successfully.

Monday, February 7, 2011

We have now published a report which provides an overview of the entire portfolio of A&IT projects. 


You can download this month's Project Portfolio Report in PDF format from the A&IT Projects web site. To view, you'll need to install Adobe Acrobat Reader.

The current plan is to update and publish this report monthly on the A&IT Projects web site. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Happy New Year! Classes have begun again, and we've  accomplished a lot over the break:

  1. We've actively been updating our project portfolio web site in SharePoint. At our latest revision, we have 31 active projects. All of the active projects which met our initial project criteria now have Project Charters, created per our Project Intake process. 
  2. We created a new "Parking Lot" area in Sharepoint, to maintain a list of submitted requests and ideas that have not yet become projects. We have 9 potential projects listed in the Parking Lot so far. 
  3. A draft of the A&IT Business Process for Project Planning (Phase 2 of the A&IT project management process) has been submitted to the A&IT management team for review and feedback. 
  4. As of 1/27/2011, the Application Support Group, Academic Technology Group, and Infrastructure Group in the division have received training on how to use Freshbooks, which we have adopted as a means to track time on task for both projects and cost-recovery activities. Each staff member in A&IT now has a Freshbooks account, which they can use to track their time. 
  5. A project for the development of a project portfolio management (PPM) program was created and chartered to encompass all of the PPM activities that will be performed during this year...including this blog!
In the coming weeks, here's what's coming:
  1. we'll begin publishing our list of active projects on the A&IT Projects web site on a regular basis (probably monthly for now)
  2. A draft of the business process for Project Execution & Monitoring (Phase 3 of our project process) will be completed and sent to A&IT management for review. 
  3. our first reports from Freshbooks will be created and submitted to A&IT management for review
  4. Development will begin on narrated presentations regarding our project planning & project execution phases. 
Looks like it will be an exciting year of project development in A&IT, despite our difficult budgetary outlook.