Project management tools: A new look
The project management arena is not new. People have
used project management software to automate the administration of their
projects for years. What is new, however, is what these tools are now addressing
-- portfolio management, improving best practices and providing for
collaboration among disparate development teams.
When discussing portfolio management, most people think of finances,
including stocks, bonds and the like. In the area of project management,
portfolio management refers to being able to better organize and select the
projects an organization is responsible for, noted Margo Visitacion, director at
Giga Information Group, Cambridge, Mass.
''From an application development perspective, portfolio management helps an
organization to see how all their projects fit together and what effect those
projects would have on other departments,'' Visitacion explained.
Many project management tool vendors have already added portfolio management
capabilities to their products. For example, WorkLenz, from Metier Ltd.,
aggregates and analyzes project data across the enterprise to identify
inefficiencies, predict future work and improve processes. And Microsoft Project
includes a centralized repository of projects and resources. OpEnterprise, from
onProject Inc., allows users to view all projects, tasks, resources, issues,
files, events and notices from the first screen.
Portfolio Edge and Project Office, both from Pacific Edge Software, deliver
integrated inventory, analysis, planning and tracking of project, asset and
product investment portfolios. The PlanView software, from PlanView Inc.,
integrates analytics opportunity analysis features with performance management
to support investment decision-making as well as the tracking of schedule, cost
and project performance.
Business Engine's Business Engine Network (BEN) includes enhanced project
portfolio management, budgeting and financial management, external relationship
management, and customizable dashboard and CFO portal applications. And
Primavera Systems' TeamPlay provides a Web-enabled executive dashboard where
project managers can view the real-time status of all relevant projects,
including current issues that may affect project performance.
Obviously portfolio management has become an integral part of project
management tools. But how important is it to the user?
SunGard Pentamation Inc. is a Bethlehem, Pa.-based company that provides
administrative software for school districts and government offices all over the
United States. When it found Primavera Project Planner (P3), the firm was not
actually looking for a project management tool, per se, but rather a tool that
could help manage its business and give it the ability to track every project
being performed in the company, said Dave Banko, senior project manager. At
press time, the company had 16,540 projects.
With 1,000 customers across the country, SunGard Pentamation analyzes across
all of its custom or training projects to gauge its performance. ''We look across
portfolios of different types of customers,'' Banko explained. ''We need to be
able to keep an historical record of those projects, analyze them across product
and customer lines and functions, and then forecast how we're doing in each of
our different areas across our products.''
SunGard Pentamation recently migrated to Primavera's TeamPlay product. The
company found that it was much easier to gather and store information in
TeamPlay than it was in P3. ''From an operational standpoint,'' Banko noted, ''we
manipulated P3 in ways it wasn't designed to be used for our purposes, which is
what TeamPlay is designed for.''
Always looking for ways to improve, SunGard Pentamation has found that
portfolio management saves time and money by helping the company narrow its
focus. ''Pulling all that information together into one portfolio has been very
effective for us in doing that analysis. This gives us the tool that provides us
[with the] information to pinpoint certain areas that need improvement, and that
need to be addressed and worked on,'' Banko said.
''[Portfolio management is] very important,'' said Matthew Elias, director of
business process management at the Dallas-based Annuity Board of the Southern
Baptist Convention, a financial services provider to 120,000 Southern Baptist
church workers. ''And [it is] becoming more so as we need to become more
efficient and effective, and balance our resources.'' He views portfolio
management as trying to take project management software into the board room,
''and that's where it needs to be,'' he added.
Research firm Gartner Inc., Stamford, Conn., expects portfolio management to
continue gaining in importance and popularity over the next year. The firm
projects that by 2005, 70% of IS organizations will have adopted a mix of
project/resource management application services to manage project portfolios,
team collaboration, resource allocation, and track utilization and costs.
And the best practice is ...
Another aspect gaining importance
in project management tools is that of improving best practices. Five years ago,
budgets were a little looser and quality was often sacrificed for speed; today,
companies cannot afford to waste money. They also cannot afford not to have best
practices, noted Giga's Visitacion. ''Organizations are willing to put in the
extra effort to make sure a project is done correctly. Companies are getting an
awareness that projects don't happen in a vacuum; organizations need to manage
projects as an organization.''
The new project management tools help to improve an organization's best
practices by allowing it to standardize its methodologies. Primavera's TeamPlay
tool, for example, includes the Methodology Manager module for authoring and
storing project plan templates and best practices. Other tools on the market
include similar technologies to improve best practices.
Improving best practices played an important role in the Annuity Board of the
Southern Baptist Convention's selection of its project management tool. That was
actually the impetus behind the board's decision to purchase a project
management tool. They were looking for a way to standardize their methodology
for project management across the board.
After narrowing its vendor choices to Primavera, PlanView and Microsoft, the
board selected PlanView over the others because of cost and functionality. With
PlanView, said Elias at the Annuity Board, ''we're able to put templates in so a
good part of a project is already built. [Users] can take that and customize it
for an individual project.'' With the standardized methodology, he added,
projects ''have the same processes, terminology and expectations, regardless of
where I am.''
Microsoft Project provides a centralized resource pool to improve best
practices that allows managers to accurately identify available resources and
ensure that resources are assigned to tasks and have the required availability.
Wachovia Corp., a diversified financial services company in Charlotte, N.C.,
uses Microsoft Project for its project management needs.
''Enterprise project management tools help us to identify disconnects,'' noted
Treb Gatte, vice president and IT project manager at Wachovia. ''Consequently, we
have been proactively examining our processes in greater detail so that we can
standardize on best practices. The dialogue it has generated will benefit many
areas of the bank beyond IT.''
Wachovia has found the most immediate benefits of using a project management
tool to be better management of administrative efforts and communication around
projects and their next steps.
Can I get there from here?
Still another aspect new project
management tools are addressing is collaboration among disparate development
teams. Metier's WorkLenz product includes document attachment sharing, threaded
notes discussions and e-mail alerts features to aid in collaboration. In
addition, the product is Web-enabled so it can be accessed from anywhere.
Most project management tools are Web-based these days, including onProject's
opEnterprise, PlanView, Rational Software's Rational Unified Process (RUP),
Business Engine's BEN and Microsoft Project.
Pacific Edge Software's Project Office supports collaboration on logs,
documents, links, time, status reports and project plans. Primavera's TeamPlay
delivers a common data platform that can be accessed via the Web, desktop or a
handheld device. Telelogic's Doors includes Distributed Data Management
functionality that allows suppliers, remote sites and disconnected users to work
against a subset of the Doors database offline and incorporate updates back into
the database when the work is complete.
Collaboration among disparate development teams was the driving force behind
Northrop Grumman Information Technology's selection of MKS Integrity Manager to
aid in its project management efforts, which largely deal with defense IT
government contracts. Northrop Grumman's Bellevue, Neb., site required a tool
that would accommodate remote collaboration. It considered Rational ClearCase,
Integrity Manager and open-source CVS for the job.
With CVS, ''you get what you pay for or, in that case, don't pay for,''
commented Steve Solti, SCM and testing manager at Northrop Grumman. The company
used ClearCase on a different project, but it was a remote site on that project.
With that particular version of ClearCase, Solti noted, ''in order to sync up our
integration environment with the integration site, we had to put tapes in the
mail and send them. It was kind of difficult to manage.''
The company found that with MKS Integrity Manager, ''it's a whole lot easier
for a remote site to send us their changes and integrate them into our
environment,'' Solti said. ''Everything can pretty much be done online.''
On to maturity
While collaboration among disparate development
teams is an important issue, and addressing it will help any given project,
other areas of collaboration also need to be addressed. Structured
collaboration, for example, will continue to be an important part of project
management, according to Giga's Visitacion, but the functionality of
collaboration needs to be built and integrated into a project itself. That is
something to watch for as the market continues to mature.
Bruce Moore, national managing principal for project management at consulting
firm RCG IT, Edison, N.J., believes we will see project management integrate
into an organization more naturally so that it becomes a management discipline
within an organization, rather than a role to play. He also predicts that we
will see project management and the systems that support it being far more
integrated into how organizations work.
''As we move into the future,'' Moore said, ''project management is going to be
integrated and become more of a business issue than an IT issue.'' With portfolio
management capabilities built into most project management tools already, the
market is well on its way toward that becoming a reality.
For organizations that have not yet adopted project management tools, the
first step to doing so is defining your needs.
''People are not sure what they're after,'' said SunGard Pentamation's Banko.
''They think they need a project management tool, but is that really what they're
looking for? Once the need is defined, that will make it clear what type of
criteria they need when looking for a good tool.''
The Annuity Board of the Southern Baptist Convention's Elias cautioned that
''the tool is not going to standardize your methodology. The tool's not going to
improve the process by itself.'' However, he did agree with Banko's assessment.
''Buy a tool for as much as you want it to do,'' 'Elias advised. ''To look at
projects individually, just about any tool would do. If you want to look
enterprise-wide, only a few tools will do that. Identify what your needs are and
then buy to that level.''
''Make sure that whatever tool you consider getting can adapt to the process
you have,'' added Northrop Grumman's Solti. ''Having a well-defined process up
front, I think, is the key to the whole thing.''
''It takes time to implement one of these tools into everyday business
processes so that it can be used effectively,'' said Wachovia's Gatte.
''Consequently, you will have to prototype and prototype and prototype.''
See the related story ''A sampling of project
management tools'' by Lana Gates.