Jul 07 2009

Project Prowess

Stack the deck for successful IT deployment through proper planning and processes.

Created by the state of Texas in 1937, the San Antonio River Authority serves Bexar, Goliad, Karnes and Wilson counties. The organization strives to protect and preserve our water resources, and much of the work we do is project-driven. Projects constitute the majority of our operations and include engineering, utilities, environmental studies, digital mapping and IT initiatives.

Administering these projects consistently and effectively is critical to managing the public funds SARA is entrusted with and to serving constituents successfully. In 2002, SARA launched a project management program encompassing best practices, common processes and tools for all SARA-managed projects.

The River Authority utilizes the Project Management Institute’s project management process and best practices. These include written procedures for projects from initiation, planning, controlling and executing through closing. Projects are initiated at the idea stage, evaluated and moved into the active projects portfolio with the use of templates. This process provides project managers as well as executive staff with the tools for communication, program and project tracking, management and documentation.

Our organization now has the processes in place to take projects from conception, prioritize them and implement those that meet our goals and objectives. Such discipline brings efficiency and productivity.

At the River Authority, productivity and efficiency were derived mostly through visibility, collaboration and elimination of duplication. Before we implemented a structured project management approach, interdepartmental collaboration was not at its fullest. Projects had more than one name, and more than one project manager was assigned to each project. Some tasks that could be accomplished internally were farmed out to contractors or consultants. Some projects did not move forward because there was no project manager at the helm. Many projects were neglected because of a lack of visibility at higher levels of management. With project management structure and a project portfolio management (PPM) tool, many of these obstacles were eliminated.

Path to Success

Consider gathering project management processes and templates in one concise, collaborative PPM software application. At SARA, we initially relied on various desktop software tools that were disconnected and provided limited collaboration. With our new CA Clarity PPM tool, all programs and projects are managed collaboratively.

Make programs and projects accessible to stakeholders and execute them cost-effectively. One of the main functions of a PPM tool is to enhance the collaboration among project participants. Processes among participants and stakeholders are automatically managed by the application, using action items and e-mail reminders.

As new project managers or team members are assigned to a project or transition from one project to another, having a common understanding of the project lifecycle will minimize the learning curve related to such hand-offs. When everyone is familiar with common project management processes and tools, informed decisions can be made and guesswork eliminated.

It’s impossible to implement these processes overnight. Any organization planning to embrace project management best practices will need to set realistic targets. Everyone in the organization must be open to change and must understand that benefits of solid project management won’t be immediate, but will become visible through gradual improvements in efficiency.

Sobering Statistics

Project success rates are skidding downward, according to recent research from The Standish Group.

24% of projects failed either by being cancelled prior to completion or by being delivered but never used.

44% were either late, over budget or delivered less than promised.

32% were delivered on time, on budget, with required features and functions.