Microsoft Office Enterprise Project Management Solution Raises the Bar on Visibility, Control, and Collaboration

REDMOND, Wash., Oct. 14, 2003 — Keeping track of the daily minutiae of ongoing projects is a challenge in itself for the everyday office worker. But for John Kocon, the project management officer of the Information Technology Group (ITG) at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), keeping track of potential, current and future projects requires multitasking in almost supernatural proportions. Kocon and his colleagues at the Portland-based health and research university typically manage over 600 projects in various stages of completion.

Until last year, Kocon and ITG used a homegrown Web-based project management tool to plan for and manage projects, but as the business needs of OHSU grew, the group found that the tool could not keep pace.

“It worked well for managing smaller projects, but it didn’t provide enough functionality to address the needs of larger, high-profile, or high-risk projects that required additional project planning and management for them to be completed successfully,” Kocon says. “And because we couldn’t adequately maintain our portfolio of projects, we found that we would sometimes approve projects when we didn’t have enough resources to properly execute them and couldn’t always ensure that our priorities were aligned with our strategic goals.”

The group turned to the Microsoft Office Enterprise Project Management (EPM) Solution, a Microsoft Project product that combines client, server and Web-based technology to make it easier for executives to gain visibility into their portfolio of projects, and for employees to collaborate on the documents, issues and risks associated with their projects. ITG still uses the homegrown project management tool to collect new IT requests and to plan, manage and communicate progress on those requests. But it has found that the EPM solution is much more comprehensive, allowing them to plan and manage their larger or higher-profile projects with a lot more detail, either individually or as a group or portfolio of projects, and collaborate more easily with team members.

“The Project EPM solution gives us a lot more visibility into our projects, so we have a much better handle on our resource demand and capacity constraints and are better able to prioritize projects. In essence, we’re making better business decisions in the long run,” says Kocon.

Since deploying the solution in January, ITG has transitioned from focusing on managing projects individually to using the portfolio management capability in EPM to manage groups of projects, and then sharing the resulting project information with Information Systems steering and advisory committees, who review new IT requests and active projects to ensure they meet information plan objectives. So far, ITG has rolled out the EPM solution to one of the steering committees, with plans to implement the same tools for other committees in the coming months. To take further advantage of the EPM tools, Kocon hopes OHSU will become an early adopter of the next version of EPM, the Microsoft Office Project 2003 Enterprise Management Solution, which Microsoft is releasing today.

Increased Project Management Business Value and Extensibility

The Microsoft Office Project 2003 EPM Solution is ideal for organizations that need strong coordination and standardization among projects and project managers, centralized resource management, or higher-level reporting about projects and resources. It comprises Microsoft Project Professional, Microsoft Project Server and Project Web Access.

Microsoft Office Project Professional operates as the project management program for EPM and can be used to connect to Microsoft Office Project Server. In turn, Project Server provides a central place for employees to publish project and resource information. Project Server is integrated with Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services for document-management capabilities (now including versioning and check-in/check-out); risk tracking and other collaboration tools that enable team members to better coordinate projects, regardless of their geographic locations. Users connect to Project Server through Project Professional and Project Web Access to save, retrieve and work with Project Server data.

With Microsoft Project Web Access project managers and team members can easily view and update information on the Project Server 2003, and employees at all levels can become instantly vested in a project’s outcome. Combined, this total EPM solution enables organizations to set goals and streamline the manner in which they achieve them. This EPM solution also helps organizations make better-informed decisions, simplify their key business processes by reducing unnecessary work, make teamwork easy and intuitive and enable their employees to have a greater impact in what can be a demanding, competitive and stressful business environment.

The EPM solution is also very flexible. With it, organizations are provided up-to-the-minute information so employees can optimize limited resources by prioritizing projects and synchronizing individual initiatives with the organization’s overall business objectives. More over, it is unique among management systems because it ensures widespread participation using familiar, integrated tools. Housed within the new Microsoft Office System, organizations know going in that these tools are easy to use and will not require significant training and support costs.

“Our customers have requested, and we have delivered, this next-generation EPM solution, which helps companies simplify the steps required for all team members to update their work status,” says Microsoft’s Giovanni Mezgec, group product manager of the Project Business Unit. “Not only does Microsoft’s Project 2003 EPM help executives monitor initiatives and synchronize them with overall business strategies, it makes it easier for project managers and team members alike to participate into the process, ensuring that work is completed on time and under budget.”

As part of the Microsoft Office System, the EPM solution offers all employees — from entry-level to top-tier management — a chance to weigh in on projects and help facilitate the analysis and decision-making process. Thanks to a customizable scorecard view of projects, managers will be able to monitor business metrics and adjust employee workflow as necessary (problem areas are also easily identified). For information sharing and coordination, the EPM solution empowers team members to participate, report progress and collaborate on projects. It reduces administrative work while maintaining up-to-date status on project schedules and budgets through Web-based Timesheets and Outlook Calendar integration, as well as improves team coordination through Web portals and automatic notifications. Organizations also can centrally store, link and share information related to project plans.

Measuring the Return on Investment

The IT group at OHSU has been focusing on the Web Access component in the EPM solution, using the Project Center and Portfolio Analyzer tools to more easily track data and then use that data to make better-informed decisions. But Kocon is also looking forward to the enhancements to Web Access in the Project 2003 EPM Solution. Risk management functionality, new resource management capabilities, timesheet improvements and enhanced reporting options are just a few of the enhancements to the Project 2003 EPM Solution that he hopes his group will be able to take advantage of.

In addition, the group is interested in extending the OHSU environment to include Microsoft Windows 2003 and sees Project 2003 as an opportunity to further investigate that possibility.

“Upgrading to the Project 2003 EPM Solution would not only give us the opportunity to find out how Windows 2003 would make a Project 2003 implementation better, but also to gain some knowledge and experience for other potential applications of Windows 2003,” Kocon says.

How does ITG measure the success of its Microsoft Project implementation? Customer satisfaction is currently the primary measurement for return on investment. “From senior leadership, steering committees and the chief information officer, to project managers and team members, providing our customers with effective project management tools that enable and facilitate our business processes is our primary goal,” says Kocon. “As we continue to make improvements to our project management process, we plan to further leverage EPM product features to expand our success metrics to include cost, schedule and resource measurements.”

“As long as we continue to improve our project performance through improved communication and decision making, we’re on the right track,” he added.

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