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Harnessing the cloud to shape a sustainable future

Project management is a complex and challenging role. When the projects span multiple areas, are inter-dependent and run to multi-millions of dollars, it is also mission critical.

That is precisely the situation at the City of Stirling which has taken a fresh look at how it supports project managers day by day in order to deliver sustainable success. Located 8 kilometres north of Perth’s CBD, the City of Stirling has the largest population of any local government in Western Australia, as well as being the State’s second largest employment district.

According to the City’s Coordinator for IT Research and Projects, Paul Iswariah, the size and complexity of the City can see his colleagues managing numerous multimillion dollar projects at any one time, with inputs and impacts across multiple business units and directorates.

While the City had received good value from the investment it made in Microsoft Project Server back in 2007, by early 2016 it was clear a more modern system was needed.

“Managers wanted more visibility and control over what people were working on,” says Iswariah. “The IT team needed the flexibility of managing infrastructure costs without upfront investment. And from a user perspective, employees wanted to work together collaboratively from anywhere.”

A market evaluation led the City of Stirling to the latest iteration of Microsoft’s Project Server 2016. But while it initially considered updating its on-premise implementation, a demonstration of the cloud-based version shifted its thinking.

“The benefits we could see from the cloud were fairly significant,” Iswariah says. “Sticking with an on-premise solution would have meant significant hardware costs, and a need for external consultants to help us with the upgrade.

From a strategy point-of-view, we can see the potential the cloud has for us to access the latest and the greatest features without the need to upgrade and maintain servers.

Faced with a June 30 deadline, Iswariah and his colleagues turned to Pcubed, a Microsoft Gold Partner specialising in the project portfolio management space, to help with the implementation. Iswariah says he had also been impressed by Pcubed’s Project & Portfolio Management Accelerator tool, which aligned closely with the Project Management Institute – Body of Knowledge (PM-BOK) methodology preferred by the City.

With the help of Pcubed, the City of Stirling implemented Project Online ahead of its June 30 deadline. Employee training followed prior to a general rollout in October, and Iswariah says the early feedback has been promising.

“We selected a few key users and created a pilot group giving them access to the application, to use and share their feedback,” Iswariah says. “Already we’ve had good enthusiasm within the organisation, and the executives especially are looking forward to the reporting capabilities that Project Online offers. The user interface is very similar to the Office 365 user interface, and the consistency in look and feel helps the users adapt fairly quickly to the new solution.”

Project Online is helping foster collaboration, as each new project also creates a Project Workspace where teams can work collaboratively. It enables teams to access linked information without having to traverse through different documents.

One factor that has been critical to the success of the project has been the engagement of key stakeholders from the beginning.

“We ran a lot of meetings with key business users and executives and shared the vision of what we were trying to do,” Iswariah says. “We showed them a presentation of the solution before we implemented, and ensured people could see the value.”

Future plans include automating all templates and eliminating manual processes, which will enable the City to enforce process governance while accelerating project workflows.

Most importantly, Iswariah says the City of Stirling now has the reporting capabilities that managers had been seeking, including the ability to view and interact with live data.

“Project Online will allow project managers to actually see how projects are traversing through the PM-BOK methodology as well,” Iswariah says. “We have projects that run across multiple business units and across multiple directorates, so to have a report that can pull out information on every project under that program and give us visibility with traffic lights and dashboards on mobile devices – for our executives this is really huge.

“Without having to log into the application and run a report, with the click of an app, they can get real-time information about the projects and programs.”

“Moving to the cloud gives us the ability to access the latest features,” Iswariah says. “Having constant updates and constant releases of new functionality is something the business gains value from, so that is a huge benefit.”

The implementation has also provided the City with additional learnings that will be useful for its ongoing cloud migration, particularly in areas such as security and identity management.

“Project Online is our first flagship enterprise-wide application that has moved to the cloud, and we are looking for other applications that might move to the cloud as well” Iswariah says.