In my role as Head of Project Services I’m often asked about what tools and approaches we use for project management in IS Applications. These questions have become more frequent since I became Chair of the UCISA Project and Change Management Group in 2014 see https://www.ucisa.ac.uk/groups/pcmg.aspx.
This is the first of an occasional series of posts which I’ll try to provide answers to the most frequently asked questions. This set of questions cover aspects of project management tools and metrics and was developed in response to questions posed by Trinity College Dublin.
1 – What tool do you use for Project Portfolio Management (PPM)?
We manage projects and resources in ASTA PowerProject http://www.astadev.com/ We capture actual project effort for IS Applications Division Staff staff using the web based time recording tool provided with ASTA.
A complete time record is submitted by each person in IS Applications Division each week which includes their effort on projects, services, annual leave, absences and other activities. ASTA PowerProject is a specialist tool and most of our staff only access the too via the web based Time Recording interface. Our full ASTA users are Project Managers, Programme Managers, Portfolio Managers and Resource Managers within our various teams.
2 – What tool do you use for project/portfolio reporting? (in terms of metrics/trends)
We capture actual project staff effort in ASTA PowerProject http://www.astadev.com/. We export this data to Excel and our formal reports on projects, services and resources are all driven from the ASTA data.
3 – Do you have a repository for PM documentation? If so what do you use.
Our repository is the Drupal based web application at www.projects.ed.ac.uk we also use Confluence Wiki and SharePoint for sharing project information and managing Project Boards, and User Groups.
4 – How do you measure the success of the PMO/Governance structure? And would you have any metrics you could share on this?
Currently our measurement is mainly around projects delivered – we need to do more with outcomes and benefits.
Our projects are grouped into programmes and portfolios. We have an annual planning process to identify projects see https://www.projects.ed.ac.uk/planning/area/apps/15-16. The outcome of the annual planning process is an agreed set of projects to be delivered in the coming year. We know how many projects are expected to be completed in the year ahead for each programme and portfolio.As part of the planning process we set a budget for our staff effort on each project and can roll up this to set a budget for each programme and portfolio.We also capture start, planning, delivery and closure milestones for each project.
We use these measures to report metrics and KPIs including:
- Number of projects delivered in a period by programme and portfolio
- Number of project days delivered in a period by programme and portfolio
- Number of projects delivered as a % of the expected number of projects to be delivered in a period by programme and portfolio
- Number of project days delivered as a % of the expected no of project days to be delivered in a period by programme and portfolio
- Number of key project milestones (start, planning, delivery, closure) achieved in a period by programme and portfolio
- Number of key project milestones (start, planning, delivery, closure) achieved as a % of the expected number of key project milestones to be delivered in a period by programme and portfolio
As we have a budgeted effort for each project we can compare budgets with actuals on a project, programme, portfolio or overall basis. This is great – but be need to be wary of becoming overly fixated on costs rather than project outcomes.
We capture a RAG status for each project based on very simple rules:
GREEN – expected to deliver agreed scope on time and in budget
AMBER – emerging risks or issues may not deliver agreed scope on time and in budget
RED – will not deliver agreed scope on time and in budget (intervention required)
Our primary interest is in the RAG status for individual projects. For large programmes and portfolios however we occasionally report counts and percentages of projects by RAG status
We publish annual reports for each portfolio which contain some of this data. You can view reports of portfolio outcomes in 2013/14 in the portfolio home pages on the Projects Web Site:
- https://www.projects.ed.ac.uk/portfolio/csg – Corporate Services
- https://www.projects.ed.ac.uk/portfolio/isg – Information Services
- https://www.projects.ed.ac.uk/portfolio/usg – University Secretary’s Group
5 – Any thoughts on developing these metrics?
The thing we are all looking for is the correlation between project outcomes and things which we can influence or control. We all want answers to questions such as:
- are we more or less successful with small, medium, large or extra large projects?
- are we more or less successful on projects with shorter duration/elapsed time?
- are we more or less successful on projects of different types e.g. Software Development, IT Infrastructure, Software Package Implementation, Business Case/Options Appraisal and Procurement?
This requires us to regularly review project outcomes against various measures including project size, duration and type as part of our continuous improvement processes.
We’ve also contributed to the following best practice project and change management resources published by UCISA:
- Major Project Governance Assessment Toolkit https://www.ucisa.ac.uk/publications/major_project_gov.aspx
- Effective Risk Management https://www.ucisa.ac.uk/publications/effect_risk.aspx
Deputy Director and Head of Project Services