A better PMO approach: Efficient project management and situational awareness using direct feedback.
One of our regional Investor Owned Utilities was rolling out a new Microwave Radio, IP/MPLS Network and 2-way radio system all at the same time. Their PMO was finding it difficult to manage multiple work streams due to the number of vendors, 40 plus locations, type of milestones, and reporting style of each Vendor and internal Project Manager and Field Supervisor. Using the traditional approach of emailing excel documents back and forth, managing multiple versions of those documents, and finally compiling them into a Microsoft Project plan had become an inefficient and time lagged way to track milestones and gain reliable situational awareness. Business leadership had heard that SharePoint was a great tool for facilitating collaboration and project management. They wanted to maximize their investment and leverage the tool to empower project managers and supervisors on this, the largest deployment project in their budget for the year.
As it turned out, project managers were already using SharePoint to organize issues, risks, and activities, along with important documents. However, they had been unsuccessful at coming up with a user-friendly and efficient way to track milestones against multiple work streams. Of the SharePoint solutions they had seen on the market, none of them made it easy to extend status reporting tools to project resources in a way that eliminated confusion and reduced the house keeping tasks of each project manager. Furthermore, the best of these SharePoint solutions on the market were too expensive to implement and arrange training for on such short notice. The client had a great SharePoint administrative staff; however they were swamped with an existing backlog and in the middle of a system upgrade and migration to SharePoint 2010.
So how did WMP help them get a SharePoint solution that worked with them and for them on such short notice?
Using a series of discovery sessions with business leaders and project managers, West Monroe Partners built a storyboard of the Project Management workflow (from job site supervisor status reporting to Microsoft Project plan creation). This storyboard became the blueprint for a light-weight SharePoint-based Project Management solution, built in 2 weeks, driven by project managers and extended directly down to the vendor PM’s in the field – with very little IT administrative oversight. The solution would also migrate seamlessly from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010 and/or Office 365.
The key points from the storyboarding sessions were:
1. Project managers geographically tracked SmartGrid installation by communication lines and towers installed across the territory.
2. Each of the 40 plus installation sites had multiple vendors and internal teams responsible for various pieces of a tower, site, electrical, telecom, wireless, antenna, and fiber installation work. Each team was headed by a field supervisor that was responsible for coordinating site time with the PM and other vendors.
3. Project managers evenly divided the task of managing the installations by teaming with the field supervisors who reported status daily which cost a lot of time and was also only day behind information.
4. The PMO required on-demand access to the overall Telecommunications network installation status with the ability to drill down into milestones and scheduled site time as needed.
5. Senior management wanted a status dashboard so they could view progress and track troubled areas to assist in mitigation of issues and roadblocks to completion.
Using OOTB SharePoint features, WMP was able to craft a solution that leveraged Custom Lists and Content Editor Web Parts to support a geospatial project management tool using Microsoft’s Bing Maps Ajax 7 API, JQuery, and SPServices.
From the screenshot below you can see an overview of the map with installation sites marked with pins that highlight the installation progress by color (blue for not started, black for completed, red for delayed, green for on-time). Clicking on a pin drives a popup that shows the Status and name of the site. Subsequently, the area on the right of the map is loaded with all of the milestones that are related to that site.
Clicking on the name of a milestone shows or hides a dropdown that details the planned, projected, and actual completed dates of the milestone based on updates from Supervisors
Clicking on the “edit” link next to the name of the milestone allows Field Supervisors to enter updated start and end dates with comments based on current events.
The PMO uses WMP’s Site Summary’ tool (accessed from the SharePoint top navigation menu) to get direct access to the full list of milestones tracked by status against each site. The report below was emailed directly from the application.
Project Managers use WMP’s Status Reports’ tool to view weekly and bi-weekly status reports using a common format. This report is driven by the daily updates made by Project Managers to their issues and activities lists currently managed in SharePoint. This report can be emailed or printed directly from the application as well.
Knowing the business process and workflow of our client’s team was crucial to building the right interface to help them gather, process, and manage critical data. To get better productivity out of your SharePoint investment, you need a partner who knows the advantages and limitations of the tool and can balance Out of the box features with targeted customizations. By empowering supervisors to access the SharePoint site to make on-demand status updates, WMP was able to drastically decrease the less valuable duties of project managers while improving the visibility of the entire Telecommunications Network installation for decision makers. If you have an opportunity that could benefit from this ground-up approach, WMP is here to help you get moving in the right direction.