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Phil Britt
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Software upgrade enables Commerce Bank to shuffle tech staff among projects efficiently.

Commerce Bank ($14 billion in total assets) has more than 350 employees in its IT department who may be working on one or more projects at any time. The Kansas City, Mo.-based bank has as many as 400 projects on the books across the enterprise, with about one quarter of those active each month, according to Jerry Stanley, vice president of Commerce Bank's IT project office.

And those projects and employees are in a constant state of flux, Stanley says. As new projects are added or old ones cancelled, and employees leave or join the bank, the IT requirements on projects change; the duties and availability of technology workers must be adjusted accordingly so that the bank's 50 IT team leaders can deploy resources in the most efficient manner possible, he explains.

A Step in the Right Direction

To plan and schedule its IT staffing needs among the plethora of projects, Commerce Bank installed Version 7.2.1 of Austin, Texas-based PlanView's IT management software in the fourth quarter of 2002. Though the software was effective for initial staff deployment, it was cumbersome to use for the reallocation of human resources, according to Stanley.

The application required a manager to delete employees' completed work and enter new work manually, a process Stanley describes as untenable. "The amount of work [to make changes] becomes so incredible that it's not usable," he says. "It was impossible to have a predictable schedule and a usable schedule."

Though Stanley relates that "When we initially purchased the software, we made a conscious decision that we wouldn't install every upgrade so that everything wasn't in a state of flux all of the time," the bank decided to forge ahead with an upgrade following the release of Version 7.4.1 of PlanView's solution in May 2004. Because the initial software purchase included upgrades as long as the bank continued to pay the annual maintenance fee - which is about 20 percent of the purchase price - Commerce Bank did not consider competing products, Stanley explains, adding that the bank may look at competing project planning software in 2006 when the current solution is fully amortized.

Stanley started testing the new release in September 2004 and began training IT team leaders on the new software in October. The upgrade was installed in December. As part of the implementation, the bank also upgraded its Business Objects (San Jose, Calif.) software - which handles some of the PlanView IT reporting functions - and integrated it with the new PlanView IT solution.

More-Agile Resource Allocation

According to Stanley, with the new version of PlanView's software, it takes just one hour each week for him and other IT team leaders to readjust staff allocation to take into account any project changes. Using the legacy version, he notes, took at least five times longer.

And PlanView IT Version 7.4.1 offers plenty of additional functionality that the bank has yet to tap, Stanley adds. For example, in addition to staff planning, the software includes a workflow component and new automated documents, he relates.

The solution is just starting to be utilized in other areas of the bank, Stanley says, and he expects more enterprisewide use of the software in the future, rather than on just IT projects. He also says he foresees more extensive use of the software in the IT department, though he notes that he has not yet had time to investigate many of the software's functions.

"The real issue [with expanding the software's use] isn't the software itself, but the cultural adoption of it," Stanley says, explaining that it always is a challenge to get people to change their work habits.

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Snapshot

Institution: Commerce Bank (Kansas City, Mo.).

Assets: $14 billion.

Business Challenge: Efficiently manage IT staff allocation to improve project management.

Solution: Version 7.4.1 of Austin, Texas-based PlanView's IT management software.

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