Managing complex projects using desktop applications, such as Microsoft's (Redmond, Wash.) Excel, caused islands of conflicting information to proliferate at Japan Research Institute-America, the New York-based IT subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group (US$101 billion in total assets). "Execution groups for the same project would have different, localized viewpoints and give management contradictory reports," explains Terry McArdle, VP of the project management office. "At minimum, this unnecessarily prolonged weekly videoconferences between our New York, New Jersey and London offices."
In 2004 JRI America began seeking a centralized solution that would improve resource allocation. Guided by Gartner's (Stamford, Conn.) Magic Quadrant research, which examines the solutions marketplace, the company identified five project management vendors, which McArdle declines to name. From three finalists, JRI America signed a deal for Planview's (Austin, Texas) Enterprise Portfolio Management (EPM) and Project Portfolio Management (PPM) solutions in March 2005. "Planview offered an integrated suite of tools based on a single information repository," says McArdle. "Since we didn't want a bolt-on approach, Planview's architecture differentiated it from the rest."
To accommodate the Planview applications, JRI America purchased two IBM (Armonk, N.Y.) servers running Microsoft Windows Server 2003 and Linux. For the data repository, JRI America used existing Oracle (Redwood Shores, Calif.) database schemas and an existing SAN for storage.
Although the Planview implementation began that summer, it was halted when two issues surfaced. First, the GUI interface lacked intuitiveness, jeopardizing adoption, McArdle relates. "In our experience, line-level employees must embrace a solution for an implementation to succeed," he says.
Also, IT governance workflow capabilities were insufficient, McArdle adds. "We already had more-sophisticated functionality with a Lotus Notes-based tool that Planview was purchased to replace," he comments.
Instead of abandoning the effort, JRI America and Planview leadership agreed in December 2005 to a limited deployment of PPM, followed by a product upgrade and the addition of a third-party workflow-enabling tool from Metastorm (Baltimore).
Implementation and training resumed in January 2006, with the rollout of PPM's time-tracking functions completed by April 2006. Subsequently, project tracking, detailed status reporting and risk/issue management features were introduced. "Next, we'll upgrade to Planview version 9 and implement IT governance," McArdle says.
Thus far, benefits are profound. "Exception-based reporting has reduced videoconference duration by 30 percent a week," reports McArdle. "And senior management across the enterprise, from New York to Tokyo, has access to the same information." Additionally, JRI America's sales and marketing teams now rely on PPM for managing current initiatives and pursuing prospects.
PPM's standardized effort categories have also supported the performance review process for more than 250 full-time equivalents, says McArdle. "By knowing what our people are really doing versus what we believed they were doing, we're learning what resources actually are required to deliver business services," he explains. "And we're developing a culture of accountability, which is critical for meeting corporate goals and achieving regulatory compliance."
Anne Rawland Gabriel is a technology writer and marketing communications consultant based in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. Among other projects, she's a regular contributor to UBM Tech's Bank Systems & Technology, Insurance & Technology and Wall Street & Technology ... View Full Bio