With an annual budget of $865 million and a mandate to become the best managed local government, Nashville’s Mayor Bill Purcell and CFO David Manning were determined to find a more cost-effective means of providing information flow within the administration and between the metropolitan government and citizens of the greater Nashville area. The obvious answer was to leverage Web-based information technology.
Prior to the mandate, IT projects were started on the fly. Multiple departments were proposing similar IT initiatives and developing different solutions. The projects were not well documented. There was no IT structure methodology, no documentation, limited planning and supervision, and the projects that were in progress were not strategically aligned with business goals. It was also difficult to determine how many projects were being funded or accomplished because communication between departments was limited. Additionally, there was no central reporting capability within the organization.
Administrators knew that in order to achieve their goals, they would need to do a better job managing projects. That meant they needed training in a world-class methodology to organize and support IT project development initiatives.
One of the first steps taken by Richard McKinney, CIO, was to create a Project Management Office (PMO) and to appoint Eugene Greer as its director. Greer reported directly to McKinney and worked closely with the directors of IT solutions, Mary Miller and Walter Jarrell. The dual objective of the PMO was to create a consistent strategy for implementing technology projects across the metropolitan government and to ensure that IT projects undertaken by Metro would be linked to the authority’s broader, strategic business goals.
Greer determined that Nashville’s Athena Computer Learning Center could provide training for project management needs. Athena, a member of the Boston University Education Affiliate Network, could offer project management programs for IT structure methodology based on the Project Management Institute’s Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) and developed by Boston University. It could also offer Boston University training programs for use and implementation of Microsoft Project within Microsoft Project Server 2002. This was important because although Metro was implementing the Project Server 2002 software, no one was trained on the use of Microsoft Project, its project development tool.
Managers were able to make immediate use of the Athena/Boston University project management training by applying the strategic methodology to the more than 165 proposed IT projects recommended to help them achieve world-class status. Basing their approach on the PMBOK model, managers customized their project methodology to address their immediate needs. They set up a six-step “eGov” online project portfolio and prioritization process that, in turn, fed the project management process. Utilizing the eGov process, any department could bring forward a proposal for consideration.
They took the extra step to customize project methodology because often, in the midst of an IT project, additional software development is required. Therefore, within its project methodology, Metro has designed a “build and test section” (based on the Carnegie Mellon process), which fits right into the standard PMBOK “water-flow” approach. Altogether, it has nine phases to its IT project development process. These nine phases include six phases that match the six phases of the PMBOK project management model and an additional three that are inserted within the PMBOK progression to recognize the development of software.
Early results of the newly implemented process demonstrate remarkable ROI results, including a successful project to make the clerk’s department totally digital, a $150,000 project that paid for itself within six months.
In addition to the ROI, project management methodology has enabled the organization to evolve in a number of additional areas. Metro now offers many more employees the opportunity to acquire project management skills and tools, as well as share a common language and methodology. Twenty-three percent of the original managers are considering going on to get their Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. And, 60 additional employees will be participating in new project management training in the near future, representing just two of 52 departments. Managers from many of those additional departments are asking to take the instruction.
Metro employees are eager to learn the methodologies and tools presented through project management training. The training offers workers a clear and organized way to get their jobs done, a means of controlling a previously out-of-control process, a precise, common language to use with their teams and a feeling of pride in their accomplishments. It also has provided a basis to develop working relationships between members of departments that ordinarily would not have the chance to work together. Metro is also considering developing internal user groups for project managers to share their project management experiences with each other.
Rick Freeman is chief business development officer for TrainingTrack, a Boston University Enterprise.
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