4-page Case Study
Posted: 5/16/2011
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District of Columbia Retirement Board Agency Manages Project Risks, Resources, and Costs While Improving Prioritization

The District of Columbia Retirement Board (DCRB), an independent agency that manages defined benefit employee retirement funds, is modernizing its operations. This effort involves approximately 15 projects, some in the IT department and some not. To manage those projects, DCRB needed an enterprise project management (EPM) solution. It chose Microsoft Project Server 2010 and implemented the solution with the help of partner Projility. DCRB is using Project Server 2010 to centralize information, manage its resources, and manage risks on a variety of projects, including its annual budgeting process. The agency expects to use the software’s portfolio-planning features to strategically prioritize projects, and it will also save money through a user-friendly, security-enhanced interface that helps employees collaborate efficiently from anywhere.

Situation

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* Our budget analyst now has one place to organize and manage his formerly complicated budgeting process. Project Server 2010 makes it much more seamless than it was before.  *

Peter Dewar
Technology Specialist
District of Columbia Retirement Board

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The District of Columbia Retirement Board (DCRB) is an independent agency of the Washington, D.C., government that manages the assets of retirement funds for the district’s police officers, firefighters, and teachers—a population of about 24,000 active and retired employees. DCRB manages U.S.$5 billion worth of investments, with a staff of 45.

In late 2007, DCRB adopted a “technology road map” to modernize the agency’s retirement processing by moving from manual, paper-based operations to electronic activities. The road map includes goals centered on members’ needs, such as giving retirees their first pension checks within 30 days of retirement. But achieving these goals involves many projects, including implementing new pension information software. When Peter Dewar, Technical Specialist at DCRB, arrived in March 2010 to manage the IT department, he saw that supporting these efforts would require an enterprise project management (EPM) solution.

“We have IT projects, but some of them are broader in scope, more like business process reengineering projects,” Dewar says. “And although we are a small-footprint agency, we also have many non-IT projects that involve a good deal of complexity and numerous levels of approval. Sometimes it was hard to keep track of what was going on and who was doing what.”

For example, the annual budgeting process involves not only the entire agency but also its board, the D.C. City Council, and the U.S. Congress. To begin the process, budget analyst Sebastian Podesta would send an email message with a segmented portion of a Microsoft Office Excel 2007 spreadsheet to each department manager, who would make updates. Soon senior staff and the executive director would weigh in, also by email, and Podesta would be faced with many versions of the spreadsheet. “It was a nightmare for him to keep track of,” Dewar says.

All project management at DCRB—and all efforts to prioritize projects in its portfolio of activities—involved processes that were also manual. For example, project tracking was done manually, project files were stored on shared drives, and agency employees lacked the ability to collaborate, except through email.

More generally, it was difficult for agency management to understand which projects were over budget or behind schedule and having particular difficulties.

The agency sought to keep costs down during its technological expansion, but it had no formal process to analyze where employees would be needed. “We weren’t really doing resource management,” Dewar says. “We could never tell if our resources were overallocated or whether we might need to add resources for some of our ambitious projects.”

Furthermore, Dewar was aware that, industrywide, many such projects face overwhelming risks. “There’s a significantly high tendency for IT projects to fail: either over budget, over the scheduled time, abandoned, or not delivering what was promised,” he says. “I felt that we needed to do anything we could to reduce those risks, to make sure that the projects we undertake are going to be successful.”

To bring that success, for both IT and non-IT projects, DCRB wanted an EPM solution that could organize information and provide tools to manage the agency’s project portfolio, resources, and costs.

Solution

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* Project Server 2010 helps us make early and accurate decisions on resource capacity planning, as opposed to the past when it was more of a guess.  *

Peter Dewar
Technology Specialist
District of Columbia Retirement Board

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Dewar compared several products that might meet the needs of DCRB, and Microsoft project management software rose to the top. Dewar was especially comfortable with Microsoft because he had implemented Microsoft Office Project Server 2003 on previous occasions at other organizations. 

In April 2010, Dewar learned that Microsoft Project Server 2010 was due to be released in June. He was excited that the new solution would incorporate and enhance the features of Microsoft Office Project Portfolio Server 2007. “We could get two products in one,” he says, meaning that the agency could do both portfolio management and project management with a single solution. Another crucial factor was that Project Server 2010 is built on Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010. “The agency was already considering using SharePoint Server 2010 to manage its intranet sites,” Dewar says. “So this seemed like good synergy.”

The District of Columbia Office of the Chief Technology Officer had previously succeeded at pilot EPM implementations using Projility, a Microsoft partner based in McLean, Virginia, which has attained the Microsoft Silver Project and Portfolio Management competency. “It was a great opportunity to find a partner recommended by district government,” Dewar says. “In addition, during my own due diligence, I learned that Projility had implemented similar solutions at other organizations that I was familiar with, and those impressed me even more.”

Projility started work in July 2010. “Right from the beginning we wanted to understand what DCRB needed from the solution,” says Rob Hirschmann, Corporate Vice President at Projility. “We spent time learning how executives would interact with Project Server 2010 and how team members would use it. Although we work with many companies that implement Project Server 2010 for IT projects, DCRB had a vision of managing a broader range of initiatives. We were pleased to help them achieve that mission.”

The implementation went smoothly and was completed in August 2010. Dewar says, “One particularly helpful feature was that Projility worked with us to create a SharePoint site to show our executives what we were implementing and why. They were able see how we were doing—and how Project Server 2010 would give them similar information on future projects.”

Following implementation, the agency used Project Server 2010 to develop its 2012 budget, among other efforts. In that budgeting process, the budget analyst put the Microsoft Excel 2010 spreadsheet on a project site in Project Server 2010. Rather than creating multiple versions, he was able to use security features of Project Server 2010 to restrict access to areas of the spreadsheet. “You can see only what you have permission to see,” says Dewar. A user could check out the spreadsheet, update it, and then check it back in with the updated information. 

DCRB includes all agency employees as available resources. Thus anyone who is assigned to a project can update tasks and view other information using the web client, Microsoft Project Web App. A small number DCRB employees act as project managers, using the full Microsoft Project Professional 2010 client application. However, some managers are able to do all of their work in Project Web App. “The functionality has increased so much that you can do most everything you want in Project Web App,” Dewar says.

Using Project Server 2010 workflows designed by Projility, DCRB managers now have the ability to use an automated process for submitting and approving projects, as well as for collaborating among themselves and vendors. Managers can now go to a single location—the project site—when they want to view any information about a project.

Project Server 2010, which runs on virtualized Dell PowerEdge R710 server computers, interoperates with Microsoft Office 2010 and Microsoft Exchange Server 2007. Dewar plans to soon take advantage of that interoperation so that Project Server 2010 tasks will appear in employees’ task lists in the Microsoft Outlook 2010 messaging and collaboration client. “You don’t have to go to two places. Your tasks are right there for you in Outlook 2010,” Dewar says.

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* With rigorous use of Project Server 2010, we can analyze what we need to do to achieve a goal and prioritize projects accordingly.  *

Peter Dewar
Technology Specialist
District of Columbia Retirement Board

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Project data—which is stored using the Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise data management software—is available to executives in reports and dashboards. The reports are powered by Excel Services in Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010. The dashboards—powered by PerformancePoint Services in Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 and Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services—present executives with information on projects by status, duration, resource, capacity, and other factors. “We plan to expand our dashboards and make them more sophisticated as we evolve in our use of Project Server 2010,” Dewar says. “Our other divisions, such as the investment division, are also developing SharePoint dashboards. So this will be a common way for executives to receive information.”

DCRB has added a secure certificate to its SharePoint environment, which means that employees or consultants working on projects can access Project Web App from a remote computer or mobile device with no virtual private network (VPN) connection required. DCRB asks them to update their tasks and log their time daily or weekly. DCRB will implement a new financial system in October 2011, after which it will explore the potential of linking the two solutions, so that payroll could be automatically updated with hours spent working on projects.

Benefits

DCRB is using Project Server 2010 to centralize its project information in order to better manage risks, resources, its project portfolio, and its costs. A user-friendly interface makes it easy for employees to work with project data.

Single Information Source Helps Reduce Risk 

DCRB is using Project Server 2010 to centralize its project information in order to better manage risks, resources, and its project portfolio. A user-friendly interface with enhanced security features makes it easy for employees to collaborate efficiently, saving the agency money.

With centralized information and a structured approach in Project Server 2010, DCRB saves employees time. “For example, our budget analyst now has one place to organize and manage his formerly complicated budgeting process,” Dewar says. “Project Server 2010 makes it much more seamless than it was before.”

These improvements also help DCRB manage potential risks. “With Project Server 2010, we can do better planning. We can identify the critical path in our projects and see the important things that we must pay attention to,” Dewar says. “We can see if our schedules are on time and, if not, modify them based on historical information. The cumulative effect of this more organized approach is that we can reduce the risk of failure.”

New Capabilities for Resource Planning

With Project Server 2010, DCRB now has the ability to successfully manage its resources, something it had not been able to do before. “We’re still scratching the surface in this area, but with Project Server 2010 we now have the ability to look at our plans and our staffing and see if we have the right people to get things done,” Dewar says. “In addition to showing when resources are overallocated, Project Server 2010 helps us make early and accurate decisions on resource capacity planning, as opposed to the past when it was more of a guess.”

Dewar expects those decisions to improve as time goes on. “Once we start building up data in Project Server 2010, we’ll be able to look back at history and do better projections,” he says. “We can see the success of our past estimates and use that to make better estimates in the future.”

Improved Strategic Focus

DCRB is using the portfolio-planning features of Project Server 2010 to become more strategic and effective in achieving its member-centered goals. “Above and beyond managing projects and schedules, we plan to use the portfolio features of Project Server 2010 to conceptualize the overall direction of the agency,” Dewar says.

The agency’s technology road map has set worthy goals, such as reducing the retirement process to less than 30 days. “But not all projects advance us toward that goal,” Dewar says. “With rigorous use of Project Server 2010, we can analyze what we need to do to achieve a goal and prioritize projects accordingly.”

Cost Savings Through Efficient, Security-Enhanced Collaboration

With Project Server 2010, DCRB can provide employees and vendors with access to important project plans, risks, issues, documents, and reports. “We don’t have to give everyone VPN access, and we’ve really cut down on attachments to email messages,” Dewar says. “We can share information efficiently. And security measures are implemented throughout the process, so we can restrict users to only what we think they need.”

These new collaboration features save DCRB money in two ways. “First, we don’t have to buy as many VPN tokens,” Dewar says. “Second, we’re saving on vendors’ travel. They don’t have to come see us to participate in meetings. For example, on one project, we’re having the vendor travel only every third week, working remotely the other two weeks. We’re saving a couple thousand dollars a week by not having them on site.”

A User-Friendly, Accessible Solution

The user-friendly interface of Project Server 2010 means that employees can easily interact with project data. Employees can see tasks in Outlook 2010 and can access Project Web App from remote or mobile devices. “Using my smartphone, I can log on to SharePoint Server 2010 and see all the key project information: risks, issues, reports, and the calendar showing who is supposed to be on site today,” Dewar says. “The executive director has a tablet, and so wherever he is, he can log in securely to view dashboards—and, if he chooses, to dig down into the details.”

The result is that DCRB can use Project Server 2010 to be engaged in projects regardless of location. “The portability of Project Server 2010 is phenomenal,” Dewar says. “You can be anywhere now and still be actively involved in a project, contributing in a positive way in our mobile society. That means our projects don’t have to wait for people to come back into the office before we can move forward.”

Microsoft Project Server 2010

Microsoft Project Server 2010 brings together the business collaboration platform services of Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 with structured execution capabilities to provide flexible work management solutions. Project Server 2010 unifies project and portfolio management to help organizations align resources and investments with business priorities, gain control across all types of work, and visualize performance through powerful dashboards.

For more information about Microsoft Project Server 2010, go to:
www.microsoft.com/project/2010

For More Information

For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:
www.microsoft.com

For more information about Projility, call (703) 448-6777 or visit the Web site at:
www.projility.com

For more information about the District of Columbia Retirement Board, call (202) 343-3200 or visit the Web site at:
http://dcrb.dc.gov/dcrb/site

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Solution Overview



Organization Size: 45 employees

Organization Profile

The District of Columbia Retirement Board (DCRB) manages U.S.$4.7 billion worth of retirement funds for police, firefighters, and teachers. Based in Washington, D.C., it has 45 employees.


Business Situation

DCRB wanted an enterprise project management (EPM) solution to manage both IT projects that will help automate retirement processing and general processes such as developing the annual budget.


Solution

With help from Microsoft partner Projility, DCRB implemented Microsoft Project Server 2010.


Benefits

  • Single information source helps reduce risk
  • New capabilities for resource planning
  • Improved strategic focus
  • More efficient cost tracking
  • A user-friendly, accessible solution


Software and Services
  • Microsoft Project Server 2010
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services
  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2007
  • Microsoft Excel 2010
  • Microsoft Outlook 2010
  • Microsoft Project Professional 2010
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise
  • Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010

Vertical Industries
Public Administration

Country/Region
United States

Business Need
  • Business Intelligence and Reporting
  • Cost Containment
  • Enterprise Project Management

IT Issue
  • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
  • Personal Productivity

Languages
English

Partner(s)
Projility

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