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Posted: 5/12/2010
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Microsoft Human Resources Microsoft Human Resources Reduces Project Portfolio to Improve Effectiveness

Microsoft Human Resources, which supports the 93,000 employees of the global software company, wanted to make better strategic decisions about its portfolio of projects. As Human Resources developed new portfolio management processes, it worked with a prerelease version of Microsoft Project Server 2010, tailoring the software to fit the business processes of its five Human Resources Centers of Excellence. Human Resources has used Project Server 2010 to improve the ways it collects information on projects and how it reports that information to executives. These improvements have helped leadership make better decisions and pare the portfolio from 200 to 25 projects. The result is higher-quality projects and smoother scheduling, with improvements in transparency, accountability, and collaboration.


The Microsoft Human Resources department seeks to recruit, retain, and effectively deploy a large, talented, and motivated work force. To support 93,000 Microsoft employees worldwide, the Human Resources department has more than 1,500 human resources professionals across 100 countries. These employees include HR generalists who support individual businesses on a day-to-day basis as well as five Centers of Excellence (COEs) that develop programs for the HR generalists to implement.

* We’re working on fewer projects, but higher-quality projects, which saves everybody time and improves the manager and employee experience.  *

Joan Wissmann
of CBPM Project Management
Microsoft Human Resources

In early 2007, the Human Resources department decided to improve the way the COEs delivered projects. “We had more than 200 projects running,” says Bruno Lecoq, Director of Business Process in the Operation Excellence COE at Microsoft Human Resources. “To complete all of them—and deliver them at the right time—was mathematically impossible.”

HR generalists sometimes felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of projects, says Joan Wissmann, Manager of Compensation/Benefits/Performance Management (CPBM) COE Project Management at Microsoft Human Resources. “One day an HR generalist might get a request for help delivering a training program. The next day, a request to explain a new benefits program. Then the day after that, a request to work on recruiting.” If HR generalists felt overwhelmed, their participation could lag, which meant that programs did not perform as well as desired.

Departmental leaders needed to manage their portfolio of projects more effectively. “We decided to articulate a strategy, identify the projects with the greatest link to that strategy, and do those projects—and only those projects—in order to do them really well,” says Wissmann. “For example, we’d rather do two really good projects in performance management, than do 15 little ones. Even if the 15 are all useful and well designed, the two really good ones will bring greater long-term gains to the company.”

By cutting down on the number of projects, the department could also improve project timing and coordination. But each Center of Excellence had different processes for proposing, evaluating, and tracking projects. Business Program Owners presented these projects using a variety of files generated with Microsoft Office Excel 2007 spreadsheet software. Manipulating those files to report the appropriate information to executives required a great deal of tedious manual adjustment.

Furthermore, the process of making decisions based on those files varied by COE, with little collaboration or coordination among them. Managers had no single repository of all project information across all COEs, which meant they had no easy way to compare projects’ costs and benefits, or to see how project schedules might dovetail, or to enforce accountability as the projects moved forward.

Human Resources needed a holistic set of portfolio management processes that provided executives with the information needed to make decisions. Any new solution would have to accommodate the various ways of doing business in the COEs and would have to include a software tool flexible and scalable enough to support that effort.


The Microsoft Human Resources department’s efforts to improve portfolio management involved far more than implementing software. As is common in the discipline of project management, a key success factor was developing the proper processes. Says Lecoq, “We took the time to plan and define our process, and we didn’t touch the software tool until the whole team agreed on the plan.”

* In Project Server 2010, every project is organized the same way. Everyone can see the financials, the justification, what success looks like, and how it links to our overall strategy. So we’re always comparing apples to apples.  *

Bruno Lecoq
Director of Business Process, Operation Excellence
Microsoft Human Resources

In April 2007, the department started using Microsoft Office Project Portfolio Server 2007 to help plan, prioritize, and track its projects. Soon thereafter, the department was invited to become an early adopter of Microsoft Project Server 2010, the next generation of project management software from Microsoft. Project Server 2010 incorporates and improves the functions of Office Project Portfolio Server 2007, and it also features enhanced reporting and project execution.

Human Resources was the very first customer to get involved in the Technology Adoption Program for Project Server 2010. “Before beta, before alpha, we had Milestone 1,” says Sam Chung, a Program Manager in the Project Server 2010 product group, who served as a liaison. “That’s when Human Resources got involved.” Through calendar year 2008, Human Resources ran the alpha version of the software, and in 2009 a beta version.

Human Resources functioned much like an external customer in this process. “Within the product group, we consider Human Resources to be our biggest, best, and most important customer,” says Chung. “This department represents a massive organization and multimillion-dollar project portfolio, so we could always turn to them to ask how things worked in the real world. We have gained a great deal from working with them.”

As of November 2009, Human Resources had 400 users on a beta version of Project Server 2010, with plans to scale up to 1,600 users by the end of November and 2,000 users by the end of December. (In addition to Human Resources employees, users include employees of the IT and Finance departments at Microsoft.) Human Resources runs Project Server 2010 on two virtual servers, each with a 64-bit 2.33-GHz processor and 6 GB of RAM. Project Server 2010 works in tandem with Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Enterprise data management software, and many of its processes build on those of Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010. For example, many of the Human Resources configurations take advantage of SharePoint Web Parts.

Although a full client is available, almost all users in Human Resources access Project Server 2010 through its Web client, Microsoft Project Web App. “I am able to do everything I could want to do with Project Web App,” says Lecoq. “It’s a very powerful interface, and much faster than the client in Office Project Portfolio Server 2007.”

Indeed, many users are not even aware that they are using Project Web App, because of the ways that Human Resources has adapted Project Server 2010 to the traditional processes and workflows at each COE. Chung and his colleagues in development designed Project Server 2010 to be highly configurable. “But even we were amazed by the customizations that Human Resources did,” he says.

As Human Resources executives seek to optimize the department’s project portfolio, they take particular advantage of Project Server 2010 reporting tools. “Project Server 2010 reports directly into Office Excel 2007 or Office Word 2007,” says Lecoq. The reporting function automates production of an executive summary for each project that includes “who-what-when-where” information, success criteria, financials, and other key components.


The Microsoft Human Resources department has used Project Server 2010 to collect information more easily and to compare and evaluate projects more effectively. The department has pared its project portfolio from 200 to 25, while bringing about greater transparency, accountability, and collaboration.

* Our people work in 100 countries, and if anybody wants to know about a project, up-to-date information is always available in Project Server 2010. We’ve gained incredible transparency.  *

Bruno Lecoq
Director of Business Process, Operation Excellence
Microsoft Human Resources

Better Information Collection

Because the Human Resources department’s tailored version of Project Server 2010 is so user-friendly, the department is better able to collect information about proposed projects. “We’ve streamlined the process for our HR professionals,” says Wissmann. “To collect information about their projects, they go to a Web site, fill in some fields, click the Save button, and they’re done.”

Lecoq says, “If you tell people they’re going to have to use project management software, they resist. They imagine something way too complicated. But with our system—we should almost say it’s ‘powered by Project Server 2010’—they just go to a Web site.” Indeed, within the department, the software is typically called not Project Server 2010 but “the HR Portfolio tool.”

Richer Ways to Compare Projects

The rich reporting functions of Project Server 2010 give executives valuable tools to evaluate and compare projects. “We practically got a standing ovation when we presented the reports,” says Wissmann. Users were thrilled to discover that Project Server 2010 automated production of the one-page executive summary in an Office Excel 2007 spreadsheet, eliminating the tedious work that formerly went into preparing for meetings.

Furthermore, executives can take advantage of that consistency to make better decisions. “In Project Server 2010, every project is organized the same way,” says Lecoq. “Everyone can see the financials, the justification, what success looks like, and how it links to our overall strategy. So we’re always comparing apples to apples.”

Fewer, Better-Scheduled Projects

The department used Project Server 2010 to cut its portfolio to about 25 projects, compared with the 200 it had previously. “We’re working on fewer projects, but higher-quality projects, which saves everybody time and improves the manager and employee experience,” Wissmann says.

The projects are more clearly tied to the organization’s strategy, and they are delivered on a predictable schedule. “We have practically no surprises now, because everyone knows what’s coming,” Lecoq says. “I recently met with an HR generalist who said, ‘I can feel a change in how we work: now I know what I’m going to be working on, which I didn’t before.’”

Transparency and Accountability

Because all departmental employees can see project information through Project Web App, transparency is greatly improved. “We call Project Server 2010 ‘the source of truth,’” Lecoq says. “If you want to get your project funded, it has to go through our Project Server 2010 process. There’s no other way around it. When we do the optimization with the entire leadership team, everybody leaves the meeting in full agreement on a single portfolio of projects.”

The single repository of information also improves accountability. “Six months later, we can say, ‘We’re only talking about these particular projects, because these are the ones we approved,’” Wissmann says. “Obviously, we do have change management, but with this ‘source of truth,’ the change management process involves going back to Project Server 2010 and reevaluating our portfolio.”

Such a unified vision is particularly valuable in a large, geographically dispersed organization. “Our people work in 100 countries, and if anybody wants to know about a project, up-to-date information is always available in Project Server 2010,” says Lecoq. “We’ve gained incredible transparency.”

Improved Collaboration

With greater transparency for projects across all COEs, Human Resources employees have more opportunities to collaborate. Wissmann says, “Now, with Project Server 2010, everybody can see everybody else’s projects. They can say, ‘Maybe our projects have synergy,’ or ask, ‘How is my project dependent on yours?’”

Of course, some projects are confidential. “We can lock down certain projects if we don’t want other people to see them,” Wissmann says. “Project Server 2010 gives us that flexibility.”

Likewise, collaboration and open discussion have improved when situations change. Lecoq says, “In our quarterly meetings, if something new comes up—a new mandate, say, or a compliance-related project—we’re now able realize the implications: Do we have enough resources? Do we need to delay some projects, or hire new staff? With Project Server 2010, we can try to address issues like that. Before, we couldn’t even have that conversation.”

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:

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:

For more information about Microsoft Human Resources, call (800) 426-9400 or visit the Web site at:

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

Organization Size: 1500 employees

Organization Profile

Microsoft, based in Redmond, Washington, is number 35 in the 2009 Fortune 500. Its staff of 93,000 is managed by a human resources department that has more than 1,500 employees in 100 countries.

Business Situation

Microsoft Human Resources wanted to more effectively manage its portfolio of projects. As it developed new portfolio management processes, it needed a software tool to aid in decision making.


Human Resources implemented a prerelease version of Microsoft Project Server 2010, configured for the processes at each of its Centers of Excellence.


  • Better information collection
  • Richer ways to compare projects
  • Fewer, better-scheduled projects
  • Transparency and accountability
  • Improved collaboration


Third Party Software

Software and Services
  • Microsoft Project Server 2010
  • Microsoft Office Excel 2007
  • Microsoft Office Word 2007
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Enterprise
  • Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010

Vertical Industries
Architecture, Engineering & Construction

United States

Business Need
Enterprise Project Management

IT Issue
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)