Marquette University is a Catholic and Jesuit university located in Milwaukee, WI, offering a comprehensive range of majors in 11 nationally and internationally recognized colleges and schools to approximately 11,000 students. As part of the centralized IT services team, Marquette’s Project Management Office (PMO) is charged with prioritizing, selecting and executing enterprise projects. The organization standardized on Microsoft Project Server 2010 for day-to-day project management, with 15% of projects being IT-related and 85% generated by the institution.
PMO capabilities gap
In 2011, the University’s Budget Office was still receiving requests in a wide variety of formats from the various departments that submitted project requests. In addition to having no standard format, there was no complete database of all University projects. According to Dan Smith, Marquette University’s Deputy CIO, “The finance organization needed all business cases and budgets in a common format. They also required monthly forecasts over the life of the project, not just the total project cost.” This required more comprehensive and sophisticated business planning and control capabilities than were available out-of-the-box from Project Server.
To close these PMO capabilities gaps – specifically those around financial management – the organization chose a combination of Project Server and UMT360’s Project Financial Server. This combination also addressed the needs of the stakeholders within the organization requesting that the three offices that manage projects (IT Services, Facility Services, and Office of the Architect) use a common process and tools to facilitate the capital selection process across multiple years. This level of enhanced portfolio management was simply not possible using the current tools and processes before the addition of UMT360.
"With increased visibility provided by UMT360's integration of financials, the organization can now clearly see and understand the strategic drivers associated with every project."
Making a seamless connection
After seeing how seamlessly UMT360’s solution integrates those missing financial controls directly into the Project Server user experience, Marquette decided to upgrade to UMT360 as part of its migration to Project Server 2013. The objective was to improve the collection of project information, so that each project was managed using a common format that retained historical data, supporting document approvals with robust reporting. Additionally, this initiative focused on improving project selection and supported the entire capital selection process by providing more visibility and transparency.
One of the first things this enabled the Marquette PMO to do was to capture budget information without first having a detailed project schedule. “This was important, because prior to integrating UMT360 with Project Server, project requests and budgets were all over the map.” It was a confusing process, in which people would either keep submitting the same projects, or not re-submit a project after it had initially been rejected, or even submit a slightly different project the following year.
The benefits of this more comprehensive approach reaches beyond just the PMO, as other organizations within the University, including Facilities Services and the Finance department are now using Project Server and UMT360 for the University’s capital selection process.
According to Smith, “Before integrating UMT360 with Project Server 2013, there was very little transparency, and the project selection process at times seemed a bit arbitrary. With increased visibility provided by UMT360’s integration of financials, the organization can now clearly see and understand the strategic drivers associated with every project. As a result, the selection committee now has the insight needed to make informed decisions to ensure that the most deserving and strategically impactful projects receive the appropriate funding and support.”
Extending best practices across the organization
A somewhat pleasant surprised was how well the new tools and processes were received throughout the organization. Anytime new tools are introduced or processes are changed, resistance is always a risk. But now that there’s a common approach to project management across the organization, stakeholders have a greater sense of control.
Streamlined workflow and automated processes reduce the need for manual reconciliation of data. Marquette implemented the UMT360 report packs to provide a jump start with project reporting information from Project Server and UMT360. This has a twofold benefit; Project Managers do not need to draft status reports from scratch since that data is in Project Server and they are encouraged to keep Project Server data current since they understand that status reports are sent to all of the stakeholders for their specific projects automatically.
“Instead of hand-keying data and manually creating reports, the team can now focus on forecasting, tracking actual performance and providing strategic recommendations to improve the overall business value of the organization’s portfolio.”