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The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) is one of the ten largest publicly-owned utilities in the United States. It provides electricity to Sacramento County, which includes the capital of California and adjacent Placer County. The utility has served Sacramento and its surrounding area for over 70 years. It currently provides over 1.5 million customers with reliable electricity across 900 square miles. SMUD is recognized nationally and internationally for innovative energy efficiency programs and renewable power technologies. As part of its ongoing actions to provide innovative and efficient services to its constituents, the Project Management Office (PMO) within SMUD has been charged with managing all major programs, projects, and continuous capital improvement planning efforts. All these initiatives undergird the utility’s primary mission resulting in hundreds of infrastructure, maintenance, and information technology projects each year.
To increase the quality of project management using technology
The professionals leading the utility’s PMO could be characterized as evangelists who were ahead of their time. Challenged by an ever-increasing number of public works projects overseen by a dedicated, but overworked, project management team, it had become difficult to properly control or centrally view the way projects were executed in real-time. The PMO’s leadership wished to tackle this problem head-on before it fully manifested in project deliverables that did not meet stakeholder’s requirements.
So, leadership began exploring the idea of introducing Project Portfolio Management (PPM) technology to SMUD. The technology had recently gone through its infancy and pioneering stages, making it more attractive for possible adoption by a municipal utility. With the decision to move in that direction, the PMO still wished to exercise a modicum of caution. They determined that a test pilot was in order to see whether pulling all their projects and resources together in one central repository would really increase project oversight resulting in enhanced quality and improved deliverables.
Implement Microsoft PPM with a small pilot test group
After a thorough exploration, SMUD decided to have EPM Solutions take the reins and lead the utility through a pilot of Microsoft-based technology. Project Server—Microsoft’s leading on-premise solution for PPM—was ultimately chosen for the deployment. The pilot would consist of 10 project managers and a subset of the projects currently being managed. Eventually, it was expected that the entire platform would be rolled out to all projects in the enterprise and would involve several hundred role-based users.
EPM Solutions configured Project Server with all the customizations requested, including the development of automated custom reports that would duplicate some of the legacy business intelligence that SMUD had previously relied on. The new reports would use all the data captured in Project Server and its foundation Microsoft SharePoint.
The pilot was successfully initiated with projects that had been migrated over from Microsoft Project—the desktop application that operates as the “scheduling engine” for Project Server. Familiarity with this software package by the staff at SMUD immediately increased user adoption of the new system facilitating the transition.
Overall, by the end of the pilot, SMUD had proven to itself that the technology works and wished to continue to gain more benefits from it by expanding it to the entire enterprise. They realized having all projects visible in a central repository significantly increased the level of oversight and transparency which led to higher quality management. Teresa Klostermann, the lead project manager at SMUD, said “EPM Solutions has done an amazing job. We are very pleased with the work.”
United Telecommunications Services (UTS), based on the island of Curacao in the southern Caribbean, is a government-backed telecommunication provider offering long distance and mobile telephone service, internet services, and advanced data networks as well as transaction-based services such as collect-calling, lease lines, pre-paid cards, and pre-paid mobile telephony. UTS was established in 1999 after the merging of two existing companies to better facilitate a more aggressive response to the rapid development of new and converged technologies. To further its capabilities while moving toward more customer specific services and quality enhancements, UTS established an internal Project Management Office (PMO) responsible for managing internal initiatives and projects related to product development, infrastructure, and information technology.
To provide enhanced schedule management and better resource capacity planning
The PMO consisted of a forward-thinking group of professionals who wished to use technology to expand the project portfolio management capabilities of UTS along with its maturity level. They realized that to fulfill the mission of their organization they were going to have to adopt a technology for centralizing the management of all project plans and schedules.
Project managers were becoming increasingly challenged by the flow of too many projects going through the PMO. There was a consensus that technology could better help the PMO understand their entire portfolio which would lead to better decision making and recommendations to leadership regarding initiatives. Moreover, the PMO desperately wanted to get an accurate handle on its resource capacity planning efforts. At any given time, it was near impossible to get a realistic understanding of utilization and how overallocated staff members had become across all the inflight projects in the enterprise.
For efficiency, the PMO also wished to have a technology solution that could work together with their accounting system—Oracle Financial Services.
Implement Microsoft PPM with integration to third-party financial system
After a competitive bidding process, UTS awarded a contract to EPM Solutions for a deployment of Project Server, the on-premise system offered under the Microsoft Project Portfolio Management (PPM) solution. Greg Winterhalter, VP of Professional Services at EPM Solutions, noted, “Even though the PMO was new to the idea of project governance, they really wanted a technology they could grow with. Project Server was a perfect fit.”
Once discovery had been completed, EPM Solutions configured Microsoft PPM in phases. The first phase was focused entirely on schedule management, resource management, and capacity planning functions. When this phase was completed, UTS could accurately view all its portfolios of projects in a central repository. With a single click, they could drill down and see all the corresponding schedules updated with real-time data. Every task had a resource assigned with effort expressed in time. From the aggregation of this data across all projects in the enterprise, UTS could now get an accurate measurement of resource utilization compared to overall capacity.
In later phases, EPM Solutions concluded the engagement by providing business intelligence solutions to automate reporting. Document libraries were also configured to store all critical documents and artifacts related to each project.
Finally, a full integration was provided with Oracle Financial Services, so UTS would have unity between its projects and critical financial management data. This holistic approach also allowed UTS to incorporate financial data into the automated business intelligence solutions that had been developed.
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