Effective Project Management achieves results by completing projects based on three main principles…
- The project produces high quality results that meet the project objectives
- The project is on time
- The project is under budget
Let’s use one example to demonstrate these three principles. Universities and TAFEs need to build student record or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. Due to government reporting requirements, they need to be complex and continually updated to meet new demands. They need to be able to deal with students applying for courses, enrolling, making changes to enrolments, getting exam results, graduating, etc. It also extends into Alumni systems, because as American universities have shown, if you get your student record systems right, then keeping in contact with your Alumni can dramatically increase their donations.
Each project has defined objectives to achieve to develop new functionality that improves existing systems. Why else would you create a project! The solution has to be a quality outcome, not a messy system that is difficult to use. Imagine a bank introducing a new online banking app that was clunky, difficult to understand and didn’t do what you expect it to do. That bank would suffer greatly and lose customers, business and profit.
Over the past decades, universities have implemented very large ERP projects worth tens of millions of dollars, typically using PeopleSoft, SAP, Oracle, Banner, Technology One, etc. Unfortunately they have wasted millions of dollars, overrun projects by years and failed to deliver on project objectives. Recently I was asked to review an ERP project upgrade at an Australian university that caused problems. This university trained nurses and the new system could not print final result transcripts, which was just when hospitals required them for recruiting new nurses. It turned out the original project objectives had been deferred and they actually didn’t need to do the upgrade, but they were caught out by a bug in the system, which took several months to resolve.
2. The project completes on time
Every project has a deadline when the project is expected to deliver. Most computer systems are interlinked to many other systems and the delay in one project could be very damaging to the overall systems.
In 2012, all Hong Kong universities were required to change from 3-year undergraduate courses to 4-year courses, with secondary schools shortening their years from 6 to 5 years. In 2012 all the universities ERP systems had to enrol two lots of students – year 6 students into 3-year courses, plus year 5 students into 4-year courses. If the ERP systems had not been modified to handle this double intake, the universities would not be able to enrol students.
3. The project is under budget
Each project will be allocated an expected budget at the start. The organisation undertaking the project needs to know that the budget is sufficient to complete the project without additional funding.
There was an enormous push to upgrade all ERP systems in universities in the 1980s and 1990s and many universities allocated huge budgets to do so. One famous example was the UNSW who I believe allocated $22 million at the start, but stopped counting when it exceeded $45 million. Not a great result.
Getting all three parts of project management right will create a successful project outcome. I’m reminded that RMIT university in Victoria had a disastrous ERP project, which let to weekly reporting to the Victorian government, several staff were sacked, they had difficulties enrolling overseas students (the lifeblood of this university) and it even led to the Vice Chancellor’s resignation. Unfortunately this is a great example of a failed project with poor management.
However many universities have now implemented Project, Program and Portfolio Management or P3M offices. The University of Melbourne is a good example which started with a small P3M office of 3-4 staff, but due to outstanding success in achieving successful project results, grew to 150 + staff over the next 5 years. University project managers now have a community support group called P3M COM – see http://www.linkedin.com/groups/CAUDIT-P3M-Community-Portfolio-Program-4816521/about, which is part of CAUDIT or the Council of Australian University Directors of Information Technology– see www.caudit.edu.au
Some typical Project Management software systems are…
- entry-level – Microsoft Project
- high-end – Prince
- cloud-based services – Citrix Podio, Basecamp, Clarizen, Replicon, Zoho
The demand for quality project managers is strong and it is a rewarding career, both financially and being able to achieve measurable results for your organisation.