In 2010 a bill was passed in Oklahoma to consolidate IT efforts across all of its state agencies. Up until then, individual agencies had IT staff and budget responsibility. There were no project management methodologies or standards, and there was no central visibility of projects or their associated budgets.
It was impossible to gain a clear view of the state’s forecasted IT needs, and therefore budget, and there was no easy way to check a project status with varying project metrics, definitions, and processes in flight across the state.
Fonda Logston, Director, Program Management Office for State of Oklahoma, explains the reasons behind the consolidation decision: “Apart from the obvious cost savings an IT consolidation would realize for us, we were also very aware that we could improve state government by sharing data across agencies. Technological innovation demands that we create a transparent model to get closer to our constituents. We want to showcase our can-do spirit and enable creative solutions.”
Central project management was a key step in this process, and the team looked for a suitable project and portfolio management solution to track and manage all state IT projects. It was essential that the system was flexible, enabling enhancement and request tracking.
Micro Focus PPM was evaluated alongside solutions from other major industry providers. PPM provided the right functionality and cost balance for the team and the SaaS deployment model suited the State of Oklahoma, as it wouldn’t need to invest in additional infrastructure costs. Logston liked the flexibility offered by PPM: “We found that other tools had quite limited canned reports or views. With PPM, any field in the system is searchable and can be reported on in a customized dashboard. You can easily export any portlet search results into Excel for further analysis. We used to spend a lot of time collating information for audits, and we could see how PPM could ease this process for us.”
After a very quick three-month implementation and training period, state agencies began entering their project information into PPM. For the first time in state history, Oklahoma had a central and complete view of all IT projects, including common methodology, templates, vocabulary, and metrics. A governance structure was introduced, as well as monthly reviews with each agency to promote communication and mutual understanding. With the use of consistent metrics, it was possible to launch projects.ok.gov; a public website where citizens can review state IT projects.
The flexibility of PPM is very important when you consider the diversity of the state agencies, as Logston comments: “Every year we complete between 250 and 300 IT projects, and at any one time we have 350 to 400 live projects. The agencies we support range from art councils, hospitals, construction boards, libraries, tourism departments, finance authorities, state treasury, and so on. With PPM’s Program feature we can categorize projects by agency for ease of reporting. We soon started to see common requests come through from different agencies. We have saved costs by negotiating statewide contracts, or implementing a shared service. PPM gives us the full overview we need to collaborate effectively and save the state money.”
PPM has expanded far beyond its original scope and this is regarded as a real win by Logston: “Not only is PPM a great project management tool, but its flexible graphical workflow designer enabled us to automate business processes across the state. We created a process to capture software and infrastructure enhancements, but also extended it into our administrative departments. Now, PPM is used to manage and track purchase requests, new position requests, invoice processing, budgets, and statement-of-work items. While defining and automating business processes, the new transparency highlighted unnecessary steps and delays that we could optimize. It’s been a real eye-opener to have this data at our fingertips, enabling us to streamline our processes and save time. PPM is integrated with PeopleSoft where we track project timesheets, so PPM captures this for billing and chargeback purposes. All project resource management is done through PPM.”
The State of Oklahoma has adopted a hybrid project management approach. Initial project planning tends to follow a waterfall model, while project execution includes more agile components. PPM can manage both waterfall and agile projects and also provides out-of-the-box integration with agile solutions, such as Micro Focus ALM Octane, which is under consideration by the PMO team. Having a single source of truth for cost and resource metrics for both types of projects within PPM allows complete visibility and metrics to help the PMO with decision making.
Spending excessive time on audit requests is a thing of the past, with the State of Oklahoma simply granting its auditors access to PPM so that they can easily find the information they need themselves. No major issues have been flagged in audits since PPM was introduced. The PMO also audits each completed project and uses PPM reporting to support its monthly agency reviews.
The State of Oklahoma consolidated 110 agencies into a centralized and collaborative IT effort. This was a mammoth undertaking and clearly involved much more than centralized IT project management. It has realized great results for the state, according to Logston: “Over the six years since the start of our IT consolidation, we have saved $372 million, by reducing our IT headcount by 45 percent, and increasing our purchasing power through agency collaboration. Perhaps most importantly, our customer satisfaction rating is at 93 percent, which shows that our citizens love our new, integrated, IT approach. PPM has generated a real interest among the agencies. By providing a comprehensive view of IT requirements, agencies now actively seek out opportunities for collaboration and efficiencies.”
The introduction of a standard governance process provides state leadership with detailed insight into how IT resources are spent. This transparency supports an increased understanding of the need to prioritize IT projects and their funding.
Logston concludes: “Project managers leverage PPM to support multiple agencies. This reduces training time and increases productivity. We are delighted with the results and excited about where PPM can take us in the future.”