Michigan has implemented a new centralized enterprise portfolio management office (EPMO) and a project and portfolio management solution that is allowing better oversight of state IT projects.

Recognizing the increasingly critical role that information technology plays in the delivery of services to citizens, public and private organizations, and state employees, the Michigan Legislature recently appropriated $47 million annually for IT investment. The high profile investment fund requires greater than usual transparency, results tracking and management at the state-wide level. But inadequate enterprise-level management, immature governance/investment portfolio rationalization, and program and project portfolios that exceeded IT capacity meant Michigan leaders needed to reinvestigate the way they tracked, monitored and evaluated IT projects across the enterprise, according to Michigan EPMO Director Ward Beauchamp.

“The Governor recently asked CIO David Behen for a report of how many active technology projects we had going, how many were troubled, and the status of each of those projects,” said Beauchamp. “But trying to get an enterprise view of what was happening at the state turned out to be much more difficult than we anticipated.”

Beauchamp said when agencies were asked to provide status reports on their projects, it created a good deal of disagreement within the agencies. As a result, it took almost six weeks to get a final report together for the Governor, and by then much the information was out of date.

Around the same time, Gartner performed an IT assessment for the state. One of the recommendations was that the state establish a centralized EPMO. At the time, the state had eight separate PMOs operated in economic silos funded by 28 separate client agencies. The PMOs operated at varying levels of maturity.

Meanwhile, the state was using a project management methodology that relied on manual completion of 22 templates – a time consuming and overly complex approach, according to Beauchamp. Several years ago the state had purchased Changepoint IT project portfolio management software to help improve its methodology, but there had been zero adoption of the tool.

“We were about two years into it and the reports were that it was being implemented, but no one was using it,” said Beauchamp. “No one wanted it. Everyone had their own processes, their own tools, and their own way of working. They didn’t see enough benefit to make the change.”

So the state initiated a “Changepoint Utilization” project to encourage adoption early last year. The goal was to encourage agencies to adopt Changepoint as single repository for all IT projects and proposals.

“We promoted a culture of collaboration and focused on how adopting Changepoint would help enable that culture of collaboration,” said Beauchamp. “That resonated with the agencies, and it helped speed up adoption.”

Today, the state is using Changepoint as a single repository, allowing IT projects to be dynamically managed, tracked and reported upon. The implementation has allowed them to reduce their project management form from 22 templates to four.

At the same time, the state consolidated its eight separate PMOs into one EPMO, which is not only further simplifying oversight, but promoting transparency. All EPMO customers now have 24/7 access to their portfolios including project goals, status, issues, etc.

“Any of the project stakeholders can pull data out of Changepoint and display it on project dashboards on our Intranet,” said Beauchamp. “So at any given point, we can see the projects and their status, and drill down into them for more details. If there is a project that is in trouble, we can see why it’s in trouble and what the agency plans to do about it. Additionally, every two weeks we send a portfolio report to the Governor. We can then dynamically answer all the questions he has.”

The tool also allows citizens to view the status of IT projects via the Open Michigan website to see how tax dollars are being invested. In addition, the new tool is allowing for optimized resource alignment.

“Another issue was demand and capacity of our staff,” said Beauchamp. “Everyone can say they are really busy, but that’s very subjective. We can now use resource management capabilities and see bar charts of capacity versus the demand on our IT staff. It gives us one picture and we can roll that up into one enterprise view or drill it down to an individual work group or even to an individual. When we know better what people are doing, we can better align our work.”

The balancing of demand and capacity and capture of time spent has already resulted in an annual savings of $686,000.

“This has made us start looking at projects in a different way,” said Beauchamp. “Before, if we were going to upgrade to Windows 7, each agency support team would run a separate project and there was a lot of difficulty coordinating that. Now if we are looking at something like that, we look at it not as 30 different projects, but as one project that we need to coordinate with several different groups.”

Justine Brown  |  Contributing Writer