Riverside, Calif., Launches 'The Hive' to Improve Project Management

The new in-house portal helps validate project management process framework compliance and improve communications among project stakeholders.

by / June 18, 2015
Lea Deesing, chief innovation officer for Riverside’s Department of Innovation and Technology, said officials wanted to improve IT governance and to do a better job managing projects. And 'The Hive' was born. e.Republic/Jessica Mulholland

The city of Riverside, Calif., has developed an innovative, low-cost project management solution to improve the way officials manage and track IT projects.

Riverside — widely known as one of the more “intelligent cities” when it comes to innovative uses of technology — developed the solution to increase efficiency, reduce capital expenditures and enable real-time access to the status of IT projects.

“We wanted to improve IT governance within the city and to do a better job managing projects,” said Lea Deesing, chief innovation officer for Riverside’s Department of Innovation and Technology. “We have about 130 active projects at any given time. Previously we were meeting every Monday and going through an Excel-based system and reporting out by project manager. But we weren’t able to drill down on projects or keep track of them effectively. We needed a better way to manage our projects that didn’t cost a lot.”

The new in-house portal, called “The Hive,” uses Microsoft SharePoint technology to help validate project management process framework compliance and improve communications among project stakeholders. Because the city already had an enterprise license for Microsoft products, developing The Hive was cost effective.

“SharePoint is very customizable,” said Deesing. “We thought, 'Why buy something new when it can really do what we need?'”

Deesing said the Innovation and Technology Department started by developing a project management office (PMO) and appointing a certified project manager, Prasad Mahale, to run it. The PMO is tasked with helping build a project management culture within the city, standardizing methodologies and improving communications. The city then customized SharePoint 2013 in-house to form The Hive, which enables automatic communication with stakeholders, and allows city leaders to examine projects in a number of different ways, such as determining whether the distribution of projects to employees is equitable.

Using The Hive, new project requests appear in a queue for Deesing and her leadership team to review. If the project makes sense and resources are available, the project is approved. An email workflow then advises the person who submitted the project that it has been approved and assigns resources to work on the project. The resources assigned to the project can then start collaborating and communicating via The Hive. Several other features within SharePoint help build out the site in the background, add new features if needed, and assist with risk planning and resource management, among other things. The Hive also includes a high-level dashboard which allows city managers to see how various projects align with the city’s overall goals.

“We had previously tried using programs like Basecamp, which was overly simplified, and also very complex programs like Primavera,” Deesing said. “The Hive is right in the middle, so it’s perfect for us, and we can scale it based on the complexity of a project. We are an agile organization and we need to see where our resources are and to be able to change course if needed. The Hive is giving our people the tools and the training to do that.”

The Hive currently hosts more than 700 projects for Riverside’s Department of Innovation and Technology with more than 100 active projects at any given time.

“The city is a model for executive teamwork and The Hive is a tool that is taking it to the next level,” said Fred Speer, Xerox account director for Riverside.

Deesing noted that The Hive improves communication among the city's partners, stakeholders, etc. “We are more transparent now — everyone sees what’s happening," she said. "Before, every department operated in a silo. Now everything is visible and viewable and sharable. It’s allowing us to step up our best practices within the entire city — not just IT.”

Deesing added that the city recently conducted an online demonstration of The Hive. Seventy-five cities dialed in to watch.

“There’s been a lot of interest,” she said. “Most cities have an enterprise system and most need a project management portal, so we are happy to share what we’ve done.”

Justine Brown Contributing Writer