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North Central Texas Council of Governments Builds Project Portfolio Management System

The new technology increased project output by more than 30%.

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The North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) — which assists local governments with regional planning within a 16-county area that includes Dallas and Fort Worth — implemented a comprehensive project portfolio management system to track all its research and information (RIS) projects.

The system was customized to meet the RIS department’s needs while providing full transparency and visibility for all project stakeholders, including project team members, RIS management and leadership, and NCTCOG executive leadership. The solution includes overall project prioritization with individualized dashboards and alerting for all stakeholders.


The system, which leverages a SaaS project management solution called Smartsheet, has resulted in more completed projects, more engaged team members and increased value to NCTCOG and its constituents.

The advantages include:

  • Increased project output. After implementation, NCTCOG saw an over 30% increase in project output.
  • Ease of use. Staff can learn the basics of Smartsheet in minutes, and very little training is required to implement a complex solution.
  • Low cost. With the Smartsheet licensing model, only the creators and maintainers of the system need licenses. Even with NCTCOG’s sizable implementation, the organization only needs three licenses, which is less than $2,000 annually.
  • SaaS benefits. The entire solution is web-based and mobile-friendly. NCTCOG doesn’t have to maintain on-premises technology, and new features are regularly introduced.
  • Transparency. Dashboards, reports and view-only options allow the organization to provide transparency and visibility into the system at any level.
  • Customizability. NCTCOG built the solution over multiple iterations, adding new functions over time.
  • Project team performance. The solution allows the organization to better engage with both internal and external project team members. This gives greater accountability to all project team members instead of just the project manager. It also gives managers visibility into how their team members are doing across all their projects.


Implementation was entirely in-house without any partner support other than the occasional technical issue with the SaaS provider (Smartsheet). NCTDOG recommends the following steps:

  • Identify a team that has a need for better project managment. A team with a significant amount of project work will see benefits and work in the system regularly.
  • Train the project portfolio manager or the Smartsheet administrator on Smartsheet. Training should not take more than a few days as the software is easy to use, especially for staff with Excel experience.
  • Conduct a brainstorming session to identify the data points and metrics you want to track in projects so they can be accounted for in the solution. For example, if you want to track schedule overages, you will need to track the original completion date and the actual completion date to determine how many projects go over the planned schedule.
  • Create a barebones system with the information identified in step 3. It should include the following: a project plan template or templates; a summary report or sheet for bringing in all plan data; and a dashboard for a high-level overview of the project portfolio with links to documentation, system components and so on.
  • Utilize the system for one team and make improvements as the team works through projects. Iron out as much as many kinks as possible before expanding, as it can be time-consuming to go back and modify once the system has dozens of projects.
  • Roll out the system to other teams. Depending on the size of the organization and the number of teams, this may need to be done in phases.