The idea that an IT department is merely an expense line item on an income statement is antiquated. Perhaps this old mindset reflects back to a time when mainframes ruled the corporate landscape and the IT department’s only job was to dole out data to other areas of the company on an “as needed” basis. Despite its humble origins, today’s IT department plays an integral role in the business process and, for some industries, it is considered a key to future growth. Look no further than the emergence of the CIO in the corporate hierarchy as proof that IT has evolved.

With the emergence of IT as a businesses unit, capturing information about how an IT department works is very important. Yet when it comes to tracing IT department work flows with software, confusion typically ensues. Traditional project management software falls short when addressing the specialized needs of the IT department because it fails to take into account the constantly changing role IT plays in an organization. Changepoint hopes to change that with the latest version of its software.

IT as a service
In the IT department, there are too many distractions, special projects, and interruptions that occur during the typical day to create a smooth workflow that can be easily documented. Perhaps this is why project management software misses the mark so often when documenting the IT department workflow. To control this chaos, a software package needs to be flexible enough to handle drastic changes in workflow and extensive enough to handle all levels of the IT department.

Recognizing the limitations of traditional project management software, Changepoint set out to build a software package from the ground up. What it found through its years of development is that the IT department closely resembled the service business environment. Labeling its product Professional Services Automation (PSA) software, Changepoint attempted to fill in the gaps and encompass common aspects of work associated with a service-oriented business. Thus, Changepoint started marketing its software as a solution for large IT shops needing workflow solutions for their day-to-day processes, as well as those special projects that constantly crop up.

An all-encompassing solution
Changepoint uses a three-tiered approach to handling the IT workflow issue. At the bottom tier is “Employee Performance Management,” which focuses on aligning the individuals that support the IT department with the goals of the overall organization. This section is broken out by functional roles so that relevant information is targeted to an employee’s level within the organization. From help desk support to CIO, all functional levels are tied to the organization’s individual performance objectives.

The next layer, “Work Management,” is the heart of the system. Here, eight separate processes seek to automate the business processes that are common among most IT departments. They are as follows:

  • Client relationship management: A robust contact management database that also provides a place for online collaboration through forums.
  • Initiative management: Helps keep track of service and expenses to be charged to other departments.
  • Project management: Provides easy project creation with the added bonus of complete Microsoft Project integration capabilities.
  • Time and cost tracking: This process Handles charge-backs against current projects and tracks time for both project and non-project related work.
  • Resource management: Manages both employees and contractors by identifying appropriate candidates for certain projects.
  • Request / issue management: Tracks client issues and provides a mechanism for escalation if the issue warrants more attention.
  • Finance: Allows for better visibility of financial performance of current projects.
  • Knowledge management: Retains project information centrally so the workforce can build upon their experiences. It also allows provides a place for threaded discussions.

The top layer of the software is focused on what Changepoint calls “Decision Making & Prioritization.” It is here that IT managers can decide which projects demand immediate attention and which ones can wait. This section has three nodes that consist of the following:

  • Selection and prioritization: Helps to weed out projects that are not in line with the organization’s overall goals.
  • Health monitoring: Uses colored bars and charts to see at a glance the status of certain metrics associated with projects.
  • Performance analysis: Real time performance monitoring that can be used as dashboards on the user’s desktop.

Service concept extended with 8.0
With the new Changepoint version adding Oracle 9i RDBMS support, as well as more language choices, the system is ready for network-wide deployment. Also integrated is Microsoft Outlook functionality and a complete Web-enabled interface. However, with the average cost per user at $1,000, the system can be a bit pricey for very large global deployments. This is unfortunate, considering the main focus of Changepoint is to handle the entire IT department function, not just pieces of it. Nonetheless, the software has won praise from customers such as Sprint and Integris Health.