In 2009, Andy
, Director of the Office of Project Management for University Hosptials (organization size: 16,000) in
northeast Ohio had a problem.

For close to two years he had overseen system
implementations for University Hospitals (“UH”) as a senior project manager at CSC. Then UH decided to bring Andy and
several of his CSC colleagues in-house. They went from having a “relatively
robust” project portfolio management system to not having a budget for a
portfolio solution.

“And like any good IT
group,” says Andy, “we decided we would build one. We built it on an MS Access
platform, and there were obviously some limitations we ran into. It did do an
admirable job of providing some consistency. We did status reporting out of the
database, and it was somewhat of a repository. It allowed us to keep some
rudimentary dates: start, end, and percent complete. Things had to be manually
updated by the project managers with this tool, and the PMs were the only
individuals who has access to the database.”

Andy and his team at UH
continued to have “some trials and tribulations” with the MS Access database
that they developed. While they could manage projects with basic statistics and
key performance indicators, they had to manually update the tool. Andy would
regularly send a note to PMs two days before reporting, to remind them to get
all the data entered so that senior management could have the most current

“I’ve got a portfolio
manager on staff here,” explains Andy, “and I said to him: ‘We need a new
solution. We’ve got to go out and find something.’ We had people who could not
access the database, and also had people who could access it, but couldn’t
update anything. As a result we didn’t have a good handle on what changes
needed to be made and how to go about making those changes. We then made the
decision that it was time to switch to something and we went through a
selection process.”

Functionality and value in an enterprise-wide solution

Andy describes how they
chose AtTask as their
solution within two months. “We investigated MS Project Server as a potential
solution, since UH is a Microsoft customer. We looked at some more rudimentary
applications, realizing that cost was a driver for us. That was one of the
selection criteria that was critical for us, because we didn’t have a
significant budget—it was something that we were going to have to fit within
what we had available.”

The UH Project Management
Office grasped the value that AtTask could bring to their organization. “As we
looked at true value,” says Andy, “from the three or four applications that we
considered, AtTask quickly rose to the top. Although it was more expensive than
a few of the applications that we considered, and as we looked to the future,
the functionality within the application far outweighed the pricing

Another driver was that they had to have an enterprise-wide
application to promote performance improvement. Two years ago Andy began
leading a project titled “UH Transformation.” This was a $150 million cost-down
effort with 219 separate initiatives. “We created a group in the operations
project management office,” says Andy, “that would be aligned with Lean 6 Sigma
and push performance improvement across the health system.”

With the UH Transformation project Andy had 16 PMs and 10
operations managers, but didn’t have a unified system to create visibility,
ensure collaboration and boost productivity.

“The Access database was
specifically built for IT projects,” explains Andy. “And so without having a
developer come in and revamp it in order to handle performance improvement
projects, we realized that we needed something else for that book of business.”
With the AtTask Enterprise Work
Management solution
, they have managed their project managers and
operations managers as two distinct portfolios for the past year.

“We went looking for a solution,” Andy says, “with a broad
application in mind. We wanted something that would encompass performance
improvement efforts, and also mergers and acquisitions. We recognized that IT
was not the only group that needed project management assistance, and wanted
something that supported project management as a function, not just project
management as a group within a department.”

UH initially signed up with AtTask for 25 licenses, and recently
has renewed for 500. Says Andy: “We’ve now got eight portfolios in the
application supporting everything from marketing to home care to obviously the
IT and performance improvement side.”

Results of AtTask solution

Here were some of the
advantages Andy started to see after putting AtTask to work:


“I really started
utilizing the tool as I would present,” says Andy. “We’ve got a leadership team
with four vice presidents, and as I would present project updates, I would just
utilize the tool, because it’s all real-time data with a dashboard that allows
them to see how many projects there are, what programs these projects are
sitting in, which ones are in trouble or at risk, and then which ones are on
target. So I would just utilize them on the dashboard as I presented updates to
that group.”

“When we started with AtTask,” adds Andy, “we probably had
about 90 projects. We are up to 170 now.”

Collaboration and productivity

“I can talk to the fact
that AtTask has really standardized the way the we work,” says Andy. “Before we
would have one PM who would really like to use Excel as their plan, one that
would really like to use MS Project, and one that may not have a plan written
down at all—it’s on a napkin. Now we’ve got a standard format that we’re
leveraging as we go to work with those resources. The learning curve on the
staff side is much, much quicker, because it’s a standard, they’ve seen it
before, they know what the look and feel is.


“We’ve been able to
standardize plans and tasks,” says Andy, “we’ve been able to increase the
visibility and the accountability with these efforts within UH for the
prioritization criteria that we’ve built within the application. We can give a
project an objective view when it comes in. We score it on eight criteria, and
then on its alignment score with regard to what we feel are the key drivers
within the organization. I think there are things outside of those eight criteria
that may factor in, but at least it provides a view of, if all things are
equal, which of these projects would go first in order of priority from the
organization’s perspective. That’s been a big win for us as well, to be able to
incorporate that into some of our senior leadership discussions.”


“From a project
management perspective,” says Andy, “we’ve seen a significant amount of
adoption within the tool. The operations engineers, although they have project
management backgrounds, took a little while longer to gain that adoption. But
we’re there now, we’re using it for all those performance improvement efforts
as well.”


“We’ve got about 170
projects,” explains Andy, “just within the project portfolio that we are
managing. The other thing we are setting up right now is an operations
portfolio that will allow total time tracking—that’s for about a year from now.
And we just renewed with AtTask), so the impetus there is really complete
resource tracking. Where are we spending our time, not only looking backward,
but sometime next year we’ll implement the resource utilization and we’ll start
to look forward as well.”

“The next evolution
within the tool,” says Andy, “will be to get all those resources on,
understanding where that time is being spent, and then really having the tool
drive the speed with which we implement.