Ohio College Brings Project Management Under Control
Community college moves from spreadsheets to a state-of-the-art project management system
- By Bridget McCrea
When Scott Coffman came on board as associate director of applications and programming for Toledo-based Owens Community College last year, one of his first tasks was to overhaul project management. "The college was using a combination of shareware, Excel spreadsheets, and Microsoft Project to track and manage projects," said Coffman. "It wasn't very effective."
The system was also complicated, often leaving individuals on their own to find and track information via disparate IT solutions. Coffman's department, for example, comprises three computer analysts who handle human resources, financial aid, and advancements. Each of the three staffers works with a "module leader" to see the projects through to completion.
"Up until last year, everyone was managing the projects as productively as they could on their own," explained Coffman. "There was little, if any, sharing of information or automation involved."
That changed when Owens Community College signed up for a subscription-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) project management and collaboration system from Seattle-based Daptiv, developer and marketer of Daptiv PPM. Coffman said the solution was based on the visibility it provided across the entire campus, as well as the automated reporting and ability to track project requirements.
"We needed more accurate reporting for our college leaders, who want to know what's going on with the school," said Coffman. "Using the project management system, we can deliver the most minor details (such as project member names and all of their discussion threads) in an efficient fashion."
Founded in 1965, Owens Community College offers education to those who are seeking an associate degree, continuing education courses, and professional development. The college is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association and serves more than 45,000 credit and non-credit students annually from its two campuses in Toledo and Findlay, OH.
To better serve those students, the school began rolling out Daptiv PPM in the fall of 2008 by assigning tasks across departments and initiatives. Today, the solution is used across departments to auto-generate reports, create project request forms, and keep track of who is mandating different projects. "When accepting a new project, we make sure that everyone is able to log into Daptiv PPM to manage department tasks," said Coffman. "Across departments, we are taking advantage of the solution's auto-generated reports, and we've also created request forms and applications to track who is mandating different projects."
For example, the institution now uses a streamlined system to monitor the 200 to 300 active grants that it has open at any given time. Daptiv handles the reporting, tracking request deadlines, and planning out of future events for documentation, communication requirements, and renewal timeframes of the grantor.
"We are gaining 50 percent of the time it took to update the old spreadsheet-based program for status reporting," said Coffman, "and spending 80 percent less time generating and communicating reports."
Because Owens Community College has numerous contracts with vendors like Fujitsu and Oracle, it also needed a way to monitor and stay aware of contract due dates, the number of licenses it has with each vendor, and what type of preparation work is needed for renewal negotiations. With the school's new system, each contract has its own project created with license agreement data and renewal dates created with associated tasks.
Using Daptiv PPM, the school is managing AQIP (Academic Quality Improvement Project), an initiative to improve student learning. A project has been created for this specific task, with reports generated to help monitor the progress of meeting the AQIP goals.
"There are many ways in which different individuals and departments can take advantage of the project management system," said Coffman, whose department is currently exploring the use of the software to manage new build-outs and construction projects taking place on campus. "The solution can apply to various types of work, regardless of division, and can easily spread value."
Making the solution especially attractive is the fact that it doesn't require a large upfront investment in time or money, based on the fact that it's delivered in a SaaS or on-demand format. Because it's subscription-based, all upgrades are provided during the term of the subscription. The software is hosted and updated on a central location and does not reside on client computers.
"That eliminated the need for a lot of technical support and IT expertise on our end," said Coffman. "We basically just put our school requirements for each project into the system. The base setups are all in place for adding the project-level fields and task-level fields as needed."
Tim Low, vice president of marketing for Daptiv, said the value of on-demand technology systems is becoming increasingly clear to educational institutions like Owens Community College, both for financial reasons and for ease of installation.
"The opportunity to apply the cost as an operating expense, and not as a capital expense, is appealing," said Low. "The fact that a school can be up and running with the solution in less than 30 days also resonates, particularly with those organizations that run with lean IT departments."
Bridget McCrea is a business and technology writer in Clearwater, FL. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.