CASE Associates Incorporated

Strategies for Improving Business and System Processes

Phone: (503) 598-3944
Fax: (503) 603-0821
daves@caseassociates.com
Project Management

CASE Associates Inc. (CAI) has provided project management and quality assurance services to the states of Washington and Oregon for over nineteen years. Our senior consultants have as much as 20 years of project management experience in both the public and private sector. Regardless of our role in a project, we view ourselves as a resource for the core project team, with the objective of complementing the skills of the various team members.

CAI normally uses Microsoft Project as the principal tool for scheduling and tracking projects, but we are experienced with other comparable tools, as well as the entire Microsoft Office Suite. We develop project plans and budgets from the bottom up, relying on the team members for initial estimates and for ongoing updates to the estimates. Whenever possible, we develop "resource driven" plans that more accurately reflect the critical path and facilitate the tracking of variances. It has been our experience that plans must be living documents and, for that reason, we normally maintain the plan at a detail level no more than 90 days in the future.

An important part of our project management methodology is the development of critical success factors and the regular reports that include the status of each of the factors. Generally, we produce monthly reports that include progress during the period, plans for the next period, and issues that have arisen or changed since the last report. We also believe in frequent and regular feedback as issues are encountered. We often find that problems that are identified can be resolved via face to face communications long before they must be formalized in a report.
As organizations evolve over the life of a project, especially a multi-year project, it is important to ensure that communications continue to flow properly to all of the project stakeholders.

As one of the largest information system project management and quality assurance contractors serving the States of Oregon and Washington, CAI has intimate knowledge of government business processes, standards, networks, and inter-agency information sharing and access requirements. Our consultants have collectively managed several hundred projects ranging in value from $20,000 to more than $15,000,000.


Project Management Approach and Methodology
 
CAI consultants help clients prepare or review/critique their Project Management Plan. We use the principles documented in the Project Management Institutes' "Project Management Body of Knowledge." This plan is the baseline from which all project activities are organized, assigned resources, managed, and reviewed. CAI’s Project Management approach meets project objectives by providing timely, thorough deliverables and by promoting effective communications among all project stakeholders. CAI applies the principles of the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) assessments and the Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology (CoBiT) standards to conduct project planning, quality assurance, and risk management programs. CAI is also familiar with and applies the guidelines documented in the Project Management Institute's Book of Knowledge. CAI has consulted, developed, and managed Project Management Offices, as well as recommending best practices for a variety of organizations, including: the Oregon Department of Transportation, the Oregon Secretary of State, the Oregon State Treasury, the Oregon Division of State Lands, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, the Washington Department of Information Services, the Washington Department of Financial Institutions, the Washington Department of Labor and Industries, the Washington Department of Health, and the Washington Department of Licensing.

CAI has learned many lessons managing projects. The factors contributing to the potential success or failure of a project have been of particular interest to us. Although each project and organization has its own unique characteristics, CAI has identified six factors that are consistent from project to project. These factors are:

 

1. Understanding the impact of the new system on the workflow, job procedures,  job responsibilities, and business rules, then planning and dealing with the transition of the organization.

2. Developing comprehensive verification and validation plans, procedures, test cases, and test scenarios that relate directly to the new system being developed, and to the new workflows the new system will initiate.

3. Installing, implementing, and training all affected parties on a thorough project management infrastructure, including process management, the project management methodology, configuration management, requirements management, documentation management, and organization change management.

4. Managing all the models (requirement definitions and designs) relevant to the project (including business process models, data models, architecture models, interface models, and user interface models).

5. Involving the entire organization in the change process invoked by the project.

6. Understanding, formulating, specifying, and evolving the technical architecture to support the business needs of each department and the information requirements and interfaces within and among departments.


CAI consultants provide specific recommendations on how to manage the critical success factors (CSFs) and establish a standard Project Management Process. As part of the Project Office evaluation, CAI defines the process for managing and monitoring these CSFs for all projects. CAI's process includes risk identification and determining risk mitigating solutions or process improvements when necessary. CAI ensures that the knowledge transfer to the project staff is timely and complete. 

Project Team Structure, Internal Controls and Communications

 
CAI uses a team approach for providing project management and quality assurance services. Every project will be assigned a lead or principal CAI consultant as well as a backup. The backup provides internal review of all of CAI's deliverables. Because of the length of many projects, the CAI backup can attend meetings, write status reports, and oversee the project when the CAI principal consultant is ill, on vacation, or otherwise unavailable.

The first task for CAI on a project is the development of CAI's specific work plan. This work plan is the baseline for CAI's tasks and deliverables and, when approved by the customer, becomes part of the overall Project Management Plan.
 
CAI imposes the following performance standards on itself in managing and mitigating project risks:
 
1. The timely identification and definition of project critical success factors (CSFs).
2. A clear, concise definition of the triggers which turn a CSF into a risk.
3. The timely description of risk mitigating solutions and corrective actions.
4. Proactive involvement in the project - not just passive observation of project activities.
5. The constant monitoring of project processes with timely process improvement recommendations.
6. Thorough review of all project deliverables.
7. Establishing and sustaining effective communications among all project stakeholders.
 
CAI’s Consultants work interactively with the project staff, as an extension of the team, contributing their expertise and knowledge of project management and information technology implementation issues. The CAI team accomplishes this through regular, interactive work sessions with the project staff and the appropriate business stakeholders.
 
CAI consultants have considerable experience providing proactive services in partnership with their clients. Our project results have proven the value of CAI’s methods, that include, but are not limited to: written schedules, well structured written deliverables, frequent face-to-face contact, and quick identification of potential problems. CAI team members realize that client and contractor time is valuable, and they work hard to use it wisely.
 
The identification of a project’s unique critical success factors and the regular reports that include the status of each of the factors are an important component of CAI's project communications. Generally, we produce monthly reports that include progress during the period, plans for the next period, and issues that have arisen or changed since the last report. We also believe in frequent and regular feedback as issues are encountered. We often find that problems identified early can be resolved via face to face communications long before they must be formalized in a report.
 
Communication is the key to bringing diverse organizations together to work on a common goal. CAI believes that, in most cases, the client has the business knowledge and the desire for change. However, for various reasons they may need a catalyst to effect that change. CAI has a good track record for being that catalyst! It is critical to recognize that the business is the real owner of the process and the results from the process, so CAI will do whatever is necessary to foster that ownership. An effective method that CAI uses to foster that ownership is to include the client at each step along the way.