DES MOINES, Iowa -- Project management delivered over the Web has proven to be just the elixir Jeff Falk needed to really help things gel at the office.
Falk is director of product development at The Members Group, a provider of card processing, ACH and related services to a little more than 200 credit unions. He's responsible for overseeing more than 200 projects at any given time, keeping things moving among more than 150 employees at four locations.
To create order from such potential chaos, Falk and his colleagues use a project portfolio management (PPM) solution from San Francisco-based Innotas.
Delivered over the Web as an on-demand software-as-a-service (SaaS), the Innotas tools provide centralized collaboration, communication across the organization and the ability to do away with what Falk called "islands of data"--disparate spreadsheets, e-mails, even hand-written notes--that obscured progress and even hid some projects from view.
TMG is currently using the Innotas solution in four segments, Falk said.
"One is for folks filling a project management role. Another is folks fulfilling a resource management role. A third is the team member segment: people not necessarily managing but who are contributors to the team with specific tasks. And the fourth segment is the executive level [including] senior management with a view across all projects," he said.
At TMG, projects generally involve "onboarding new credit union clients to our processing platforms," Falk said. Each client is served by a project team that includes experts in marketing, settling and the technologies that connect them.
There also are what Falk called infrastructure projects, such as implementing a new e-mail server. Unlike the cross-disciplinary onboarding team, these projects are confined to staffers, "such as network and technology folks, people who pretty much stay within that realm," he said. Other examples include projects that involved only the human resources department, like a benefits analysis.
Each of these disparate functions now fit into one centralized database, managed off-site by software built from the ground up for delivery over the Web.
"Now we can easily collaborate within the solution," Falk said. "Instead of having to send an external e-mail and figuring out what project you're talking about, you can see the whole thing at once...all the associated documents, all the chats. Everything that's going on, and without the time-consuming processes we had before."
Prior to Innotas, TMG ran an in-house PPM solution that required a site license, installation on servers and then maintenance that included patches.
"With our environment becoming more and more complex, it was just another piece in our infrastructure that, to be honest with you, I got tired of wrestling every time a new patch came out," Falk said.
That earlier software--termed "bloatware" by Falk--also had more features than were needed. Being able to go to the Web to just use functions as they are needed has eliminated that bloat, Falk said.
Ease of use is another plus. Falk said his new system makes reports easy to pull, instead of requiring IT help as with the old PPM software.
The efficiencies also manifest when all those islands of data are connected at TMG, Falk said. "One thing these kinds of solutions really allow you to do is get your arms wrapped around the number of projects you do have," he said.
"We found some that were only getting one or two hours of work a month and were sort of dying on the vine, and we found that we could eliminate 25% to 50% of the projects we have going on at any one time just by having that kind of visibility," Falk said.
Bottom line to someone whose title is director of product development?
"This all runs right into cost," Falk said. "The longer projects take, the more they cost. Plus, in our environment, the more clients we can get on board, the better off we are, and we like to think the better off our clients are, too.
"When we're cutting 10% to 25% off our time to launch with projects and new products, that helps everyone involved," he said.