Using SaaS Project Software to Drive Growth and Value: A Forbes Media Case Study

By Mykolas Rambus  |  Posted 2008-09-02 Print this article Print

Forbes Media uses SaaS for managing its IT project portfolio to better predict and monitor a projects' success and track ROI. Using project software, collaboration tools and effective project management principles, Forbes Media was able to realize the benefits of implementing business software as a service. Implementing tracking software and planning software can be a huge undertaking, but Forbes Media discovered a SaaS service they were able to get up and running quickly.

When I joined Forbes Media as CIO in 2007, we had little visibility into the portfolio of IT projects and no consistent process for selecting or completing projects. Our IT staff was handling 30 to 40 projects at a time, with a turnover of about 10 projects a month. Projects were managed and tracked in Word documents and Excel spreadsheets, which primarily noted whether projects were active or completed.

Most importantly, we did not distinguish which projects were strategic to the enterprise and which ones were just maintaining the current infrastructure. For IT to consistently deliver business value through return on investment (ROI), we had to start with transparency, so we needed a mechanism to better predict and monitor IT project success and value creation.

In addition, we needed greater predictability of success in delivering IT projects, so we could provide superior account management services to our customers, the functional departments of Forbes Media. Finally, we wanted to boost collaboration between project groups by ensuring that everyone was working from the same template and doing the same level of business analysis for each project.

As a company, Forbes has always supported business technology tools, so we turned to portfolio management to help us more closely align IT projects with strategic business objectives that drive growth and value for our company and our customers.

At its core, portfolio management is about how enterprises make investment decisions, and the activities they undertake to generate the highest possible returns. It ensures that our company’s discretionary spending (including IT) is allocated in the most capital-efficient manner possible, while doing so in the least volatile way, so the fruits of our efforts become highly predictable.

Just like an investment portfolio, a project portfolio should be managed to ensure the highest possible ROI, while mitigating risk. In sum, portfolio management is about delivering a predictable series of results to the company. This is a make-or-break issue for our IT organization.

Many IT leaders are familiar with the practice of project portfolio management as something to be dreaded, requiring a large capital investment in software and outlays in consulting services, in return for a great deal of complexity and an unclear ROI.

We knew we had to get up and running quickly, without incurring huge upfront costs, and to realize returns in weeks, not months. As a result, we looked for an on-demand solution that uses the software-as-a-service approach to help accelerate the process for the IT staff and our internal customers.

After looking at a number of portfolio management tools, we selected the on-demand software solution from Innotas. The software is hosted, and the implementation took just over 30 days from contract signature to the go-live date. Innotas’ dedicated account manager helped speed up the implementation.

Not long after implementing the software, we learned that deploying a portfolio management system requires a high degree of project management rigor, and that crystallized our IT project managers’ strengths and weaknesses. So we invested time and money in articulating our project managers’ capabilities and potential, and also in filling their skills gaps with an internally developed classroom training module based on general project management principles. We focused on senior project managers, because they have the most impact on project success and knowledge sharing.

Today, some 55 active projects are tracked by the on-demand system. Nearly half of IT’s staff members—including project managers, senior project managers and directors—use the software daily. They have access to real-time dashboards, enabling them to manage resources continuously and effectively. We track the usual on-time, on-budget and within-initial-scope metrics, and all these measures have improved since we implemented the on-demand software. Innotas provided us with a standard template and best practices for collecting and analyzing project requests and data across the enterprise. Because everyone works from the same template, it’s easier for IT project teams and their customers to collaborate.

Mykolas Rambus is CIO for Forbes Media.

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