Project Description

Ulster University Steps Up PMO Maturity with Wellingtone and Microsoft Project Online

Ulster University serves the region of 27,000 students across four Northern Ireland campuses, plus branch campuses in London, Birmingham and Qatar. The university has a national and international reputation for excellence, innovation, and regional engagement. As such, it makes a major contribution to the economic, social, and cultural development of Northern Ireland.

Underpinning the university’s activities is the Digital Services Directorate, housing the Digital Project Management Office (DPMO). The Directorate is responsible for managing the university’s Digital and IT estate for all students plus some 2,000 staff. It delivers all IT infrastructure, enterprise applications, core university systems, and satellite supporting systems – as well as managing IT security and governance and supporting staff and students to maximise the benefits of the University’s digital platforms and infrastructure.

Ulster University - Microsoft Project Online Case Study

Overview

Customer

Ulster University

Products and Services

Microsoft Project Online

Country

United Kingdom

Industry

Higher Education

Ulster University and Project Online: The Highlights

  • Four standardised Enterprise Project Types.
  • Stage gates are configured, with a Project Detail Page on completion of each stage gate.
  • Custom RAID logs are identified for each EPT.
  • Resource management capabilities are now understood for future implementation.
  • Practitioner and admin-level training for IT PMO staff.
  • Enabling portfolio level reporting for senior management.

In 2020, the DPMO was at maturity level 2, but now (March 2022) is making a significant step-change to maturity level 3. This roadmap has been supported by the configuration and enhancement of Microsoft Project Online, supported by Microsoft Gold Partner and approved G Cloud supplier, Wellingtone. Priorities for the Directorate included developing resource management capabilities, standardising Enterprise Project Types (EPTs), and introducing governance controls including stage gates and workflows. Glenn Millen (Head of Digital PMO), Rosemary Ross (Digital Portfolio Manager), Claire Johnston (Project Support Analyst) and Clare Taglietti (Project Support Analyst), were at the sharp end of delivering the business change.

The whole exercise has given us the confidence and the training to know that we are going about our PPM delivery in an industry-aligned way, and we have the right foundations in place to grow our maturity further as we move forward.

Bringing Structure and Standardisation to the Project Online Deployment

The IT DPMO’s first engagement with Wellingtone was in 2021, Glenn recalls. “The Digital Project Management Office was founded in July 2019, with our first recruits coming on board in April 2020,” he explains. “At that point, we recognised that we needed a tool to help manage our project portfolio. We already had an instance of Project Online running in the university, so we were aware of its capabilities as a system. But we also knew there were more sophisticated capabilities that we should be leveraging, especially in the area of resource management, given the complexity of the university’s IT projects portfolio. We recognised that a consulting partner could add value in this area. We knew that we wanted to work with a Microsoft Gold Partner, which immediately narrowed the playing field. We also knew of Wellingtone’s reputation in the PMO sector. So, we conducted a G Cloud procurement process. Wellingtone submitted the most competitive tender and we felt they were a good choice for us.”

Wellingtone worked with Glenn, Rosey, Claire and Clare to scope the requirements before configuring a Project Online solution that would support the PPM maturity pathway for the DPMO and Directorate as a whole. The configuration included four standardised Enterprise Project Types, known as EPTs, (strategic, operational, programme and non-project), supported by site project templates, custom RAID logs and project detail pages. Workflows were defined with the journey towards governance maturity in mind, Rosey says. “At the strategic level, workflows gave us an opportunity to move away from manual approvals and introduce a Prince2® framework into the system, with stage-gate approvals. From the Power BI perspective, we’re now equipped to start gaining deeper insights into risks and issues against every project, so that in due course we can collate those reports at the portfolio level for senior management. From that point of view, it has supported our journey into maturity level 3, as it is helping us to embed those governance procedures into the project moving forwards.”

Equipping the PMO to Enhance Resource Management Control

Glenn adds that, for him, resource management was at the heart of what he wanted to achieve with the Project Online enhancements. “When we first engaged with Wellingtone, we knew that Project Online has resource management capability, but we were not utilising it. Because of the size and complexity of our portfolio, we knew that we could make improvements by maximising the capability available to us.  In particular, we could see the value of being able to demonstrate visibility over resources, to better inform and support decision-makers in the University. Wellingtone’s configuration and training at the practitioner and admin level demonstrated how resource management within Project Online can be used – and the right way to use it. It is our job to fully implement that. But we are now equipped with the confidence of knowing how we should run resource management from a best practice perspective, and we understand what needs to be done to roll out those processes.”

The new iteration of Project Online has now been live within the Digital Services Directorate for just eight weeks, but other departments have already expressed an interest in the tool, Glenn says. “I have been giving demos to other departments and it is the intention to roll Project Online (and Project for the Web) out in the future. I would recommend bringing in a consulting partner due to the value of the fresh perspective and tools that a consulting partner can bring. Although these are early days, the whole exercise has given us the confidence and the training to know that we are going about our PPM delivery in an industry-aligned way, and we have the right foundations in place to grow our maturity further as we move forward.”

We knew that we wanted to work with a Microsoft Gold Partner, which immediately narrowed the playing field. We also knew of Wellingtone’s reputation in the PMO sector. So, we conducted a G Cloud procurement process. Wellingtone submitted the most competitive tender and we felt they were a good choice for us.

Mark Taglietti, Chief Digital and Information Officer states “The collaboration between the Digital PMO, Microsoft and Wellingtone has enabled this platform to be developed at pace. The adoption of Microsoft Project Online is enabling the Digital Project Management Office to deliver best in class Project & Portfolio Management capabilities in a secure, highly available, performant, structured and controlled way, whilst supporting our digital strategic ambition of enabling access to information at the right time, in the right setting, on the right device, in context, and in a secure way.”

“The Wellingtone team know their stuff. They’re very responsive and adaptable, which is just what we need because they can flex their service as we evolve our approach.”