Changing the program and project management environment

Daron Hall
CIP Administrator
City of Kansas City, Missouri

Patricia Hilderbrand, P.E.
Planning Engineer
City of Kansas City, Missouri

Jay Byers
Senior Consultant
Kansas City, Missouri

For over a decade, Kansas City, Missouri focused on its capital infrastructure. It institutionalized and enhanced public participation in the capital improvements planning process. With citizen support, it increased the general tax contribution and passed targeted tax revenue designated for capital improvements. It formalized a five-year Capital Improvements Program (CIP) planning process and continued efforts to improve accountability. Nonetheless the staff hit a wall. Despite increased funding, demand for improvements outstripped resources and forced departments to phase projects over a number of years. Meanwhile, staff was reduced and the remaining staff was expected to produce more with the same resources. As more and more projects were funded over time, the burden on staff became greater and project completion time became longer. The magnitude of the problem escalated.

As management recognized the depth of the problem, they concluded that they must address the issues enterprise-wide. The directors of the four departments (Public Works, Water, Parks & Recreation, and Aviation) responsible for most capital improvements performed by the City set the vision for program and project management. With a clear vision and extensive scope in hand, the project team worked with staff at all levels and responsibilities within the organization to refine the vision into a specification for how to change the program and project management environment. They knew they would have to change how they managed projects, and that they would need a tool to focus and enhance their capacity.

Meanwhile, project leadership also had to convince senior management and elected officials that the effort was worthwhile. A targeted pilot system was created that yielded more complete and meaningful status updates. A convincing case was made that if all stakeholders in a redesigned system, including all City project staff, vendors, contractors, and other jurisdictions, participated, it would dramatically improve stewardship of public resources. The outline of a logical plan for achieving the City's vision was put forth. Finally, a thorough cost/benefit analysis was performed that indicated a return on investment (ROI) of less than one year. The project team convinced senior management and elected officials that the project was worthy of scarce resources.

Though the procedural and technical decisions ultimately made by the Project Steering Committee were innovative, they were a natural outgrowth of the group's desire to improve accountability and visibility. The decisions were a clear recognition of their need and of how recent technological innovations can change the setting in which projects are managed. The Steering Committee agreed that no off-the-shelf system available was adequate and that building the system in-house was not feasible. They agreed that hiring a software development company to custom-build a system was too costly and was historically problematic.

Final Solution Foundation Requirements:

  • Web-based
  • Single point of entry for all data
  • Security/Dynamic and Flexible Views
  • Document Management and Workflow
  • Deliverables-based P/PM, not task-based
  • Enterprise-based P/PM
The City decided to enter into an agreement with a software development company to build a system to their specifications and allow the development company to own the software. The development company would pay for the development of the system, and the City would then lease back the software from the development company for a per-seat fee charged on a monthly basis. The up-front costs to the City were for process redesign, technical infrastructure upgrades, training, and implementation. Once it made the decision to dramatically change its project management processes, these were all expenses that the City would bear regardless of the technical solution it chose. The solution allowed the City to focus on changing its operational and technical infrastructure and avoid the cost of purchasing and then customizing a prepared application.

The solution the City chose was delivered through an Application Service Provider (ASP). In the ASP model, the application is delivered through the Internet using a standard browser such as Internet Explorer. The user organization is only required to provide adequate connection speeds to the users' desktops. The ASP vendor is responsible for servers, backup, redundancy, hardware and software upgrades, and help-desk support. The City is not required to increase its Information Technology staff or provide support other than infrastructure improvements. This solution fit well into both the IT Department's and the operating departments' plans.

In addition to process redesign and implementation, the City agreed to fund infrastructure improvements, a training center, and seat fees once the system was in use. The new program and project management environment was approached in "Waves" representing groups of employees with similar functions or with a high level of interaction. Approximately 35 Waves were identified, and each Wave was approached in a similar manner: Necessary technical improvements were addressed first, operational procedures were redesigned next, and then users were trained on the system use in light of the redesigned processes. On-site follow-up was required to ensure that problems were addressed and system use was maximized.

The Wave Process:

1. Organize the Wave
2. Review the Current State
3. Review the Immediate Future State
4. Develop Detailed Process Redesign Plan
5. Develop Technical Implementation Plan
6. Build Configuration Model
7. Execute Data Migration
8. Execute Test
9. Execute Training
10. Execute Deployment Plan
11. Post Implementation

Transition management was addressed through the use of a Transition Monitoring Team (TMT) that consisted of rotating representatives of currently active Waves and a permanent group of management-level employees. The TMT acted as a forum for user issues and would filter and translate these issues to the project team who would then resolve the issue as appropriate.

Lessons Learned:

  • Focus on problem to be solved, don't try to solve everything
  • Involve all stakeholders, establish project decision-making structure
  • The Web truly makes a difference
  • Ensure technical adequacy to the last loop
  • Match consultants to the project and your organization
  • Demonstrate respect; for everyone's time, role, personal issues...
  • Keep the project moving
    —Regular short meetings to update everyone and control scope
    —Give recognition
    —Simplify project organization, delegate responsibility
Current Results:
  • Improved technical infrastructure/higher bandwidth throughout City
  • Training Center construction
  • Elimination of redundant technical systems
  • Consistency in project management processes
  • Consistency in project data
  • Improved project workflows/process time reduction
  • Improved administrative workflows/further process-time reduction
  • More current project information/reporting
  • Improved communication among project stakeholders
  • Increased visibility of work-in-progress
  • Improved confidence in staff by citizens and elected officials
Anticipated Future Results:
  • Vendor/Contractor overhead reduction and cost savings
  • Increased vendor/contractor competition and cost savings
  • Improved coordination with other jurisdictions
  • Continuous improvement through performance measurement and sharing of best practices
  • Greater accountability and performance measurement
Despite the magnitude of their CIP and of the problems facing them, the KCMO project team approached the transformation of their program and project management environment with the objective of achieving an ideal situation. Their goals of visibility, coordination, responsiveness, and accountability were translated into clear action plans that have changed how work gets done in Kansas City. Their goals have also been embedded in a technological tool that takes advantage of recent advances to allow project managers to work effectively in this new atmosphere. By tenaciously keeping to its vision, KCMO has been able to dramatically recreate its management environment and lay the groundwork for consistently improving how it delivers public services.

Daron Hall can be reached at (816) 513-2619 or at; Patricia Hilderbrand can be reached at (816) 513-2576 or at; and Jay Byers can be reached at (816) 753-5193 or at