Project Management for Logistics

NFI

"The reason we selected Project Insight was for its look and feel and that it is very easy to use. It is clean. It is easy. We're finding that the flexibility underneath the software allows us to adapt to our business process."
- CIO

Main Challenges

The information technology (IT) department at NFI is responsible for a wide variety of projects across three major areas of focus. "The majority of our time, probably 75%, is spent doing projects for external customers, supporting warehouse or transportation services," said the Chief Information Officer (CIO) at NFI. "IT is an integral part of bringing up that type of solution. We have to bring the warehouse management system up. Then we work the integration with the customers and directly with the external customers through our operations, their operations and their IT groups."

  • Unable to see all task assignments for each project or company wide
  • No efficient way to track actual time spent against time estimated
  • Limited by manual resource allocation process
  • Differing management methodologies between project groups caused confusion for supporting IT teams

The other two areas the IT department performs projects for are internal operations that help drive higher levels of efficiency or profits, and for back office functions, such as accounting and human resources. "However, 75% of our work is very much external customer work, bringing up new customers or supporting business changes that they're taking on," the CIO explained. Describing one of the main challenges that led NFI to evaluate project management systems, the CIO said, "Until a couple of years ago, anytime the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) would grab me and want an update on things, I knew what was going on. But over the last few years as we grew and more projects were active, that was becoming more and more difficult. There were a lot of times that I would have to say, 'I don't know. I'll have to find out and get back to you.'" In addition, as the teams grew, they needed to graduate from using a combination of spreadsheets and homegrown databases to using a robust project management system. With the growth of the company came the addition of a large number of people within IT. "The first thing that I found with the addition of a lot of new people was that their constant feedback was, 'We don't know how to get something done,'" the CIO said. With 18-20 project managers handling approximately 80 projects at a time on average, NFI needed a way to standardize project management and gain visibility into resource allocation, status, and profitability of projects.

Why Project Insight

The project managers and IT team needed a project management solution that would:

  • Provide a variety of views into active projects
  • Give visibility of project status to people in different roles in the company
  • Enable resource allocation
  • Simplify time tracking

The IT team did extensive research into available project management systems, then created a short list, on which Project Insight was a candidate. After viewing online demos with each of the solutions, NFI's team narrowed the field to three finalists. "And then we got more formal," CIO said. "We had some initial high level objectives we were looking for out of the system in that first evaluation. Then we sat down and did more detailed test scenarios and we wanted them to show us how their systems handled these, and walk us through a scripted demo that we gave them, focusing on our specific challenges. I had a representative from every functional group in IT, technical as well as project managers. We had about an eight to ten person team that did those detailed, scripted demos. From that we collected everybody's feedback, then I and a couple of other project managers made the final selection, which was Project Insight." The CIO said, "The reason we picked Project Insight was the look and feel and it is very easy to use. It is clean. It is easy. We're finding that the flexibility underneath the software allows us to adapt to our business process."

The Results

  • Enables resource allocation
  • Allows easy time entry and tracking
  • Establishes accurate resource allocation capabilities
  • Encourages collaboration between teams
  • Facilitates the creation of a single project management methodology

NFI began using Project Insight in April 2010, implementing the software in phases. Explaining that the phased approach is helping them understand the differences in project management expertise and methodologies between the different teams, the CIO said, "Since we started using Project Insight, I've found that it's driving some discussion between different technology groups and project managers that weren't happening before that should have. The biggest thing is that it's driving us to really look at our processes and figure out a consistent way to do them across every team and making sure that everybody understands that." "Before Project Insight, I didn't have an easy way to pull all the project information together and find out everything we have going on, and whether we're working on the right things. Because we set out plans and set directions on priorities, but as things trickle down through 70 people, sometimes that dissipates and gets off track and I didn't have any way to see if we were still focused on the right things." NFI is pleased with the responsiveness of the team at Project Insight and the flexibility of the software. The CIO said in closing, "For the most part we talk about what we want to do, and we figure out how to fit it into the system and Project Insight can handle it. So that's been the best aspect for me, is that we can customize the system to make it fit our process."