No project left behind
Every organization needs to play a role in their community. The Project Management Institute Savannah River (PMI®-SR) chapter adopted the theme “No Project Left Behind” to emphasize to the community that no project was too big or too small for their members to leave behind. This paper covers three initiatives developed to share the chapter's project management expertise and to market chapter awareness in the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA) community, which is bounded by Augusta, Georgia and surrounding areas. The initiatives are: 1) Community Outreach Initiative, the James Brown Statue Camera Project; 2) Project Serve; and 3) Certification Programs, Project Management Professional (PMP®) and Certificate Associate in Project Management (CAPM®).
The PMI-Savannah River Chapter (PMI®-SR) has taken a leadership role in both advocating and communicating the benefits of project management principles in the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA) community. The CSRA is bounded by Augusta, Georgia and surrounding areas.
PMI®-SR's mission statement is to build the project management community in the Central Savannah River Area through promoting the implementation of Best Project Management principles, and providing their services to the CSRA businesses to manage projects. Service to community has always been important to PMI®-SR. So important, that this service commitment was incorporated into the charter of the PMI®-SR. PMI®-SR chapter volunteers continuously focus on several initiatives to better understand the opportunities and challenges of advancing project management in the CSRA community.
PMI®-SR has developed many community initiatives, three of which will be covered in this paper. The initiatives are: 1) Community Outreach Initiative, the James Brown Statue Camera Project; 2) Project Serve; and 3) Certification Programs, Project Management Professional (PMP®) and Certificate Associate in Project Management (CAPM®). Each of these initiatives promotes different strengths of the PMI®-SR chapter and contributes to spreading the importance of project management principles throughout the community.
Community Outreach Initiative
The Community Outreach Initiative (COI) was conceived in December 2007 as a PMI®-SR Chapter program to market the benefits of project management by providing in-kind donations of project management services to nonprofit organizations. Nonprofit organizations routinely receive grants for projects, but often do not have the in-house skills to manage and execute the projects. Typically, nonprofit organizations attempt to reduce costs by using in-house volunteers to coordinate these projects. Without a dedicated and trained project manager and team, their projects take longer and cost more to complete.
Because nonprofits are charitable organizations, their projects generally provide improved services to the community. This factor increases the value of the contribution provided by PMI®-SR volunteers by enabling the community to begin benefiting from these services sooner than expected. An added benefit for the nonprofit organization will be an increase in their credibility with funders by demonstrating the ability to properly manage and execute projects with their funds. Over the years, this credibility will be a factor in the success of the nonprofit organization in winning additional funding. COI is a win-win-win for the nonprofit organization, the community, and the PMI®-SR chapter.
The PMI®-SR chapter decided that the best way to develop the COI was by lessons learned from a pilot project. The results of the project would be used to meet the following objectives:
- Produce a COI program management plan template based on actual project experience. Include templates for project management inputs and outputs specifically tailored to nonprofit projects.
- Create a marketing strategy to promote the PMI®-SR chapter via the chapter's marketing subcommittee both locally and nationally.
- Support both short-term (<6 months) and long-term projects based on volunteer availability. Have a minimum of two projects ongoing at all times.
- Develop a list of member strengths: skills, corporate, and personal contacts that could be beneficial in the completion of future COI projects.
- Formalize a process for providing PDU credits to COI project volunteers.
A pilot project, the James Brown Statue Camera, was selected by the chapter to pilot the COI.
James Brown Statue Camera
Augusta, Georgia is home of the legendary “Godfather of Soul,” James Brown. The city erected a statue in downtown Augusta to honor Mr. Brown. The statue is one of many downtown landmarks visitors make it a point to see. In 2007, The Greater Augusta Arts Council (GAAC) was awarded a Georgia e-Challenge Grant from the Georgia Department of Tourism to install a cell phone--activated camera at the James Brown statue on Broad Street. Visitors at the statue would simply dial a phone number activating a camera that wirelessly transmitted their photo to a special James Brown photo gallery. The photo would be retrieved by going to the GAAC website, www.AugustaArts.com. “If this project can get people to go to the GAAC website, then we have an opportunity to expose them to upcoming events and entice them to come back and enjoy what Augusta has to offer in the arts,” said Brenda Durant, GAAC executive director. The GAAC had to have the camera operable by May 2008 in time to support a writer's convention sponsored by the DOT and the James Brown Birthday celebration.
Initiating the Project
To kick off the project, a letter was issued to all PMI®-SR chapter members requesting volunteers for the project team; specifically those with interests or experience in photography, information technology, and website design. Four members volunteered, which was the appropriate team size for a project of this type. In addition to the PMI members of the team, the GAAC executive director and the GAAC website master made up the rest of the team (Exhibit 1).
The website master worked at a local marketing firm, which also provided advertising services for the GAAC. Located in a downtown office, just a quarter of a mile from the statue, the firm agreed to hold the project team meetings in their conference room. The location of the office eventually proved to be a critical factor in the success of the project.
The team held their first team meeting in January 2008. The initial topic was to discuss the project management processes as described in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)---Third edition (Project Management Institute [PMI], 2004) and how to tailor them for this project. In addition, all stakeholders were identified and a communications plan was developed. Next, the team worked with the sponsor to develop a charter, a preliminary project plan, and an initial scope description. The sponsor had estimated the budget for the project to be approximately $7,000 and confirmed that funding was available to cover this amount.
The sponsor identified two primary conditions that the project must meet: 1) the camera had to be activated by a cell phone versus some other option, such as a push button, and 2) the camera had to be fully operational by May 1st. This schedule constraint required that the project be completed in approximately four months. The reason for the scheduled completion date was twofold. On May 2nd, the funder from the Georgia Department of Tourism would be in town attending a conference for southern journalists. She wanted to get their photo taken and then, the journalists would write about the project. May 3rd was James Brown's birthday and a major celebration was planned in downtown Augusta just across from the statue.
Planning the Project
The team reviewed the design and operation of the conceptual project that the James Brown project was to be patterned after. Several design and operational improvement areas were identified and the team agreed not to restrict its design options to the conceptual project design. The conceptual project was expensive to develop and maintain due to software requirements and was constructed from a compilation of components versus an integrated system from one manufacturer. The GAAC needed a product that had low life cycle costs and could be easily maintained. The team decided to research for a single company that could provide such an integrated system. The communication plan was modified to have all team members immediately inform all of the project team via email of any findings or issues identified during the design research process.
Next, the team developed a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) (Exhibit 2). Each member was assigned the responsibility for WBS elements based on their knowledge, experience, and/or contacts in that area. For this size of project, a “Level 1” milestone schedule was determined to be adequate for planning and executing this project (Exhibit 3). Given the short duration of the project, the team decided to work as many of the activities in parallel as possible. High priority was given to the design research activities because it was the first item on the critical path.
The initiation and planning meeting concluded with a review of assigned actions. The sponsor was very pleased with the results of the first meeting and impressed with the project management techniques. It was evident from her responses that she was not used to this level of rigor in planning and it made her comfortable that the project would be a success.
Executing the Project
After 2 months of intensive research with no success in identifying an integrated system, the team was beginning to conclude that it would have to produce the design itself. However, one of the team members had a contact that owned a local security surveillance company. This was the last contact that the team was waiting on for a response. The owner of the company developed a proposal and presented it to the team. It was developed from a unique application of existing surveillance technology. His proposal used a high-resolution, fixed-lens surveillance camera, which operated like the common webcam system. The camera transmitted a continuous radio frequency signal to a receiver, which had to be in line-of-sight of the camera. The visitor at the statue would dial a phone number and activate a relay at a recorder, creating a 5-second video clip. An answering machine would instruct the visitor to hang up and smile for 5 seconds. The recorder would then e-mail the video clip to a photo gallery for posting. At the gallery, a single frame would automatically be extracted from the clip and posted to the gallery website.
The GAAC webmaster team member agreed to have the receiver installed on his building roof, which was in direct line-of-sight of the statue and also agreed to store the recorder in their office. Another team member worked in a company that provided information technology services to a local newspaper. The newspaper maintained a photo gallery system that covered local events. Anyone in the community could access their system. The newspaper company agreed to provide the resources to set up a special gallery for the James Brown statue camera photos and to develop the frame extraction process. They would also maintain the gallery at no cost to the GAAC.
The team presented this proposal to the sponsor and made a recommendation to proceed. The contractor agreed that he could meet the schedule requirements. In addition, he agreed to donate all of his labor and provide the equipment at his cost. As a result of the contractor, the newspaper company, and the webmaster donations of in-kind services, the total cost of this proposal was $5,000, well within the budget. It was estimated that the total value of this system was over $20,000 and would also have required an ongoing operational cost for the photo gallery service. Needless to say, the sponsor was very pleased with the project and granted the team approval to proceed.
Because the contractor designed the system using off-the-shelf items, the equipment was received and installed in less than 3 weeks (Exhibit 4). In parallel with the installation of the camera system, a test video clip was e-mailed to the newspaper photo gallery for the purpose of developing the frame extraction software. The software was developed within 2 weeks and set up the system for a complete test by April 1st. Given the short installation period, the team performed daily inspections to ensure that any problems could be addressed immediately.
During the initial presentation of the proposal, the contractor expressed concern that the trees located around the statue could interfere with the transmission of the signal. To mitigate this risk, a temporary arrangement was installed and tested. Indeed, the trees did interfere with the signal. As a result, the transmitting antenna was raised above the tree line and a new type of receiver ordered. These two changes corrected the problem. It was now the middle of April and the system was ready for a complete test 2 weeks ahead of the required completion date. The system worked flawlessly. Quality prints were posted at the gallery within 10 minutes from the time that the photo was taken (Exhibit 5). During the remaining 2 weeks, only minor adjustments were required.
A team meeting was held 2 weeks after the completion of the project to officially close the project and turn it over to the sponsor. The contractor was present at the meeting to address any system maintenance questions. A procedure was developed for the sponsor to routinely check the operation of the system. Potential problem areas were identified in the procedure and contact information to resolve the problem was included. The sponsor accepted the system, and the project was officially closed.
After one complete month of operation, a follow-up meeting was scheduled with the sponsor to review the performance of the system. Only two minor problems were discussed. First, the lens was adjusted to allow photos of taller subjects. Second, a blur showed on a number of sequenced photos, which turned out to be caused by a spider web. The procedure was revised to include a routine cleaning of the camera housing cover.
The GAAC was ecstatic about the changes in its website performance. During the month of May, raw hits to the website increased by 44% from the previous month. The James Brown Statue Cam page (Exhibit 6) was the most visited page on the website, having 2,000 page views in May. But the most impressive data was the increase in number of sessions as defined by movement around the website for more than 3 minutes. During the month of May, there were almost 600 sessions at the GAAC website. The typical number of monthly sessions during previous months was approximately twenty. This is a good indication that the project was doing just what it was expected to do---namely increase the awareness of events happening in Augusta.
One of the objectives of this pilot project was to “Create a marketing strategy to promote PMI®-SR chapter both locally and nationally.” Identified below are the different venues and media that picked up on this project and helped in promoting the chapter's involvement:
- Augusta Commission Meeting Presentation
- News Broadcast by Two Television Stations
- Articles in Five Local, Regional, and National Publications
- Sessions on Two Local Radio Shows
- Numerous Signage in Downtown Augusta
This project clearly provided significant exposure for the chapter and the services that its members can provide to the community.
There are several key factors that should be considered in selecting a project for marketing the organization. Factors to consider in selecting a project include:
- Influence---How visible is the sponsor and/or corporate support and how involved are the media and local government?
- Unique---Is it novel, interesting, first-of-its-kind?
- Interest---Does it have national, regional, or local interest?
- Appeal---Does the project appeal to a number of audiences?
- Product---How visible is the final deliverable?
- Funding---Is the project funded?
- Milestones---Are the milestones connected to any significant community event?
- Marketing---Are there ongoing exposure opportunities or is it just a single event?
A project comparison chart, as shown in Exhibit 7, can be used during the selection process. Simply score each project high, medium, or low for each factor.
Project Serve is a CSRA United Way initiative to provide volunteer work teams an opportunity to help nonprofit agencies complete resource intensive projects at their facilities. Teams from throughout the community disperse to their assigned agency sites after a welcome breakfast in Augusta the first morning. For the past 10 years, the Project Management Institute Savannah River (PMI®-SR) helped sponsor a team. The Project Serve work team (Exhibit 8) consisted of a group of about 25 volunteers from the Augusta chapter who performed a variety of tasks to help renovate, maintain, and repair agency facilities. In 2008, the PMI®-SR team helped the Shiloh Community Center in Augusta and has been the chapter's adopted agency for a number of years. In return for the members’ time and effort, they received a breakfast, lunch, a T-shirt, as well as the satisfaction of knowing that they made a difference in someone's life.
Another important aspect to licensure is “professionalism” and the recognition that one should be “proud” of the industry that they serve, as well as demonstrating to the public that one is qualified to perform the service rendered. One of the benefits to higher education is that certification exams allow benchmarking the success of our programs.
Certifications are important. They convey a sense of accomplishment. Certification offers project team members a means of differentiating themselves, giving them a distinct advantage in accessing new opportunities or increasing their visibility within team-oriented environments. These opportunities pave the way for the students to join project teams as soon as they graduate from the university. Their certifications will be their competitive edge in the employment market and the starting point of their careers.
Project Management Professional (PMP®)
The PMP® credential recognizes a demonstrated understanding of the knowledge and skills needed to lead and direct project teams to deliver results within project scope, time, and cost.
In 2003, the PMI®-SR team began developing course material for the “PMP® Preparation for the PMP® Certification” (4 days, 9 hours class each day), and “the Principles of the Project Management” (2 days, 9 hour class each day). The course material has been approved by the PMI-HQ. In addition, the chapter negotiated a contract with the University of South Carolina in Aiken to provide a venue and to assist in the administration of the classes.
Since 2003, the PMI®-SR chapter provided training to more than 400 current and future project managers in the subjects of PMP Preparation Class and the Principles of Project Management. Classes are taught about two to three times per year. Students from the class are encouraged to become members of the local chapter. As a result, many employees from many companies have joined the chapter.
Certificate Associate in Project Management (CAPM®)
The CAPM® credential recognizes a demonstrated understanding of the fundamental knowledge, processes, and technology that are needed for effective project management performance. One goal of the CAPM® credential is to help students, newer practitioners, and project team members quickly turn project management knowledge into professional credibility and enhance employment opportunities. The credential ensures that team members have the knowledge foundation to support projects using accepted project management tools, techniques, and processes. Additionally, CAPM® provides team members a common lexicon for the profession's most important concepts, terms, and phrases.
The CAPM® credential provides a means to support the critical, fundamental skills that are needed for effective project team performance. It makes project members even more valuable to their organization and customers, and may also serve as a stepping stone for those who aspire to earn PMI's prestigious PMP® Credential. CAPM® will provide hands-on knowledge and experience to the young students to facilitate them for a better career. CAPM® shapes their way of thinking and behaviors towards excellence. CAPM® beneficiaries include coordinators, liaisons, facilitators, sponsors, subject matter expert in other business areas such as finance, marketing, and customer care, and those who are pursuing project management as a career and are qualified undergraduate and graduate students.
The basic understanding of project management practices is invaluable. During the course of a career, members will be involved in several projects. Even if they are not the ones managing the project, understanding how project management works, what a project life cycle is, and how to plan and execute a project enhances their ability to communicate with others on the project team and to know what processes should be followed to assure a successful outcome.
© 2008, Roger Duke
Originally published as part of the 2008 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Denver, Colorado, USA