The Information Systems Services (ISS) department within Lancaster University provides IT systems, services and facilities centrally for the university.
These include the campus IT network, email, central IT systems, software, PC labs and, increasingly, access to IT facilities for a range of off-campus locations including foreign partner institutions. Of course training and support for using IT systems is also a vital component of the services offered. ISS is made up of a range of groups, each responsible for the coordinated delivery of the wide-ranging elements of the overall provision. One of these groups, Corporate Information Systems, delivers many of the administrative solutions for the university, and was the first group to implement the Asta Powerproject suite project and programme management tool to help manage resourcing challenges.
The IT systems and services required to support such a large organisation are numerous and complex. It is an ongoing challenge for ISS to meet the growing provision needs. The department is already using significant resource levels to maintain the existing services; in order to help maximise available capacity for the growing project demands the department decided to introduce a professional project planning and management tool. Asta Powerproject had been introduced a few years earlier, but was never fully rolled out and utilised effectively.
“ ISS needed to be able to deliver new services in response to everchanging requirements, but with most of our available resource already tied up we needed a way of understanding exactly where priorities were most needed.”
Jonathan Day, ISS Project Manager, explained: “ISS needed to be able to deliver new services in response to everchanging requirements, but with most of our available resource already tied up we needed a way of understanding exactly where priorities were most needed. Employing capacity management techniques to understand future demand and our capability to deliver was important to enable decisions to be made based on reliable evidence. We also needed a way of understanding the demands on teams and individuals. These issues conspired to make us take a second look at Asta Powerproject and in doing so we found it could help with the development of our processes.” The software was intended to help manage resources for service delivery and projects. “The main thing was to decide and understand exactly what the requirement was, and how to execute the process. Asta Powerproject is a powerful tool; we recognised the need to identify what the roles were to support the process and to focus on just the functionality that would help individuals fulfil those roles by helping them complete the necessary tasks – this was the approach we took. “
Asta helped tailor the process to meet our needs
Asta Development was called upon at the design stage of the project to understand the process to be replicated in the software. Asta worked with the team to understand where they wanted to be. It devised the bespoke training and implemented a pilot that ISS rolled out in phases, department by department. The project began 18 months ago and has recently been completed. “Asta carried out onsite training on the planning part of the software, although we did run some of the time sheet training ourselves. It trained about 10-12 people at a time and I’m pleased to report that the staff, although nervous to begin with, found that the training exceeded their expectations.
“We use the software to plan all activities for the full portfolio of projects and services; it keeps all project plans in one place and the full resource requirements for the lifecycle of projects. It allows us to plan resources and projects with the right amount of task granularity for us and for senior management.”
The course was tailored to fit the process we had in mind.” The department is now using Asta’s planning software as a desktop application, and its web-based system for recording time and progress in its Time Sheets. “We are doing a lot of development, system support, rolling out, training, and servicing of existing systems, and the software is helping us to cope with the expectations placed on us to deliver even more.”
Lancaster University has over 12,000 students and more than 2,500 members of staff and is internationally known as a centre for excellence in both teaching and research. Now approaching its 50th year, Lancaster University is a world-class centre for teaching and research. Information Systems Services provides a range of IT services and facilities. These include the campus IT network with access to the Internet, email and central IT systems; support and training for using IT systems and software; and access to IT facilities in PC Labs and other campus locations.