NYSDOT finds new road to better management
Coordinating activities between the New York State Department of Transportation’s main office and its 11 regional offices requires precise planning. At any given time, the agency juggles as many as 4,000 concurrent planning, pre-construction and construction projects throughout the state. Increasing requirements for efficiency and service prompted NYSDOT to reassess its installed work planning, task priorities and tracking processes.
NYSDOT is responsible for developing and maintaining the state transportation system and providing funds for maintaining the city and county roads, bridges and transit systems that are used by more than 20 million citizens and visitors. The department draws on a complex resource pool, including designers, planners and environmental specialists, to handle projects that sometimes span three to four years. The number of tasks andprojects, the geographical area covered, the heterogeneity of the resource pool and the tight budget limits that characterize public-sector work make efficient project management a must.
Consequently, NYSDOT examined existing operating procedures and concluded that implementing a project management methodology would significantly enhance efficiency. The department then put in place such methodologies to assist with all pre-construction project management activities. Managers were assigned to all projects, and NYSDOT soon realized it needed to provide system tools to support their efforts.
Ron Piracci, principal transportation project manager with NYSDOT, was charged with selecting, developing and implementing the new program and project management information system. Since 1982, the department had used a batch-processing mainframe system to support project management information needs. The need for real-time status data, however, prompted it to upgrade its hardware and software infrastructure to a client/server platform.
The department looked to develop a right-sized project management subsystem that would exchange data seamlessly with the mainframe system, which remained an enterprise data repository. That flexibility was the key to giving managers the ability to select and sort data for visibility at both the project and program levels.
“We needed a system that would help coordinate a large number — thousands — of projects, each with a relatively small number of tasks — one to two hundred,” says Piracci. “This project profile runs contrary to traditional project management solutions that are developed to handle a small number of huge projects with thousands or tens of thousands of subtasks.” The goal, Piracci says, was to develop a system that will help optimize available budgets and human resources.
NYSDOT selected a customized version of Artemis Planning 9000 and Artemis ProjectView, the system’s client/server PC component. System development and customization, including development of a tool called the Task Status Manager, are under way.
The system will allow personnel to update project status, aiding two-way communication and real-time availability of project information. The Task Status Manager enables end-user access and input from the desktop. An Oracle database running on a Sun workstation under UNIX at headquarters will serve as the client/server repository for all information, accessible from the regional offices. The UNIX database exchanges information with the mainframe DB2 database.
“We first examined our goals for maintaining the state’s transportation infrastructure, and, from this discussion, we defined our system requirements,” Piracci says. “We knew we needed a system to help us manage budgets, project accomplishments and human resources at the project and program levels.” With a Wide Area Network in place and T1 lines linking the regional offices to headquarters, the system will use networked Windows-based 486 and Pentium PCs running Novell Netware. Program management information will be maintained in an IBM DB2 RDBMS on the department’s mainframe.
“Our number one priority is to keep New York’s transportation infrastructure in top condition,” Piracci says. “We expect to realize significant return on investment from out implementation.”