Creating a user-friendly project forecasting and annual budgeting solution

Email this to someoneShare on LinkedInTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+
Addressing user adoption challenges with out-of-the-box UMT360 features

Recently, I implemented a comprehensive project financials-focused solution at an Engineering organization. The primary goal was to enable quarterly forecasting and annual budgeting within one system, eliminating hundreds of local, unconnected spreadsheets, an Access DB application and other documents. Our original plan was to use Project Server 2010 Resource Planning integrated with Project Essentials 2012 for labor forecasting and budgeting and utilize Project Essentials 2012 financial pages for non-labor items such as tooling costs.

Unfortunately, we encountered a major user adoption roadblock from the get go. Engineers do not like the Project Server 2010 Resource Planning user interface for a number of reasons, including no Excel-like copy/paste, drag/paste capability, and losing column and row headers when scrolling horizontally and vertically. They also had issues with Project Essentials 2012 financial web parts. Because the client had a very large financial structure (believe me – we did everything to keep the structure as small as possible!) navigating to locate specific node/cost center rows to enter or edit data proved to be a big challenge. Remember – they were using Excel before.

Of course, we didn’t give up. We investigated several options; even including the option to develop an Excel-like front-end to get the forecast and budget data in Project Essentials 2012. As long as the data was in Project Essentials 2012, management and finance loved the reporting and rollup capabilities. But we had to get the data in and it had to be put in by the engineers three times a year for forecast and one time a year for next year’s budget.

Right when it looked like we were out of good options, UMT 360 was released with improved Integration functionality. We could use MS Project Pro as a front-end to get both the labor and non-labor costs in UMT 360. We then, immediately, convinced the client to upgrade to UMT 360. Of course, we had to modify integration settings, workflow settings and restart workflows, etc. But at the end, the solution was built and used for 2015 budgeting.

Besides simplifying the data entry for non-labor costs and providing a single user interface for labor and non-labor components, there were also some unintended benefits. Because the data was first stored in Project Server, we basically had a real-time backup of the financial data. This became very useful when, due to server hardware issues, we lost all 2015 budget data. We were able to quickly recover by exporting the data out from Project Server and importing it back into UMT 360.

Now, nothing was easy as it sounds here. We did have new challenges. We created simple MS Project Pro macros to improve the user experience and handle integration issues. At the end, the solution was deployed and used. Yes, there was some extra attention, monitoring and fixing required but it worked as designed. We are now working on improving the solution and enhancing its capabilities.