Client perspective: Interview with UTS’s Peter Moloney
What’s your day job?
I’m a senior project manager based within the IT division of the University of Technology, Sydney. I work on projects in the university’s IT capital management portfolio.
How did you get started in digital?
My start was in information science. My first job was as a research assistant on a project mapping the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. We were using GPS technology to map sites and generate interactive maps.
What’s your current favourite book, website, blog or source of inspiration on project management?
Don’t really have one. I often refer to PM standard manuals at the university.
What type of projects do you/your team work on – how long do they run?
The projects run across the whole university and cover a huge range of business processes. A project could last three months or three years. I’m working on a portal project that’s in its early stages really and will continue for quite some time. Right now we’re working on a content migration project, with 35 websites being migrated to the new CMS. The next stage will be a discovery project looking at the technological underpinnings of the portal.
Recent projects include: developing an API to pull data from a hosted event management database into the university’s public events portal and an analysis project reviewing UTS’s educational technologies.
What are the particular challenges you face in managing digital services projects internally? How do you ensure that they integrate with other projects/departments. How do you get visibility at CEO level?
The university’s web environment has a large and diverse stakeholder community. So it’s important to develop a good knowledge of the people, and the many systems and web interfaces in place by engaging with this community. What can be particularly challenging is running a project that may run counter to one group’s business priorities.
Getting visibility is a combination of effective communications and project methodology, which includes board formation through to the project team and maybe even reference groups. In order to get to the right people and groups, you often have to use the existing hierarchies and reporting lines to ensure buy-in.
Do you outsource or use contractors?
Yes, to get things done you need to bring in external expertise quite often. Usually there’s an incumbent or a preferred vendor or for a new project you may need an exemption to negotiate directly or go to tender. At the moment, the university doesn’t have a preferred vendor list, but it’s aware of the need.
What particular skills set, process or type of person do you look for in a digital services provider?
It really depends on the project. For the public events portal, we used an agency expert in such things. For anything you start with a clear definition of what you need and when, and then go out and procure the expertise to do that. Digital services is only part of the big picture.
I look for clear benefits as I develop the business cases. Benefits are expected to to be tracked, so the measures have to be identified early.
What’s your biggest bugbear in dealing with a digital agency?
Digital agencies tend to be “whole service” groups who tend to want to control how requirements are put together. They sometimes don’t like to be given something that’s already specified, which can often happen as we are ourselves an IT group.
Time and materials, fixed cost, or performance bonuses. How do you structure a relationship with a digital agency?
Tend to go fixed cost as it works better for projects with finite budgets. With large projects, it tends to be the same because we’re a public organisation whose spending needs to stand up to public scrutiny.
Agile or waterfall?
Agile for development. Having said that the IT group is pretty much a PRINCE2 shop from a project management point of view.
How do you keep hours and costs on or under budget? How do you maintain profitability on each and every project? Is it a result of project management processes, good budgeting, or initial scoping?
Because we use PRINCE2 there are a range of forms and processes for ensuring a project remains on track and under budget. We are expected to formally report on progress. Profitability is not usually a factor in my environment.
What tools do you use internally to manage time and job tasks?
I use a range of tools which can change depending on the group – atlassian/jira, basecamp, redmine, assembla. I use project, visio, Sharepoint for teams and networked drives. In addition I use a variety of schedules, logs and reports.
What tools do you use to manage external providers?
So long as we follow procurement policy, we can manage external providers by agreement. It often involves using their ticketing system and escalation protocols.
Is the focus of your activities changing? What do you see coming up in digital?
Part of my work regularly requires an element of “discovery” in terms of emerging technologies and business requirements. That aspect is constant.
Like technology in general, digital is always changing. Socialisation and personalisation of content along with multi-platform accessibility is still playing out and likely has a long way to go. Large organisations like mine continue to want to keep up with these trends and, in the case of learning technologies, lead them. There is a strong desire to use digital to harness social capital for greater productivity and to free up work practices with policies like BYOD.