Project Leadership

Project Leadership

“What are My People Doing, and How Much is it Costing?”

Expanding the Remedy Action Request System into a Work Management System

A White Paper from Project Remedies, Inc.


This paper describes the business problems a typical IT organization faces in its

need to understand what its people are doing and how much it’s costing. It relates how an

organization must manage resources to make optimal use of each worker’s skills to improve

service delivery at the lowest possible cost, then chronicles the pitfalls of using the “best”

product for each application, under-utilizing these products, and unsuccessfully implementing its

program/project management software systems. Finally, the paper outlines a solution for these

problems – Project Remedies’ ActionProgram Manager™ combined with an organization’s

existing and/or additional Remedy AR System-based applications – and spells out the return on

investment this solution can provide.

Situational Overview

In order for management to stabilize or reduce costs, they need to know where the costs are

being spent. There are two types of costs, resource costs and asset costs.

Resource costs can be categorized as direct costs, which involve the time spent working

requests from users, and indirect costs, which involve keeping the company in business (server

and network management, meetings, training, etc.) as well as vacation and sick time, i.e., tasks

that are not related to requests from users. Indirect costs might also be called maintenance or

administrative costs.

Lots of requests come into an IT organization. These requests are turned into tasks that are

assigned to resources, who work the tasks and status the tasks. In order for management to

know the time and cost involved with supporting user requests, the resources have to enter their

time against tasks. In order to improve processes – and thereby improve service levels and

reduce cost by effectively deploying the right number of resources at the right times – detail is

needed about the number and type of requests and the amount of time spent against these


Within the IT organization, requests are usually managed by three main applications:

• Help desk systems. These manage small requests, which can be satisfied when a single

task is completed. Small requests often result in “problem tickets” and involve what are

customarily called problem management processes.

• Change/work order/service order management systems. These are for medium-sized

requests, which are satisfied by the completion of multiple tasks, such as all tasks involved

with approving a change or with hiring or terminating an employee. These types of requests

entail what are usually known as change management processes.

• Program/portfolio management systems. These are for large requests, which are

satisfied by the completion of many tasks, most often take longer than a medium-sized

request and have a bigger dollar value. Large requests normally result in projects, and

managing lots of projects is often called program management or portfolio management.

Often, companies buy the “best” product for each of these applications. Then they find that

these applications have to work together, that different types of requests result in similar tasks

to be performed, and that there is, in fact, a single resource pool.

A company in San Diego offers a good example of these applications working together. Their

process is for defect reports from users to come into the IT help desk. (Defects are reported

within IT in their change management application.) An incident for a particular defect is created

and categorized in the help desk application. That incident is assigned to the Change Control

Board, who decides whether it should be handled as a change request or a project. Let’s say

that it is a project. A project plan should be created using a template for defect fixes, and all the

tasks in the template should be spawned. The last task is to “implement the fix,” and in their

environment, this is done with a change request. The company wanted workflow from the

program management system to automatically create the change request to implement the fix.

When the fix is implemented and the change request closed, workflow from the change request

should automatically close the task in the project. Because this is the last task in the project,

workflow should automatically close the project, close the original help desk incident, and notify

the original user that the defect has been fixed and implemented.

Different types of requests can often result in the same task for the same resource. For

example, a field technician receives a task to “deploy a PC on Bob’s desk.” That could have

come from three different requests:

! Bob called and said that his PC didn’t work and to please deploy a replacement.

! Someone in Human Resources said the company has a new employee named Bob, and

one of the many tasks that need to be performed for this new employee is to deploy a


! A vice president said there’s a new project to deploy 5,000 PCs, and this one needs to

be deployed on Bob’s desk.

The question is: Why should these tasks look any different to the field technician?

The Problem

The situation just outlined is the source of a major problem for most companies: how to get

better cost information in the short term, and without spending a huge amount of money on a

major integration project that would not be completed in the short term anyway.

Managing Resources

Especially in difficult times like these, upper management wants to understand what their people

are doing and how much it’s costing. They need to know their IT dollar commitments and

resource commitments, and when they ask for the information necessary to make a decision,

they need the answers now, not two days from now. The data has to be current – up to the last

entry – and available immediately.

An organization really does have only one resource pool, and knowing which resources are

available for projects is critical to meeting organizational goals. A person with the desired skill

and the time available may be in another department. If a department manager tells his/her

boss, “We need to hire a consultant with this skill, in this location, for this period of time,.” the

first thing the boss would say is, “Prove it.” The second thing would be, “Is there anyone else

with that skill in that location who is not too busy during that period of time?” In order to answer

these questions, the manager needs to know all the resource commitments. If the data is in

multiple applications and databases, it is very difficult to bring it together and to do so in a timely fashion.

As indicated earlier, IT resources must enter their time against tasks in order to provide better

cost information. Unfortunately, traditional ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems do not

track detail at the needed level and are not geared for IT resources. As one IT manager said,

“Have you ever seen an ERP system create an ERP for IT resources?”

Licensing the “Best” Product for Each Application

In the past, the CIO usually instructed managers to buy the “best” product for their department’s

particular requirements. And they did just that. As a result, IT organizations are using disparate

products that run on different platforms, store data in different databases, and do not work with

each other. A developer at one company spent the last year trying to integrate two disparate

products that both store data in Oracle and has not been able to do it.

This brings us back to the IT resources entering their time against tasks. If the tasks are in

these disparate products that store the data in different databases on different platforms, one

solution is a $1-5 million “never-ending” integration project, which lots of big consulting firms

would like to propose. But even if spending that kind of money were possible, the $1-5M

integration project is a long-term proposition. This type of project is never-ending because each

time one of the vendors has a new release, the integration has to be re-done.

Under-utilized, Expensive Software

Many companies have spent a great deal of money on point solutions, and for several reasons

these products are under-utilized. A CFO commented, “At my level, the features that

differentiate the ‘best’ product from the others evaluated are usually scheduled to be

implemented in Phase 3. But we never get to Phase 3. At Phase 1, the functionality of all of the

products reviewed is about the same.”

A better solution would be a suite of applications that run in the same development


Unsuccessful Implementation of Program/Project Management Systems

Perhaps the wisest analysis of this part of the problem comes from Bob Willey, Vice President

of Information Services at KinderCare Learning Centers: “It takes about 18 months to get a

program management system embedded in an organization. Most of these products require

that all the users know everything about project management up front, and that is just not possible.”

Experienced project managers are frequently put in charge of implementing an enterprise-wide

system. Because these people know how important many of the system’s esoteric features are,

they want to train everyone on these features before getting started. This often takes a great

deal of time and investment without really producing any results.

KinderCare’s Bob Willey preferred to implement a team approach to managing projects. This

would make it as easy as possible for everyone in IT to get involved. Because the people

working the tasks are the ones who know most about what is going on with each task, if the

scope changes, they – not the project manager – are the first to know. Willey wanted it to be

easy for the workers to communicate this type of information to the project manager and any

other interested party. Improving communication is the number-one goal in enabling the team

to work together most efficiently.

Early program management systems were typically designed for e-mail communication between

project managers and the people in the performing organizations. For example, the project

manager would notify a worker by e-mail that a certain task could be started, and the worker

would then e-mail back to the project manager with the status and notes about the task. But

wouldn’t it be easier if the workers could status the tasks themselves and enter their comments

into the task, instead of creating an e-mail message? It surely doesn’t take any longer for the

worker, and it saves the project manager the time of interpreting the comments and entering

them into the system. That process is just too cumbersome – and riskier as well, if the project

manager does not correctly interpret the worker’s e-mail. When a task is completed, it would be

far simpler if the system notified the person or people responsible for the next task(s) so the

project manager would not have to be involved.

When one of these early program management systems was being installed at a major

company, its Remedy development manager asked the vendor’s representative if the length of a

field could be expanded. He was told, “No. These are ‘the best practices.’”

These particular scenarios point out a big part of the problem, and lead us now to the solution

for the entire problem.

The Solution: ActionProgram Manager and the Remedy AR System

The ideal solution to the business problem detailed above has several characteristics. All user

requests and their related tasks (help desk, change management, program management,

maintenance and administrative tasks) would be created in the same environment. People

would be considered one resource pool, and all information would be stored in the same

environment. Entering time against these tasks would also be done in the same environment.

The solution would be implemented in the short term and take advantage of investments that

have already been made. It would build upon that investment so the company sees a better

utilization rate. One such investment is the dollars spent on software product licenses and the

necessary databases and hardware. Another investment is in training the users. If the product

is already running internally, there is a support staff in place, and the users – or at least many of

them – know how to use it.

In addition, the product used would be flexible enough that a company’s business processes

could be customized within it. This would help the company realize increased efficiencies and

thus reduce costs.

A Holistic Approach to Managing All IT Requests

In the situation described, the product most likely to be already up and running is the Remedy

Action Request System (AR System), which is used by more than 6,000 companies, at some

12,000 sites worldwide, by about 10,000,000 people. Although it’s been marketed as a help

desk system and frequently thought of as a “trouble-ticketing” system, the AR System is, in fact,

a robust development environment – a true client server and GUI front-end to the major

databases (SQL Server, Oracle, Sybase, Informix, and DB2) for tracking and workflow

applications. The AR System has a dual purpose. It is the premier application platform and the

premier development environment, handling all applications – packaged, homegrown, and


As a workflow engine, the AR System allows the administrator to embed the company’s

business processes within it. Because the AR System is most frequently used for help desk

applications, the first processes implemented are the problem management processes.

The AR System, however, is not a trouble-ticketing system. It’s a development environment

that can be used for all kinds of applications that generate tasks and involve workflow. Some IT

professionals call it a “great request management” system, while others think of it as a “great

task generator.” Either way, the AR System has been so successful because its users have

been successful defining their business processes in it.

As previously mentioned, there are three major task-generating applications: help desk, change

management, and program management. Remedy Corporation has developed and markets

both Help Desk and Change Management systems, which interface with Remedy’s Asset

Management system. Many users create their own applications with the AR System, hire

consulting firms to build applications from scratch using this tool, or modify existing Remedy built


ActionProgram Manager

This is where Project Remedies comes in. Because of their depth of experience in program

management systems in general and the AR System in particular, the people at Project

Remedies decided to create ActionProgram Manager (APM), a program management, resource

management, and time- and expense-tracking system built using the AR System. APM is

designed to be used standalone; as an enterprise-wide program management, resource

management, and time- and expense-tracking system; or combined with Remedy’s applications,

or with custom-built applications using the AR System, to create a work management system.

APM can also interface with Remedy’s Asset Management system. It has a robust interface

with Microsoft Project, so project plans created in MS Project can be imported into APM for

approval, management, and time tracking.

Combining program management processes with problem management and change

management processes provides a complete work management framework. This could be

called an “ERP for IT” system, a requirements management system (or framework), or a workforce

management system. That’s because in order to determine what the people are doing

and how much it’s costing, all work that comes into IT, and what everyone’s working on, needs

to be tracked. Then the people working the tasks need to enter their time against the tasks.

These are direct costs. Time spent on indirect activities can also be entered into APM.

Being able to track all resource and asset costs – in detail – in the same system and database

is a huge benefit for top management.

Easiest, Fastest, Cheapest Way to Implement Work Management System

For an organization that’s already using the AR System for help desk and/or help desk and

change management, adding APM will make it possible for its IT operation – within just a few

days or weeks – to time-track against all the installed applications, enterprise wide.

APM runs on the organization’s AR System platform and takes about 30 minutes to install. After

that, it takes literally just a few minutes to add the “work time tab” to the existing AR Systembased

applications. If the AR System is already up and running, an AR System support

organization is in place and familiar with the organization’s business, so it can quickly make any

necessary modifications. Any application developed using the AR System is designed to be

modified, and we assume that modifications will indeed be made.

Enormous Return on Investment

Project Remedies’ approach is to handle these applications in Remedy and maximize an

organization’s investment in Remedy. Besides letting the organization know what its people are

doing and the related costs – so it can stabilize or lower costs and improve processes and

overall efficiency – this also results in several areas of hard savings, which can vary with the

size of the department:

• The most significant savings is reduced training. Workers are already accustomed to getting

Remedy tickets for many or most of their tasks. With APM, they’d also be getting time- and

date-stamped Remedy tasks.

• If there are three-person teams supporting each of five disparate products, reducing this

number while expanding the Remedy team to handle additional work can save about $1

million a year.

• If all of, say, 200 people in an IT department save 15 minutes a day by looking in one place

for their to-do list, instead of in five different applications, at a conservative burdened rate of

$50 per hour, the potential savings would be $630,000 per year.

• Avoiding future-year maintenance fees is another area for savings. Even if the maintenance

paid for Remedy licenses is doubled, the organization would still save because of the

eliminated maintenance costs for those other “best” products.

• Another hard savings is avoiding the $1-5 million never-ending integration project needed to

link together disparate applications.

• Because Project Remedies’ APM solution can be up faster than the $1-5 million integration

project, an organization can also save money by actually running the application and getting

the management reports they’ve wanted.

There are soft savings as well. Experience teaches that in order to complete projects, the

projects have to be managed. Management needs visibility into commitments for dollars and

resources. If management knows what its resource commitments are, resources can be used

more effectively. Also, it’s certainly much easier to know what people are working on if all their

tasks are created with the same system. This greatly simplifies time tracking too, so

management can fully understand resource costs and charge back their time.


From a business standpoint, a system has long been needed that lets an organization plan

multiple projects, approve project plans, work and manage projects in real time, and generate

accurate reports for every project – enterprise wide – all within the same system. Clearly, the

ideal solution was one that could leverage an organization’s existing investment in the Remedy

AR System, due to its almost universal usage.

Project Remedies’ ActionProgram Manager provides this solution. Because it runs on the AR

System platform, this flexible, easy-to-use, cost-effective work management system can

combine program management, problem management, service requests and change

management into a single unified process for the entire IT organization. APM represents a

whole new concept – work management – and replaces the incredibly costly, never-ending

integration project for understanding IT costs. In essence, APM gives managers the information

they need, when they need it, in a format they’ve been using – allowing them to make bettereducated

decisions to streamline and maximize their organization’s effectiveness.

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