Universities are like mini cities in many ways – including their extensive infrastructure, diverse population, and ever-changing needs. The University of Connecticut is no exception. It’s not unusual for the university to manage 25 construction projects at any given time.
Like any project owner, the University wants to manage, deliver, and maintain projects in the most efficient and effective manner possible. All owners can benefit from applying saved time and money toward investing in additional projects.
But unlike other owners, many universities have stringent governance regulations spanning a range of areas. For example, university funding cycles are often impacted by changes to state funding that disrupt universities’ plans.
How university governance impacts project management
The University of Connecticut is required to submit accurate, complete, and on-time project proposals according to the set schedule of their Board of Trustee meetings. Skipping a meeting date could result in missing an annual construction cycle - potentially delaying a project initiation by up to a year.
Funding can change annually. It’s imperative to plan construction schedules to match up with available funding. This often requires adjusting project schedules to meet each year’s projected funding level.
Specific project reporting must be delivered to the Board of Trustees quarterly. The content and format for every project report must be consistent, with data rolled up and delivered as one overall report.
Consistent data must be tracked and analyzed for each project to support cross-project reporting and analysis.
The aha! moment:
The University of Connecticut realized they were spending too much time using various solutions and manually managing their project processes and information. The University needed a flexible system to meet the complex requirements of every project. The school was looking for a trustworthy system—including an open platform—that would connect to their finance and scheduling systems.
Finding the right solution:
In 2014, the University started looking for an integrated system. They recognized the value of standardization across their projects.
They wanted to incorporate as many processes and departments onto the system as possible—including connecting existing systems such as finance. The University asked their project management consultant, Gilbane, to recommend top-performing solutions. The school chose Oracle’s Primavera Unifier from the short list Gilbane provided.
Why Oracle’s Primavera Unifier?
The University of Connecticut’s achievements
Quarterly reporting is required on every project over $500K. In the past, budget, risk, and schedule information were assembled from multiple spreadsheets and a database. Manual updates were made for each project location.
For example, expenditures couldn’t be reported in the University’s former database. Instead, these expenditures were tracked in a multi-page spreadsheet before photos were uploaded into a document and the information was compiled into a PDF to create the quarterly report per project.
Finally, all projects were compiled into one report. Project managers typically spent three to five days updating all inputs before extracting them for the report. Business process professionals devoted two weeks to compiling, reviewing, formatting, and submitting the reports.
With Primavera Unifier, university project managers complete the process in just five minutes, and business process professionals take only thirty minutes. In addition, the reports provide valuable information faster and are submitted two to three weeks earlier.
Now, all University of Connecticut reporting is completed in Primavera Unifier. Even “what if” scenarios can be added without impacting actuals.
Before using Primavera Unifier, the University’s purchase request process was paper-based. The request and associated documentation and signatures were often lost, requiring replacements. Unlike digitized systems, paper-based systems weren’t trackable.
Purchase requests could range from a relatively simple process taking just an hour, to more complex change orders requiring original documentation and wet signatures that took up to a week to re-create.
Primavera Unifier has removed this risk from the process. All purchase requests are in the system, trackable with zero risk of lost requisitions, and accessible within a few clicks to a few minutes.
Invoicing also used to be paper-based, requiring information from three to four different systems. University of Connecticut employees often had to carry hard copies to another building. Primavera Unifier has automated this process, eliminated the risk of a lost invoice, and reduced the administrative burden of routing the invoice.
Primavera Unifier helps the University handle bonded money accordingly. It’s critical for the University to analyze and report on annualized program cashflow with changing annual funding - including the financial impact of delaying a project.
The University can look at future cashflow requirements for a specific year—and adjust project schedules to match project funding for that year—by integrating Oracle’s Primavera Unifier and Primavera P6 Enterprise Project Portfolio Management solutions. What took a consultant three days in the past can now be accomplished in-house in 15 minutes anytime there’s a funding change or new project proposal.
The University needed to develop a Building, Grounds and Environment report for all projects over $500K—with total scope changes equal to or greater than 3 percent of the project budget. This was a laborious exercise that required all 32 project managers to determine which of their projects were in this category and why they had these changes. With Primavera Unifier, it’s easy to get the list of projects with just a few clicks.
Integration was a pressing system requirement for the University. The institute understood the downfall of closed systems, including: unusable data, error prone double-entry, and lack of a holistic view.
The University now sees actual costs that are incurred after integrating Primavera Unifier with their finance and facilities systems. The school keeps budgets and cashflow reports up-to-date and watches commitments in real time. There’s no risk of incorrect decisions due to delayed information.
Best practices in Higher Education information and process management
How the University of Connecticut is leading the way in technology adoption and asset management:
As project complexity and the amount of data grows, so does the importance of standardized, efficient processes.
Learn more about Primavera Unifier and read our follow up post, University of Connecticut uses cloud access, digital signatures to keep projects on track through COVID-19