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Nothing can slow an IT project as much as miscommunication between business units and the IT staff. The most perfect new application is useless if it doesn't meet the latest expectations of the people who'll be working with it day in and day out.
Virtual Program Management Intranet 3.0 from Virtual Communication Services LLC, scheduled to be available next week, lets users enter issues and problems during the course of a project to the same place where the IT staff roams.
VPMi is already a Web-based project-, program-, and portfolio-management tool. With version 3.0, Virtual Communication Services is adding a lot of new, helpful functionality. The product now forecasts how many hours team members will spend on a project in coming weeks so managers can more easily plan the process. A group within the team will be able to create a subset or grouping of projects for a department or an exec that's still integrated with the big picture. Besides storing documents in a central repository, administrators and developers can attach to individual tasks, milestones, or risks. Finally, team members can generate reports on resource management, time utilization, and the relationship between projects and corporate strategies.
Ameren Corp., an electric and natural gas utility, chose VPMi in February because its previous tool didn't have a vendor behind it anymore. Maryellen Kliethermes, an IT supervisor at Ameren, says the company chose VCS because it provided code with the package. Ameren liked the bang for the buck, and it was the best of any of the Web-based tools.
Kliethermes was glad to see issue- and time-tracking logs within the bigger tool in the new version, which Ameren got ahold of early. "Users themselves can enter issues into VPMi now," she says. "Before, they used a separate app on the network." Now the IT staff and users can share the same single reports.
Melinda Ballou at Meta Group thinks the scarcity of resources among customers has driven them from the acceptance of poor inventory intelligence to the demand for complete management of the entire portfolio. Virtual Communication Services faces tough competition in this broad space, not the least of which is Microsoft, but the little train that could brings some weaponry that's working for shops like Ameren, she says. "VCS sells them software that's extremely inexpensive," Ballou says. "And the vendor has people with consulting experience in the space."