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Wednesday, Sep 25, 2002

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Measuring up?

R. Savitha

If only one could compute productivity or return on investment easily. A Pune-based software company holds out hope.

WHAT is my resource utilisation? Is there any way I can measure it? What is my organisation's productivity? What is my return on investment and which of my projects is earning me money?'' These are some of the questions intriguing the top management of any organisation. These are people who are always on the lookout for any kind of software or tool that will provide them with answers, if not to all the questions, at least to some. This is where Pune-based Compulink Systems Pvt Ltd pitches in with its product `ProjectByNet'.

ProjectByNet{trade} automates the `Enterprise Project Office' for project organisations. It handles activities such as Project Management and Tracking, Process Management, Issues/Defects Management and Tracking. It also provides the `e-Dashboard' — a facility that enables the stakeholders of project organisations to get up-to-the minute information on the organisation's performance based on its key result parameters.

Why did the company find the need for such a kind of product? "There is a need to formally acknowledge, appreciate, respect and practice Project Management as a Profession! Virtually every aspect of a job requires project,'' says Dhananjay Gokhale of Compulink. What does ProjectByNet offer? It includes Project Management & Repository, Quality Process/Best Practices Framework (ISO/SEI-CMM), Issue/Bug/Defect Tracking and Management, Knowledge Management, Quality Management, Documentation Repository, Commercial Process Automation (timesheets/billing, etc.), Human Resources Tracking and Customer Relationship.

Sachin Kanekar of Jopasana, a user of the software, saysit has helped his company in project scheduling and tracking. The product has been in use for more than eight months. It has also helped generate and analyse important project metrics and easy reporting to customers and senior management. The other benefits are transparency in project management and integration of data which results saves time for the project manager.

It all began about a couple of years ago, when Vishwas Mahajan and a close friend, Uday Kothari, having spent close to 15 years in service, both in India and abroad, decided to begin a small company from a garage. Once the infrastructure was ready, the late Dewang Mehta told the couple to `build Intellectual Property or else in the long run you are finished'. This put everything else on the backside. The two decided to devote a certain amount of the resources, both in terms of manpower and money, to create IP. They took a long and hard look at the services that were being offered in the market and "found that the service sector lacked that personal service and that traditional suites addressed manufacturing and trading operations."

According to the company, the product, because it is fully Web-based, can be operated across locations, time zones and projects to give truly online information to all concerned.

Compulink's ProjectByNet was showcased by Microsoft in its Annual Partner Summit in Anaheim, California, in July and was also one of the few companies to be selected a `Microsoft Project Partner'. Its clients includeMphasis, Geometric Software, Tata Consulting Engineers and Dishnet DSL besides Jopasana. According to Kanekar, earlier individual projects were using Microsoft Project. Communicating this schedule and updating it was done manually which used to take up a lot of the project manager's time. "We also were trying to collect process data manually from individual projects. This tool has helped us to automate these activities, which has resulted in not only savings in the efforts but also helped to convince people to generate process data. We have also contributed to the product in a big way, through enhancement requests,'' he says.

Any drawbacks? The usability aspect needs further improvement, he says. "In addition to the cost of the product, our investment has been in initial learning of the product and training people to use it. We have not evaluated any similar product. We had a need and this product had all the right features for fulfilling our need,'' he says.

As an extension to the product, Tata Industries is developing an innovative `Dashboard' application to allow it to monitor and manage the portfolios of its investee companies or projects.

This will cater to the needs of principals or investment companies to manage their investments in portfolio companies (projects) over the Web. ProjectByNet Digital Dashboard (DDB) captures operations and financial data periodically for portfolio companies.

This information is then rolled up and the portfolio manager can do the necessary analysis and monitoring for investments. Besides, the DDB is capable of aggregating financial information across all the portfolio companies and provides an analytical view of the entire investment to the top management,says the company.

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