Project Management Lifts Frontier

See our slideshow based on Frontier’s experience, 10 Ways IT Can Help the Business.

Frontier Airlines Holdings Inc., the operator of Frontier Airlines, has hit some turbulence recently. The Denver, Colo., company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year, and is facing significant challenges from a depressed domestic travel market and layoffs that have made the completion of technology projects more difficult.

With a reduced staff, including the loss of IT people, completeing technology-driven projects on time and as planned was becoming a significant challenge for the company. Departments across the enterprise, including finance, human resources, flight and station operations, marketing, maintenance and engineering, and inflight services, had multiple projects underway. But there was no central oversight of these efforts, no visibility into whether resources were being used where they were needed most and no automated means of prioritizing projects.

Frontier’s senior management, including CIO Gerry Coady, knew that the company had to change its processes of managing projects and look for a technology solution to better manage projects–or risk having these initiatives fall behind schedule or even fail altogether.

The company launched a Project Management Office in 2007 to take responsibility for creating a structure to standardize management processes. Key components of the plan included having executive management participation and commitment to the strategy, in addition to promoting transparency, accountability and increased communication.

The PMO worked with IT to identify and deploy a portfolio management application that would give the company a sole source of data about all projects in progress throughout the enterprise. Frontier managers, including those involved in development, strategy, solutions and project management areas were involved with the selection of the tool.

The group sent out requests for information to some 40 vendors before narrowing the choices down to a handful of companies. Frontier hired a consultant to help with the evaluation of these vendors, and presented a list of 22 questions centered on graphics presentation, roles and permissions, visibility and online help.

The PMO used a matrix to score each vendor during presentations to further narrow down the top contenders, analyzing different attributes related to capacity management, portfolio management, project management and general usability. Based on the data gathered, they selected a software-as-a-service (SaaS) collaborative work management offering called Daptiv PPM from Daptiv Inc. in Seattle.

After successfully implementing the software, which Frontier is paying for as part of a subscription that includes maintenance and support, the company is seeing a number of benefits. These include a streamlined project status report process, which gives the company quick insights into the costs of initiatives and how they are progressing. Managers now have much more visibility into how projects and portfolios are performing. Each week, Daptiv reports are presented at senior executive meetings, to provide updates on work in progress.

By eliminating its reliance on spreadsheets to manage projects, Frontier has saved managers lots of time, which they can now spend on more strategic endeavors.

Coady says there were no significant challenges in the implementation of the work management software, “but we did have to invest a good bit of time in the early stages to ensure people kept the information fresh and up-to-date. So there was a maturation period of three or four months, but after that it was generally smooth.”

The IT organization played a significant role in the process of improving project management, not only helping to select and deploy the software, but making sure business users knew how to use the tool to get the data they needed.

The deployment of the software and accompanying process changes fits well with the strategic goals of the company, Coady says. “While we need to be agile, and adapt to ever changing market conditions, we also need to have formality and structure so we can manage and optimize our scarce resources,” he says. “Also, the company is a very open company, so transparency is critical.”

Senior executive backing of the PMO and the use of the SaaS application was critical to success, Coady says. “They understood the level of detail they could get, [and] it became the only tool to manage IT projects and resources,” he says.

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