OpenProject Release 13.3

Temple University radically improves teamwork with OpenProject

Temps de lecture estimé: 6 minutes

US-based Temple University implements OpenProject on IT team, growing to new departments

In this interview, we chat with Brent Whiting, Executive Director of the new Project Management Office in the central ITS group at Temple University. Learn how the central IT team uses OpenProject - from onboarding new users to recurring project meetings.

OpenProject is also expanding to new departments as teams experience new levels of transparency, collaboration, and productivity.

Interview with Temple University

Welcome. It’s great to have you, Brent. Tell me about your role and team at Temple.

Brent Whiting: Thanks for having me. I’m the Executive Director of the new Project Management Office in the central ITS group at Temple University in Philadelphia.

Within the last year, we started the project management office in our central ITS group and needed software to get started.

Were you using a different tool before? Or was the sentiment, hey, we need to stop having 15,000 Google docs and a bunch of emails?

Brent Whiting: (laughter) Right, it’s a consolidation or an attempt to consolidate many different things. We had a custom-built project management system that was internal to central ITS. But it was almost entirely built to track time spent on tasks rather than manage the tasks, epics, milestones, and projects. We lacked any collaborative modality; it was strictly for recording.

As you said, everything else involved people in their spreadsheets or, you know, everybody out on their own, at the mercy of whatever they wanted to do within their groups.

Right. And then it can just be so hard to come together. When you need to collaborate, everyone wonders what we are looking at. That’s why I love project management systems.

Brent Whiting: Yes, and we love OpenProject because it’s customizable and offered at an attractive cost.

A developer on the ITS team started using it a while ago because it was free and open source.

Now, using OpenProject, we can strive for more consistency across our team in how we do things. Before, there needed to be more transparency regarding the effort and demands put on a particular group. We need to mature into it more, but having visibility across all of central ITS for how much effort is on the lap of a current resource or team and anticipating what to expect before asking them for work is critical.

Do you learn that by viewing each individual and their visible tasks, or do you do that by viewing the project details?

Brent Whiting: My team still needs to step into it. Our ITS administrative development teams are the most mature in it; they got started with OpenProject first as they are involved in software development integrations work. We’re learning from them and beginning to mature our processes across the rest of the organization as we work with them, and everyone learns new routines.

The story is that the Director of the Data Engineering team in the admin department spun up the on-prem community version a little over a year ago, in early 2023. His team was using it, but it wasn’t widespread yet. Then, our CIO became permanent, and he officially announced our first project management office. At that point, we could invest and commit to a tool, so we turned to OpenProject as it was already being used and was proving to be very helpful for this team.

Another role I have at Temple is in service management, in addition to project management. We’re now going through the exercise of formalizing our service portfolio and catalog. We did something cool here that is paying off: We matched that structure in OpenProject so that all of our projects are set up to match that same hierarchy. So if work happens within a service offering, the epics and tasks, then roll up that offering into that service and the category. From that standpoint, it’s been really valuable to have the flexibility of structuring things. And that reinforcement of project management with service management.

I see, wow. So, you’re already tapping into a structure that people understand.

Brent Whiting: They understand it but aren’t familiar with it yet. So, we are hoping the two will reinforce each other by aligning and relating them in OpenProject.

How do you handle onboarding new users on your team or others?

Brent Whiting: In September 2023, we migrated from the community version on-prem to the enterprise hosted edition. That process went great.

I wrestle with narrowing the focus for the new users who onboard. I only need them to use and have access to a few features, not all of them so that we’re all using it the same way and efficiently. It’s a communication issue that I’m working on! I’m learning to simplify what I’m showing new users to meet that need and keep things focused.

I need “Temple-specific” onboarding docs and videos in addition to the fantastic general onboarding we did with the OpenProject team in December.

What features matter most to you and your team?

Brent Whiting: We love the work packages, but the big one for us is coming in your next release! The integration with GitLab.

In higher education, we use GitLab more than GitHub.

I have a bi-weekly meeting open to all staff in ITS to discuss OpenProject: questions, feedback, ideas, wishlist for features, etc. Ultimately, transparency and collaboration are so important, so we’re looking at how we make relationships between things and how we show that in a reporting format to each other but also to leadership.

Do you use the notifications feature?

Brent Whiting: My team does, yes. The notifications are consolidated into one page and segmented by project, reducing people’s sense of overwhelm.

I know that some teams use that for their daily standups.

Tell me about the other teams or departments that are using OpenProject.

Brent Whiting: Right. There are others, and it will only continue to expand.

In addition to central ITS, we have the marketing group in our College of Public Health and the Registrar’s Office. A group within our research department and campus safety department are exploring how it can help their day to day project work.

They have yet to start a mature phase with it, but they all recognize the need for this type of organization and collaboration tool. OpenProject reduces issues that cause delays, such as when we’re working on a project and need to email an external person outside the system. Now, we can assign people to a task with a due date that is visible to everyone.

It’s incredibly valuable.

This has been a fantastic chat. Thank you for sharing your feedback, experience, and time with me today

Brent Whiting: Thanks. Have a good day.