PATH CVIA saves time with Office Timeline reporting tool
How can a project team easily convey critical information to stakeholders when the Gantt charts detailing their work can run 1,000 lines or more? That was the challenge facing Jennifer Greenough, when she joined PATH, an innovative non-profit organization whose mission is to eliminate global health inequities. As Deputy Director of Project and Portfolio Management for PATH's Center for Vaccine Access and Innovation (CVIA), Greenough identified Office Timeline as an important tool for project managers to summarize their project’s critical milestones. She chose Office Timeline because of its three key benefits: it plugs in directly to PowerPoint and other project management tools, provides a consistent format for presentations and improves user productivity.
Standardizing project-tracking tools
The role of the Project and Portfolio Management (PPM) group within CVIA was to standardize project management processes and tools to improve project outcomes. Prior to the establishment of the PPM group, project managers and other team members had used their own compilation of desktop tools, such as Excel and PowerPoint, to track projects. Regardless of which software was used, data sharing was minimal beyond the immediate team, which the organization sought to change moving forward.
CVIA uses a cloud-based work management system to track its large multi-year vaccine development projects. These projects are enormous, crossing as many as ten functional areas and consisting of complicated project timelines that can stretch out for over a decade. With many of these highly complex projects in development simultaneously, Greenough needed a way to capture and present a summary view of each team’s work using a simple timeline, without forcing executives and non-project people to wade through an inordinate amount of detail.
“This level of granular information is very difficult for people to absorb if they’re not experienced project managers,” said Greenough. “Decision-makers are much happier if they can view top-line data only, in a simple visual format that’s easy to understand.”
PATH CVIA starts using Office Timeline
Greenough looked for a versatile tool that would display project information along a simple timeline and be easy to update when changes were made. She stumbled upon Office Timeline through a Google search, and immediately downloaded the application and began experimenting. Because Office Timeline works as a simple PowerPoint plug-in—a tool everyone was already using—she knew it could be incorporated into the project team’s regular routine.
Once Greenough learned that Office Timeline allows direct data imports from CVIA’s cloud-based work management system, she had no doubt that it was the right tool and purchased the product for team members. “One of the great things about having a tool like Office Timeline is that if something changes a little bit, you can regroup everything in a relatively easy manner without having to start over from scratch,” she said.
A rise in efficiency and consistency
With the adoption of Office Timeline and the integration it provides with CIVA’s existing work management system, project teams are able to present their work more effectively to peer groups, executives and donors. In addition, Office Timeline’s pre-packaged templates allow CVIA to produce appealing formats without having to fiddle with individual design elements—a benefit that has increased efficiency significantly. Greenough is in the process of creating and adding customized CVIA templates inside Office Timeline, which will provide greater consistency throughout the division and help get new project teams up-and-running more quickly.
Greenough believes that Office Timeline will move the organization as a whole towards “speaking the same language.” While the company has not completed any formal studies, she has observed savings in “people time” through Office Timeline. “If we can help someone avoid the painful exercise of lining up a bunch of boxes on a PowerPoint slide over and over again, that’s a huge win for us.”