The implementation of formal project management processes to meet the challenges of a rapidly expanding education charity
Gemin-i is an award winning education technology charity which runs Rafi.ki & Kidogo - online social networks for children in secondary and primary schools. Rafi.ki is a secure, online community which helps young people to learn together and create meaningful global friendships. Kidogo is a version of Rafi.ki that is aimed at school children of primary school age.
Rafi.ki works with over 60,000 students from over 2,000 primary and secondary schools in 120 countries across the world. Rafi.ki offers an exciting and ever-changing collection of cross-curricular educational resources on topics such as Global Health, Environment and Peace and Conflict. Students engage with one another directly using fully moderated instant messaging, video conferencing and drag-and-drop page creation tools.
To support the work Gemin-i does it runs several events each year to raise funds: Sucata Run, Sucata Split & SumoRun. Gemin-i also has a fundraising team that approaches organisations to form partnerships on projects and apply for donations.
Like many small businesses Gemin-i has experienced rapid growth meaning that it is potentially vulnerable to members of staff becoming sick or leaving as well as loosing focus on key parts of the business resulting in lost revenue and inefficiencies e.g. out dated financial processes, repeated effort and missed sales opportunities. Gemin-i also had growth difficulties in a number of other key areas, such as IT, Staff Training and an increased number of donors and funding applications.
A Pcubed consultant volunteered to work with Gemin-i as part of a six month sabbatical from Pcubed. Following an initial scoping meeting with Gemin-i's CEO and also whilst the consultant was working at Gemin-i several challenges were identified and tackled during the six month period:
- Business process improvements
- Implementing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system
- Project recovery
- Internal IT organisation and improvements
- Project management training
The Pcubed Solution
Pcubed allowed a consultant to work with Gemin-i as part of a sabbatical for six months. The approach was to prioritise the challenges and develop the following solutions:
Business Process Improvements
The consultant conducted a series of workshops with each of Gemin-i's departments to map out the business processes. These processes were not formally recorded which put Gemin-i at risk when staff were away or moved on. Also, a new version of their education social networking sites Rafi.ki & Kidogo was being planned and without a clear view of the existing system and its associated processes there was a risk that they would not know all the areas that required improvements.
Following the workshops a report was written proposing improvements which are now part of the remit of the new finance director and incorporated into the requirements for the new upcoming version of Rafi.ki & Kidogo.
As a result of the analysis and recommendations Gemin-i are much better placed to:
- Respond to changes in staff through improved training and handling of staff absence
- Enforcing that the same level of service is provided to pupils and teachers
- Sales opportunities are capitalised on and handled in a uniform way
- Invoice and bill at the correct contracted times so that revenue is maintained
Gemin-i had a new software product that was delayed by frequent project manager changes and poor communication and understanding of the deliverables. Following the initial deployment to several schools the software needed to be updated introduce several features that were requested and to introduce performance and stability enhancements.
The consultant was asked to take over this project, stabilise it and ensure that the new version was delivered before the BETT trade fair in January 2010 in two months time. The consultant identified that there were two main issues with the project which were:
- Poor communication between Gemin-i and the developer due to frequent staff changes and overall lack of understanding of the project deliverables, which was improved by:
- Scheduling regular review meetings with the developer with an agreed agenda
- Planning releases so that any new features can be scheduled and fully tested by the developers before user acceptance testing
- Performing a contract review so that implications on what was originally agreed were clearly understood by both parties
- Ensuring that new agreement deliverables were clearly defined and payment delayed until deliverable was signed off
- Testing was unstructured and not picking up all bugs, which was resolved by implementing:
- A comprehensive test plan that was agreed with developer so that both parties tested the software in the same way
- Ensuring that all bugs are tracked on a common tracker and recorded in the same way
- Answering promptly any queries from the developer on bugs that were raised during user acceptance testing
These measures allowed the product to be released to the existing customer base and also allowed the product to be promoted at the BETT education technology trade show at London Olympia in January 2010.
Internal Information Technology Improvements
With the rapid expansion of Gemin-i the existing IT infrastructure, software and hardware, processes and documentation were out of date and not meeting the demands Gemin-i placed on them. The consultant reviewed with Gemin-i each of these areas and managed the implementation of:
- A charity wide network where users could have access to their information wherever they logged on
- A standard Mac OS X build so that users all had access to the same software set and systems
- IT asset tracking
- Data backup policy
- Comprehensive documentation for both IT users and administrators
With these changes implemented the result was a scalable IT system that could respond to Gemin-i's needs that could be supported with minimal impact to the in house IT support team.
Project Management Training
Experience of formal project management training in Gemin-i was limited therefore the consultant ran a training session for the programme and IT directors. The content of this session is being used to train other Gemin-i staff members in project management terms and methods.