Winning a gold medal for project management efficiency

Good project management saves a lot more than time, it can determine whether or not a project working under stringent deadlines will sink or float.

This is one reason the management team of the Toronto 2008 Olympic Bid (TO-2008) is bragging of their staff’s efficiency. TO-2008 reached a personal milestone last August when it succeeded in submitting a bid to the International Olympics Committee (IOC) by way of giving the Toronto 2008 Web site a major facelift. And much like Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman, they’re not shy about letting people know about it.

“As you can appreciate, there are a lot of different groups involved with an Olympic bid,” said Walter Gomes, TO-2008’s Web team leader. “Ours was an extremely ambitious project: to fully redesign the (TO-2008) Web site, develop and coordinate new content, coordinate all the back-end systems. This was a three- or four-month project squeezed into a seven-week time frame.”

In their day-to-day work, Gomes said TO-2008 committees demonstrated collaborative teamwork and demanded excellent communication channels among members, key sponsors and IOC officials. With a total of 11 committees working to meet IOC deadlines, TO-2008’s endorsement of the software is a welcome reprieve for Microsoft Corp. and Microsoft Canada, as the company has had its fair share of well-documented bad luck in recent weeks.

Gomes said not only did Microsoft Project 2000 play an instrumental role in assuring Toronto met the Aug. 28 deadline to put its bid forward, but it also assisted the non-profit organization in meeting this critical date without exceeding its budget.

“We used Project to lay out our game plan. It has a reputation that if you know the tools you’re working with, you can just go with it. I didn’t see it working out any other way,” Gomes continued. “I didn’t spend a lot of time evaluating other products on the market, but from the development stand point I’ve always used Project. Our office is outfitted with Microsoft tools as it is.”

TO-2008 used Microsoft Project 2000 as it redesigned and re-launched its Web site ( to coincide with being short-listed by the IOC as one of five cities in the running for the Games, along with Beijing; Istanbul; Osaka, Japan; and Paris. Since the redesign, the improved TO-2008 site has received over three million hits – more than triple the previous hits in the four weeks leading up to Aug. 30.

Wider user group

“We’ve added new components to the software such as a Web collaboration tool,” said Margie Leslie, business tools marketing manager for Microsoft Canada in Mississauga, Ont. “This feature helps extend project management in an organization significantly. We wanted to extend ourselves to a wider group of [users].”

Leslie pointed specifically to Project’s ability to bring new elements to senior managers of a project. For instance, a senior manager can gain access to information on any facet of the work at any time to keep tabs on how his/her project is progressing.

“Project management is very crucial, especially in this case. The IOC Committee has a number of organizations in their bid and it’s an enormous effort to capture all of the information flowing back and forth,” she said. “There’s so much information flowing between companies and governing bodies nowadays that we believe Project 2000 is a key, cornerstone piece of the whole project management picture.”

TO-2008 is currently in the process of planning phases two and three of its Web site. Canada’s most populous city can boast of an additional international flavour as the TO-2008 site currently offers English, French and Spanish versions.

“With so many sub-projects going on, part of the challenge is to keep things in focus and you need a visual tool for that purpose,” Gomes said. “We managed to implement a fully-manageable system with three languages. We worked with translation coordinators, athletes, sponsors, marketers, designers, it goes on and on. With deadlines so critical to success, you only have one shot at it.”

Microsoft rebuilt the scheduling engine in Project 2000, enabling such new features as a Task calendar, used to indicate when a task can (or can not) occur. Gomes said experienced users of project management software will likely appreciate improvements such as tighter control over resource levelling by using task calendars and a wider range of task priority values, and much more flexible support for outline coding that allows customization for unique project needs.