Projects and Resources for Information Systems Management (PRISM)
The Information Systems (IS) Department has existed at Texas Tech since the 1960s, and supports the core business systems shared by Texas Tech University and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. The departments project request list grew over the years from 10s of items to hundreds of items as the staff maintained 5+ million lines of code while developing new systems and enhancing existing ones. Each project request was carefully entered into a database, and monthly meetings with our customers determined which requests were to be done. As the volume of requests dwarfed the available programming resources, customers became discouraged that their projects would never be done, and the IS staff because discouraged as they realized they could never dig out from under the huge number of project requests. A much larger problem was that decisions about which projects would be done were made at the department head level, using departmental priorities rather than institutional "big picture" priorities.
The Projects and Resources for Information Systems Management (PRISM) initiative began in the Fall of 2003 as IS management struggled with these issues. Over the course of several months, IS management in conjunction with our customers designed the processes and software application which is now collectively known as PRISM.
PRISM provides a mechanism for project requests, assessment, evaluation, and ultimately approval or denial. There are several items key to the success of PRISM:
- project requests are removed from the queue if they are not approved, so there is no queue or backlog
- priorities and resource availability are assessed and assigned each semester
- project prioritization and approval was moved from the departmental level up to the assistant vice president level, with institutional priorities taking precedence over departmental priorities
- employee time is pre-allocated for maintenance of existing systems, as are projections for programmer overhead (vacation, sick leave, etc.)
- employee time is broken into 5 broad categories: Required Support and Maintenance, Mandates, Overhead, Development (training) and Committed Maintenance, Enhancements, and Development
- PRISM meetings are only held (3) times a year with allocation of resources occurring 6 weeks before an upcoming semester (Fall, Spring, and Summer)
- a detailed process has been defined for handling emergency PRISM requests which includes the evaluation of the request by the PRISM committee, subsequent approval and denial, reallocation of resources, and cancellation of existing projects to free enough resources to service the request
- historical reporting on resource utilization by project and by type (maintenance, enhancements, etc.) for each semester